When you think of Mormon Missionaries, you probably picture two young men in white shirts and ties walking down the street knocking on doors holding a Book of Mormon. Or, perhaps you’ve met one of the many cute young “sister missionaries” asking for a few minutes of your time to share a message that could change your life? There’s been a lot of news lately about Mormon missionaries, whether it’s the momentous surge since the epic October announcement lowering the age requirement, the changing “face” of missionaries to an increased number of young women, or even a certain irreverent (unsanctioned) Broadway musical.
But, one side of Latter-day Saint missionary life that is often overlooked are the senior-aged couples who also choose to go forth to serve at their own expense, leaving behind their homes, children & grandchildren and all the comforts of retirement.
I am proud to share that my own Mom and Dad have answered the call to serve, and are joining the “Mormon missionary” ranks!
Mom taught public school for over 30 years. She retired 2 years ago. Dad is an accountant and CPA by profession. He has worked as the CFO for a large automobile franchise for the past 30+ years and retired in Spring 2013. In his youth, he served a full-time mission for the church in Helsinki, Finland. Together, they raised a family of five children and have 9 beloved grandchildren, all of whom live nearby and visit often, enjoying lively
loud “vibrant” gatherings!
Both of my parents have gathered a treasure trove of practical skills, life experience and faith. They’ve stuck together through all the ups and downs and have been the steadying, guiding force of our family. They’ve endured difficult trials and enjoyed marvelous joys along their earth journey. And now, after all of those years of toil and endurance, they’ve certainly earned some years of well-deserved rest and relaxation!
But instead, they’ve decided to go back to work – for free!
They are choosing to answer a prophet’s plea to face new challenges, learn new things, and keep to a new (and vigorous) schedule!
“And now to you mature brothers and sisters: we need many, many more senior couples. … I urge you to prepare now for the day when you and your spouse might [serve a mission]. As your circumstances allow, as you are eligible for retirement, and as your health permits, make yourselves available to leave home and give full-time missionary service” (Thomas S. Monson, “As We Meet Together Again,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 5–6).
Mom & Dad are certainly going out into the world as missionaries with a bit of trepidation, but what they may lack in modern mission expertise, they make up for with enthusiasm and faith. They say they simply want to do all that they can for the church, and the Gospel, and the God that they love. What a beautiful example they are to us!
THE MISSION CALL
On the last day of March, 2013 Dad officially retired. Before that day, Mom and Dad had already been going through the process of filling out their (extensive) mission paperwork, getting doctor and dentist appointments taken care of, and officially submitting everything to the church Missionary headquarters. They initially put their mission availability date as August 1st. But, after Dad spent a handful of days wandering the house (and driving Mom crazy) they called the Mission Office in Salt Lake City offering to change their availability date to July 1st. They were told that the change may or may not be able to happen since things were alreay processing. So, they waited for their call to see what would happen.
And they waited…
By Monday May 6th they finally decided to called the church missionary department for a progress update. They were told their call was going to be assigned that very Thursday and it would be processed and mailed by the following Monday May 13th or Tues May 14th! Since they only live a few miles north of Salt Lake City, they planned for their packet to arrive in the mail by Wednesday May 15th and alerted the whole family to “stand by” for the big event / “opening party”!
But, on Wednesday May 15th there was an empty mailbox.
On Thursday May 16th? Empty.
The mission office confirmed their packet had indeed been shipped on Tuesday! When the mission call didn’t arrive on Friday, we called the post office and were assured that they always watch for the big white packets and take ‘extra special care of them”.
The weekend dragged.
Monday May 20th arrived. Certainly, their call would be there now!
Tuesday May 21st?
If it didn’t arrive by the following week, the missionary department would mail them a new copy.
On Wednesday May 22nd when Dad and Mom had almost had given up checking the mailbox at all. It had been 8 very long days since their mission call had shipped from only 20 miles away. Thankfully, they decided to walk out to their mailbox once more, “just for fun”, and they were rewarded with their prize!! The big white envelope from Church Headquarters had finally arrived! The family was soon texting the good news and hastily changing plans.
