As the rain blew parallel to the ground against their coats and the hail pelted hard against their tags, Elder Chase Wilcox of Alpharetta, Ga., and Elder Ben Osmond of Westbridge, Alberta, Canada, knocked on an investigator's door.

"What are you doing here in this weather?" asked the investigator.

"We're here to teach you," said Wilcox, a zone leader in the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission. Despite the raging winds, Wilcox and Osmond weren't about to miss an appointment to teach about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The two elders taught the family in the thick of a tornado that wreaked havoc across several states over the weekend. The storm spawned more than 70 tornadoes that tore through Missouri, Oklahoma and Georgia, leaving at least 26 people dead and causing inestimable amounts of damage. No missionaries were hurt or killed by the twisters.

"There were 10 to 20 members' homes damaged," said Kent Seal, president of the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission. "The missionaries are safe. No members lost their lives at this point."

The elders are eager to assist members and nonmembers alike in the major cleanup that awaits. However, search and rescue teams are allowing certified emergency medical technicians to volunteer while they continue to look for survivors in the areas where the tornadoes touched down.

The missionaries see the current disaster as an opportunity to serve their fellow man and preach the gospel. One man recently approached Wilcox and Osmond saying that he has been worried about "the end times" and that every time he prays the Mormon faith "pops into" his head.

"Storms like these do soften hearts as we love (the people affected by the storms) and serve them," said Osmond.

Missionaries from the Missouri Independence Mission continue to lift the spirits of victims of the tornadoes that swept through that region May 2.

"The missionaries always (help); that's what they're taught to do," said Sister Sally Briggs, a senior missionary from Provo working in that mission.

A tornado that touched down in the middle of the night destroyed an Arby's restaurant one mile from the home of two elders.

"Missionaries eat there all the time, but not anymore," said Elder Joshua Burbank of Jackson, Wyo. "That Arby's is pretty flat."

Burbank and his companion, Elder Brandon Davis of Albuquerque, N.M., were able to assist neighbors haul tree branches out of the yards. Other missionaries north of Independence (in the Liberty Jail area) had a lot of work to do the next day.

"A lot of cleanup needed to be done," Briggs said. "That Sunday they asked for volunteers to come clean up tree limbs and things like that in members' homes. I've seen the missionaries painting homes and cleaning up yards."

No missionaries suffered injuries in the May 2 tornadoes.


E-mail: amarshall@desnews.com