Utah County Missionary’s Time Cut Short By Wildfires, Then Coronavirus

Apr 7, 2020, 6:08 PM | Updated: 8:11 pm

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah – One Utah County missionary, whose service was cut short by devastating wildfires in Australia, has returned home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Derek Leetham has caught himself staring at the mountains near his Pleasant Grove home more than once over the past few days.

“It’s always good to be back here,” he said while looking out his bedroom window at the snowy peaks.

As much as he loves the mountains though, he was missing Australia and its people on Tuesday.

“It’s incredible there,” said Leetham. “It’s seriously, like, just the best. The people are amazing.”

Leetham was serving a mission in Sydney, Australia, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

However, he returned home because that mission was cut short due to coronavirus concerns.

“I’m really bummed out, to be honest. I fully understand that is what’s needed to happen for our safety and just for what’s happening right now. It’s what’s best for us,” he said during an interview Tuesday afternoon outside his bedroom window.

Leetham was quarantined at home for 14 days once he arrived in Utah, just to be on the safe side.

“It’s hard just being stuck inside, especially in this nice weather,” he said. “But we have to do it to be safe.”

However, his mother sure was happy to have him home.

“It’s been fun to see his smile and his laugh, hear his laugh,” Shannon Leetham said. “It’s been nice to have him around again.”

Especially since this wasn’t the first time Derek Leetham was evacuated from his mission.

Just a few months ago, he was evacuated from his mission due to the devastating wildfires that engulfed large parts of Australia.

(Photo courtesy Leetham family) (Photo courtesy Leetham family) (Photo courtesy Leetham family) (Photo courtesy Leetham family) (Photo courtesy Leetham family) (Photo courtesy Leetham family)

“Yeah, it’s been hectic,” Leetham said with a slight laugh. “Man, I don’t even know how to explain it. I just woke up one, and right as I wake up, I can usually see the sun. And it was just black. Then I soon realized there were fires all around me.”

Leetham and his companions were moved to Sydney until it was safe to return.

Once they were able to get back to their mission south of Sydney, they figured there was no way anything else that big could happen again.

“Yeah, I didn’t think anything else could go wrong. I was like, alright, the fires are out, I’m going back to get things going and get work going, and then the next minute, not as planned,” he said.

On Tuesday, Leetham was just hoping he’ll be able to go back at some point.

“Oh yeah. I want to finish that 15 months so bad,” he said. “I’ll be so excited for when I can do that again.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus Utah

flu shot tripledemic...
Matt Rascon

KSL+: The rise of respiratory viruses and COVID’s impact

It’s not even winter yet, and the CDC is warning that the country is experiencing a resurgence of respiratory viruses, which are taking a toll on hospitals and children.
6 days ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer

US clears updated COVID boosters for kids as young as 5

The U.S. on Wednesday authorized updated COVID-19 boosters for children as young as 5, seeking to expand protection ahead of an expected winter wave.
2 months ago
Alex Cabrero and Mike Anderson, KSL TV

Sandy woman shares frustration of ongoing battle with COVID-19

As life starts to return to normal from the pandemic, for millions of Americans, it still causes a daily struggle. That's the case for one Sandy woman, who shared her story Tuesday.
2 months ago
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 09: A pharmacist prepares to administer  COVID-19 vaccine booster sho...
Jed Boal

University Health recommends getting omicron booster and flu shot now

The CDC approved the COVID-19 bivalent boosters that target the most recent omicron variants on September 1. Since then, tens of thousands of Utahns have rolled up their sleeves.
2 months ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
Jed Boal

Despite reaching 5,000 deaths, Utah’s COVID-19 numbers are down

The director of the World Health Organization said yesterday about COVID-19, “the end is in sight,” even if we are not there yet.
3 months ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
LAURA UNGAR AP Science Writer

Is COVID-19 winding down? Scientists say no

New booster shots have arrived and social distancing guidelines have eased but COVID-19 infections aren't going away anytime soon. Experts predict the scourge that's already lasted longer than the 1918 flu pandemic will linger far into the future as the virus continues to cause deaths and may well mutate or evolve into a new disease.
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Utah County Missionary’s Time Cut Short By Wildfires, Then Coronavirus