“It’s Here!!!! Mom & Dad’s Tonight! 5:30 PM sharp”
We all assembled at the house, the Pizza was delivered, and all of the children and grandchildren made their official “lottery pick” for where in the world the assigned mission call would be by licking and sticking a marshmallow onto a map.
And then came “the big moment”! They ripped open the packet, and extracted TWO matching mission letters. One addressed to Elder Seely (Dad) and one to Sister Seely (Mom). Each signed by the prophet of the church, President Thomas S. Monson.
Mom did the honors of reading the calling outloud to all of us as we held our breath and the grandchildren stood on tip-toes…
“You are hearby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to serve in the California Santa Rosa Mission. have been called to labor in the California Santa Rosa Mission. Your primary assignment will be as an office specialist. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of eighteen months.”
We looked at the large marshmallow-infused map on the floor. Santa Rosa is up at the top of California. No one in the family had guessed Northern California. But, five-year old Andrea was pronounced the winner of our “guessing game” by coming the closest. Her marshmallow eagerly proclaimed that Grandma & Grandpa would be going to Disneyland!
WHEN would Grandma and Grandpa be leaving?! Mom read further in the mission letter:
“You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Monday July 1, 2013.”
The Lord was obviously very eager to accept their offer and send them earlier! They would be reporting exactly on the day of their revised availability!
Mom and Dad’s mission packet included over 5 pages of instructions and descriptions of all of their “mission duties”. It was more than a bit daunting! The nutshell version is that they have been assigned to take care of all of the administrative details for the Mission in order to relieve as much burden off of the shoulders of the Mission President and his wife as possible so that they can fully devote their time and energy to taking care of all of the missionaries. Or, in the words of President and Sister McKee of the Tennessee Nashville Mission (where our daughter Sister A is serving), Mom & Dad are going to become “Office Angels”.
“I express gratitude for our senior missionaries. They are young in spirit, wise, and willing to work. They even tolerate remarks from their fun-filled children who might change President Spencer W. Kimball’s plea of “Lengthen your stride” to “Hasten your shuffle.” - Elder Russell M. Nelson
They have a big job ahead of them. But, as the days and weeks have passed since their calling arrived it has been marvelous to watch the spirit of the Lord resting on them, and transforming them. There is a new spirit of joy and peace, energy and vitality we have not seen before. They are confident and certain that they are going exactly where the Lord wants them to go at exactly the right time, and they are so excited! They know that with God, all things are possible. They described their time in the Missionary training Center “like being in the Celestial Kingdom – pure heaven on earth!“. The emails we have already received from them have been filled with so much testimony and love and happiness. What a treasure!
Senior Missionary couples do not operate under all of the same rules and restrictions as the younger missionaries. For example, if they live near enough to the MTC during their training, they can come home on the weekends (which they did – giving us two extra weekends to party together). Because they are “State-side” they will travel to their mission in their own car, which they will use during their mission. They will (obviously) have the same companion their entire mission. They will live in one home or apartment during their service which will have extra bedrooms in order to house missionaries during transfers. They can have a television and are simply instructed to watch edifying programs in keeping with the missionary spirit. They can have their own computer in their apartment. They can call home, email or Skype with their family whenever they have time, and their family members are even welcome to come and visit them!
Knowing all of these things makes it a little easier to let them go. Knowing they are serving in a nearby state doesn’t feel quite so “drastic” as I imagine it would if they had been sent all the way to Africa or Europe! But, as the moment arrived yesterday for them to pull out of their driveway and head to California with their car loaded down with clothing, computers, and other various supplies for the next 18+ months of their lives there were many lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes.
Saying “Goodbye”, even if it’s for all the right reasons, is really hard!
We will miss being able to see them and talk to them whenever we want. We will miss them terribly at our birthday celebrations, holiday parties and other family gatherings. We will miss their kisses and hugs. But, we wouldn’t trade any of that for the priceless opportunity for them to serve a mission!
We love you, Mom and Dad, and are so proud of you – our dear sweet Missionary Angels, Elder & Sister Seely! - MoSop
“Dear senior couples…do not procrastinate the day of your service. Now is the time to prepare; now is the time to be called, the time to sacrifice. Now is the time to share your gifts and talents, and now is the time to receive God’s blessings for you and for your family. “
-Elder Robert D. Hales