Canada is both providing and receiving more missionaries than ever before. The increased numbers of missionaries reflects how young members are preparing and ready to serve. Also, the recent lowering of the age requirement has been a major factor influencing their decisions to serve missions and has made a big difference in the number of applicants.
Sister Youkyung Cho is a five-year Canadian resident who decided to serve a mission. She is Korean and was living in Vancouver, BC when she received her mission call. “A mission was not in my plan,” explains Sister Cho, “but as I talked with a return missionary friend, he told me how his mission was wonderful and blessed his family, too.” Their conversations sparked in Sister Cho a desire to be ready for the Second Coming of the Saviour. She felt that a mission would be the best way to give her an anchor for life.
Sister Cho applied for missionary service, received her call and arrived in the Canada Edmonton Mission on July 31, 2013. “I’ve loved every second of my mission!” exclaims Sister Cho. She says that mission life is not always easy, but there were always rewards. One day, when all their teaching appointments cancelled, she and her companion, Sister Scofield, tracted more than 40 homes, but found no interested residents. Despite the discouragement, they prayed and chose another street to tract. At the second home, a lady invited them into her home. This woman was a less-active Latter-day Saint woman who was thrilled to see the missionaries and was anxious to return to church.
Sister Cho’s second companion, Sister Katelyn Nicholes, came to the Canada Edmonton Mission from Pleasant Grove, Utah, on July 17, 2013. Her decision to serve a mission was sparked by volunteer work for an orphanage in Ecuador. Many of the young women who served with her were planning to go on missions and their leader had also served a mission. Their stories of mission plans and experiences influenced Sister Nicholes’ new-found desire to serve.
“I had one and a half years to wait,” said Sister Nicholes, “and that seemed to be such a long time. I called my family and told them I wished I could just stay in Ecuador until it was time to serve my mission. Two weeks later, on conference day, we learned that the age limit for sister missionaries had been lowered. We were all joyfully crying and hugging each other, excited that we could go out together with the next wave of sister missionaries. I absolutely love my mission. It is one of the greatest things I could have ever decided to do with my life.”
Elder Samuel Burton recently returned to London, Ontario, after serving in the Canada Vancouver Mission. He recalls, “having the opportunity to be on a mission during the groundbreaking announcement of the age change for missionaries was possibly more excitement than I could handle. Our mission size nearly doubled in about one year and more than a third of those were sister missionaries. It was exciting to see the Lord hasten His work right before my eyes. It was also wonderful to see five missionaries from my home stake in Hamilton, Ontario in my mission. The number of Canadian missionaries was astounding.”
Elder Burton continues, “Before my mission, I was a shy and nervous kid. Through my service as a missionary, my Heavenly Father helped my weakness become a strength, so much that I now get excited when given the opportunity to teach or give a talk in Sacrament meeting. I was stuck in a rut, doing the same things every day, not accomplishing much, wanting more for my life but not knowing what. I knew that if there was one person who could help me change, it would be my Father in Heaven. With faith, I went off to serve my mission in hopes that if I helped Him, He would help me and He did. My mission was the greatest experience of my life and I will never regret it.”
President Kirk Martin Thomas of the Canada Winnipeg Mission describes the growth in that mission. “From February 2013, the Canada Winnipeg Mission increased its number of missionaries more than two and half times. The growth has been rapid and filled with challenges, but the added missionaries are wonderful. They are having a very positive effect on active and less-active members as well as sharing the gospel with more investigators than ever before.”
President Brent Scott of the Canada Toronto Mission relates similar growth. “When President Monson’s announcement was made regarding the age change for missionary service, about ten percent of our missionaries were sisters. Now the number of missionaries has increased 40 percent, and a third of the missionaries are sisters. We are teaching the gospel in seven languages and reaching people who would not otherwise hear the gospel in their native country. It is a wonderful blessing to be part of the great work in this historic time. We are definitely seeing the hastening of the Lord’s work in our Canada missions. Both members and missionaries are working together to bless the lives of those who do not have the gospel or who have lost the fire of their earlier baptism and confirmation.”
Many young men and women in Canada are preparing to serve missions. These youth prepare and polish their teaching skills in Sunday School, Young Men’s and Young Women’s and Seminary classes. These classes prepare youth to teach in the Lord’s way. Stakes often offer missionary preparation classes to study Preach My Gospel as well.
On January 8, 2014, Elder Jonathan Estrade of Laval, Quebec reported to his mission assignment in Île de la Réunion and Madagascar. Even as hundreds of missionaries from other parts of the world consecrate their service within Canada, Elder Estrade will offer his Canadian influence to the world-wide effort.
The missionaries of Canada are a great force in the hastening of the work of salvation in this historic and important period of time.