Special treat! Today is a “guest post” by my Mom, who is currently serving as a full-time senior missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Louisville Kentucky Mission.
This is excerpted from her mission farewell address held Sunday March 25, 2018.
We have a sign posted on the entry wall of our house that states:
“Missionary; noun. Someone who leaves their family for a short time so that others may be with their family for eternity.”
Today, I want to share with each of you the joys of serving a senior mission!
But first, I want to acknowledge our children.
We were blessed with five amazing, talented, wonderful children. And, as each of our children have married we have been blessed with their wonderful spouses and then their children – our grandchildren – who are great, magnificent, beautiful and wonderful. We have eleven of them and they range in age from 27 years to 2 years – so, there is quite a span!
So far, counting my husband’s first mission to Finland, our first couple mission together to California Santa Rosa, a son’s mission to Mexico Puebla, a daughter serving in the Wisconsin Milwaukee mission, and currently that same daughter serving a nineteen year mission in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, one of our daughters husband’s serving in the Belgium Brussels French speaking mission, another husband serving in a Brazil mission, our oldest granddaughter serving in the Tennessee Nashville Mission, and her husband-to-be serving in Peru, with Ray and I now leaving for our second senior couple mission to Kentucky, that gives us a total of ten missions in our family so far! And that brings great joy to my soul!
We expect many more missionaries as our eleven grandchildren grow and many make the decision to serve.
IT’S ALL ABOUT FAMILY
Everything about a mission is about families.
- The Proclamation on the Family.
- Eternal marriage.
- Forever Families.
We went on our first mission to California Santa Rosa in 2013. Now remember, in October of 2012 President Thomas S. Monson stood up in General Conference and announced that the missionary age was being changed. Young Elders could now go as early as age 18 and Sisters at age 19. “The Surge” was on! We were privileged to be out serving during this Surge of missionaries.
We arrived at the Provo Missionary Training Center [MTC] on July 1, 2013 and the MTC at that time had not been added onto and rebuilt yet. It was bursting at its seams. Missionaries were sleeping in cots in every nook and corner imaginable! Having been called to the California Santa Rosa Mission, we were called to serve in the mission office – my husband as the Finance Secretary, and then later as the Fleet Secretary, and I as Secretary to the Mission President.
When you are called to an office assignment, you spend two weeks at the MTC. The first week is learning the Preach My Gospel program, and the second week is office training. Since couple missionaries can leave the MTC on the weekend, we gave our farewell talk between those two MTC weeks. So, it was easy for me to talk about our first week at the MTC, and all the wonderful and exciting experiences we had with all of those amazing hundreds of thousands of missionaries preparing at the MTC!
This time, as we prepare for our second mission as a senior couple, we are speaking in church the week before we enter the MTC. We will be set apart as missionaries on Sunday April 1st, and enter the Provo MTC on Monday April 2nd. We will stay our first week [at the MTC] but we will skip the second week because having already served in a mission office they decided we probably didn’t need the office training, and so on April 9th we will get in our car and make the drive to the Kentucky – I would say “LEW-iss-Ville” – Mission – although, I’ve been informed that’s not the way to say it. I’ve been instructed by the current couples in the mission office that it is pronounced “LOO-vull”.
Well, ok. I’m working on it! 🙂
WHY DO WE SERVE?
You may be wondering why we are leaving our family and serving a mission? Well, there are so many reasons! A few are;
- Because we are needed,
- Because we have the gospel in our lives,
- Because others served before us, and
- Because we made promises in the temple.
When we go to the temple, we make a sacred covenant called the Law of Consecration. This means we promise we will devote all of our time, talents and efforts to the building of the kingdom of God on Earth. I never feel like I am truly fulfilling that covenant unless I am serving a mission. Because, believe me, in our previous mission we learned quickly that as missionaries ALL of our time, talents and efforts are spent building the Kingdom!
I have tried to think of what to tell you – there’s so much! I have to lean on my previous experience, since I cannot speak of our upcoming experience, however there are about six universal things that I can quickly tell you about which highlight why serving a Senior Mission is so great, and so important.
#1. DESPERATELY NEEDED
According to the Church missionary department we are in need of twice the number of Senior Missionaries than are currently serving! Because of The Surge when we served in Santa Rosa we had over 275 missionaries in our mission. That is a LOT of missionaries for one office and one mission president to take care of! We worked seven days a week, and we were short couples in the office. A mission office is supposed to be staffed with a minimum of three couples, but there were a few weeks when my husband and I were the only couple serving in the mission office. Due to the shortage, we typically spent ten to twelve hours per day in the mission office. That was hard. But, of course we loved it. We loved it because we were in the service of the Lord, and I can’t begin to explain to you the feeling that it brings.
Senior missionaries are DESPERATELY needed, and many missions go without one single senior missionary. So, if you are old enough, get out there and serve! And if you are not, start right now to plan that when you are old enough to get out there!
The Surge has settled down now. As we recently talked with our new mission president in Kentucky we will be serving as part of a team of three married senior missionary couples in the office, and “only” 175 missionaries. So we know things will be a little different for our work load than our first mission. We both have been assigned the same callings. Ray will be the Finance Secretary, and I will be the Secretary to the mission President.
#2. UNDERSTANDING YOUNG MISSIONARIES
Young Elders and Sisters who serve missions are glorious, beautiful and dedicated. Some serve 24 months and 18 months, others serve less. Missions are extremely stressful. I had no idea how much until I was there working with them day in and day out. It can be exhausting physically, spiritually, emotionally. No matter how long a missionary has served, THEY HAVE SERVED. And the Lord loves them for that!
