Thursday, November 22, 2012

LDS Missionary Alec Morgan Ragan Temporarily Went Missing In Palmerston North, New Zealand, But Has Since Been Found

Both Yahoo News and are reporting that a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had initially gone missing while in the field in New Zealand. Twenty-year-old Elder Alec Morgan Ragan, who hails from Utah and who has served 12 months on his mission so far, was last seen at his Terrace End Palmerston North address on Monday November 19th, 2012. Elder Ragan has been described as of a thin build and stands at about 173 cm (68 inches) in height, and has short tidy blond/mousey brown hair.

But since the initial report, there is better news. On Wednesday November 21st, area LDS spokesman Richard Hunter, identified as being from Sydney, Australia, said they had been told that Elder Ragan had been seen at an internet cafe in Palmerston North looking well on Wednesday night and he believed Ragan was taking some time out from the church. Elder Teaupa, who is Ragan's companion, said something had offended Ragan and he had a bad day the morning he went missing. Elder Ragan had been studying that morning where he wrote a letter, which he then left folded on the table, and then took a shower. It wasn't until about half an hour later, after he failed to respond to attempts to talk to him, that someone managed to get into the shower and found he was gone. But Elder Ragan was still considered officially "missing" because police had not located him nor talked to the person who believed they had seen him.

A newer report from the Manawatu Standard gives even better news. Elder Ragan has now been found by a farmer, who told him that his mission comrades were concerned about him and were looking for him. Elder Ragan had no idea that people were looking for him, and was reportedly unhappy to be found, but went with the farmer to the police station without any fuss. He is in good condition. So it looks like the issue is settled -- favorably.

While it is unusual for a missionary to behave this way, it is not unheard of. The missionary lifestyle is quite intense, focusing exclusively on bringing people to a knowledge of Jesus Christ for two years. A missionary is within sight and sound of someone else, usually his companion, 24/7. Missionaries do not read books or magazines, or watch television, or go on romantic dates during their service. They can send e-mails to family and friends, but can only call home on Mother's Day and Christmas. In addition, a few mission presidents can be martinets, focusing too much on baptism numbers and not enough on qualitative effectiveness. It's an intense, focused lifestyle, and a missionary can get burned out. There's a good chance that once he returns, he'll be allowed to finish his mission without prejudice, although if there are any more serious issues, he could be sent home for medical reasons, which is also unprejudicial.

The anti-Mormon website Recovery From Mormonism also expressed interest in Elder Ragan's welfare HERE and HERE, but for different reasons. They saw it as an opportunity to "rescue" Elder Ragan from Mormonism. I'm not sure Elder Ragan either needs or wants the help RFM had in mind, though.

Update November 27th: A report from the RFM website -- Elder Ragan will be returning home from his mission on a medical release. There's an unofficial report that Elder Ragan may have been bullied by some of his peers during his mission.

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