Unfortunately, sometimes in our church culture we make assumptions that we have no business making about our early release missionaries. Every missionary is precious in the eyes of the Lord and should be commended for serving, however long it may be.
Whenever one of our missionaries had to leave early they cried all the way to the airport. We know, because we were the ones driving them there. They didn’t want to leave the mission, but the poor things had worn themselves out emotionally, physically, and/or mentally. The Lord knew in the very beginning – before they even came to serve – that their mission would be shorter. I pray that none of us have been, or ever will be guilty of a lack of kindness and understanding.
#3. BEING GRANDMA AND GRANDPA
Our Sisters and Elders miss their parents and grandparents just as much as the Senior Couples miss their children and grandchildren. There was never a day in the mission field that I did not receive a hug from one or more of our Sister missionaries, and Elder Seely would get a hug from one of our Elders. We found notes on our computers, notes on our front door, and notes on our car windshield from them thanking us for our service for one thing or another that we had done for them.
But, the best part was when they began to call us Grandma and Grandpa. We knew that we had “arrived”, and that was a very sacred experience.
#4. UNIQUE MISSIONARY OPPORTUNITIES
Senior missionaries do not knock on doors. We had many opportunities to share the gospel in the pursuit of just doing regular tasks, like getting my hair or nails done. My cute nail person was very vibrant and had a sweet Caribbean accent. Each time I arrived she would shout out “THERE IS MY SISTER LINDA!” even though she was not a member of my Church, which immediately caught the attention of everyone in the nail salon, and she would inform them that I was her “Mormon missionary.” People were never too shy to ask “aren’t you the ones who don’t believe in Christ?”… And then the conversations would begin!
The person who did my hair was good friends with me also. One day she told me that the young missionaries had knocked on her and her parent’s door and she had let them in, telling them that she knew Sister Seely – and of course the young missionaries knew me! My sylist and her parents invited the missionaries to teach them more about the gospel. When we left, that story was still in progress.
#5. LIVING ECONOMICALLY
Senior missions are not expensive. When you apply, the Brethren want to know how much you can afford, and you tell them. They make your mission as affordable as possible for your individual needs. As seniors, we are usually asked to pay for the cost of our housing – and that cost varies greatly all over the US and the world. In some places it can even be zero because a member of the church has you take care of their home while they are serving a mission!
In Santa Rosa, it is a bedroom community of San Francisco, so the rent rates were exceedingly high. We were asked to only pay $1800 of the rent [not the full amount]. In Kentucky we will be paying $925 per month for the same sized apartment that we had in Santa Rosa. In the US and Canada Senior missionaries provide their own car, and all the cost of living just as you do at home – such as your own personal food and clothes. However, we found we actually spent much less money while we were on our mission than while we were at home.
#6. LASTING SERVICE
Missions are not just about baptisms! Missionaries, besides proselyting, are focused on serving in the communities to which they are assigned. President Alba, our mission president in Santa Rosa, told us that during his training in the MTC he and Sister Alba were told;
“It is not about how many baptisms you have during your time of service, but rather it is about the Elders and Sisters. What will be your mark of how successful you are as mission presidents is twenty years from now how many of your missionaries are actively involved in the church and the community.”
#7. YOU CAN PRESS PAUSE
There are no “rules” for Senior Missionaries like the young elders and sisters have. Our families can come and visit us! And, we can come home and visit them for important family events! We will actually be doing this just a few weeks after arriving in the mission field, to attend our grandchild’s wedding! We will fly into town on a Friday, and then fly back to our mission on Sunday.
IT’S ALL ABOUT FAMILY
We are excited about doing the work of the Lord for the next year. We could not have served our first mission, nor will we be able to do our second mission, without the love and support of our family.
They came to see us. We got online videos. We received packages in the mail, and did face chats. They never forgot us! We have been so blessed.
A MESSAGE TO OUR CHILDREN
Before I close, I have a message to our children, their spouses and my grandchildren.
I want you to know that I love all of you very much. I believe in Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father’s plan. I have a testimony that this is His church, and I know that he wants us all to return to Him. Just as I love all of you, my dear children and grandchildren, and I want to be with you here in this life and the eternities – He does too! I want to help our Heavenly Father find those that are seeking Him. I also want the promised blessings of our service to be upon each and every one of you – our children and grandchildren – that you may stand strong against Satan, and that we may all stand together with Christ and our Father in Heaven as an eternal family unit.
I want you to know that every night when you are kneeling in family prayer, praying for us, your Grandpa and I will be kneeling in family prayer and praying for each and every one of you. I want you to know that I am not abandoning you! My heart and prayers will always be with you, each and every day, while we are gone on our mission.
Many decades ago, two missionaries left their homes and families in Utah and traveled to the far off country of Denmark to serve a three year mission. There, they taught and converted a young couple to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That young couple was my father’s grandparents.
In the 1940’s a senior missionary couple from Hartford Connecticut knocked on my mother’s door in Springville, Massachusetts. They taught her the gospel, and she joined the Church.
Because of each of those missionaries I am the beneficiary of the blessings of their efforts. So, I cannot very well turn my back on serving others when so much service has been given to me! As the hymn says; “Because I have been given much, I too must give!”
It is such a joy to give and serve as a Senior missionary!
– Sister Linda Seely
Thank you Mom, you’re the best! I love you. ♥- MoSop
Feeling Inspired? Curious? Go check out the new LDS Senior Missionary Website where you can discover which service opportunities are open and available right now!