Senior Missionaries—Unspeakable Joy

Senior Missionaries—Unspeakable Joy

On Monday, February 4, 2013, I completed the last commitment of my career. I was officially retired. The following Sunday my sweetheart, Elaine and I approached our bishop ready to serve a senior couple mission for the Church. He was thrilled. He knew we’d planned to serve a mission and helped us make our application online. Thus began one of the great adventures of our lives as Latter-day Saints.

Elaine became a member of the Church at age 14. I joined the Church at age 22. We were both born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland. We married there in 1967—the first Latter-day Saint marriage in the history of the Province of Newfoundland. We raised eight wonderful children and now experience joy watching our 27 grandchildren and one great-grandchild blossom and grow. Richly blessed, we’ve had joy in our posterity; sometimes unspeakable joy.

Elaine and I moved from Newfoundland to Abbotsford, British Columbia in 1969. Active members of the Church, we know the blessings that flow from serving others. We’ve lived busy lives, but always planned on serving a mission as soon as we could. We were ready and excited. We sent our application to Church headquarters and awaited instruction.
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The process is simple, the information flow comforting. Everything is carefully explained and easy to follow. The Church is very accommodating for senior couples giving some choice as to where they might serve and whether for 6, 12, 18 or 23 months. For health reasons, we requested to serve in Canada. When our dear friend, Brian Leavitt, then President of the Canada Halifax Mission learned of our application he asked if we would like to serve in his mission—a delightful invitation to which we gladly responded. He did caution us that, in the end, the final decision would not be his to make. That decision comes only through the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Indeed, we were called to serve in the Canada Halifax Mission. After all these years, we were going back to eastern Canada.

On June 3, 2013, we entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah for one week of training. There are no words to describe the marvel of the MTC. As Elaine described it, “we were breathing rarified air”. To be among many other senior couples (and some singles) and literally thousands of polite and helpful young Sisters and Elders was an experience we treasure. Senior couples get the VIP treatment there. The young missionaries rushed to open doors for us. When we gathered for lunch they always insisted on moving us to the front of any line. Making an even greater impression on us was the fact that most of our missionary trainers were young returned missionaries—simply wonderful teacher/trainers. The Spirit filled our entire week. Principles were taught and reinforced, love among strangers was everywhere, tears often came and blessings of light and knowledge poured into our grateful hearts. The day we left the MTC was one of deeply mixed feelings. We felt ready to go labour in the vineyard but really didn’t want to leave this oasis of peace and love.
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Before we left the MTC, President Leavitt contacted us to let us know he had prayerfully decided to have me serve as the Branch President in St. John’s Newfoundland. We were both stunned and thrilled to discover we would serve our entire 12-month mission in the very city we had lived, where we were married and where we had each been baptized so many years earlier. We would serve with people we hadn’t seen in 44 years, some of them the very people who had been the examples we looked to for inspiration as a young married couple.
Shortly after we arrived in St. John’s I replaced the beloved Branch President who had served for nearly eight years and had worn himself out in the service of the members of the branch. The branch had about 55 souls attending each Sunday and many less-actives. There were six full-time missionary Sisters and Elders and much work to be done. Elaine was called to serve in Relief Society and Primary where her years of faithful experience proved to be a blessing to the branch. My first official duty was to arrange the funeral of one of our dear friends from years past who suddenly passed away a week after we arrived. Humbled, I made arrangements and conducted the service for a wonderful man who had served as my inspiration when first I became a member of the Church.

I assigned myself as Branch Mission Leader and worked closely with the full-time missionaries. The branch adopted President Monson’s call to “Hasten the Work of Salvation”. We organized a branch council to engage with investigators, less actives and returning members. The branch grew, amazing converts came unto Christ, others returned to activity and the lives of active members were changed. We lived through a difficult winter, but the love of those wonderful branch members kept us warm. We never once missed our comfortable lives, not once! We received blessings beyond anything we had imagined, loved by some of the best and most humble people on earth.

One of the most significant moments of our mission came when we organized a trip to the Halifax Temple for 25 of the St. John’s Saints. Some recent converts came to do baptismal work, one sister received her endowment and several seasoned members came who hadn’t been able to get to the Temple in years. A quiet miracle took place making it possible for some to attend who couldn’t possibly afford the trip. With one sister in a wheelchair, one using crutches, young and old members, we presented quite a sight walking through airports—a collective of sorts—with a single purpose, to go into the temple where we could receive and give blessings. We felt a profound sense of the importance of this great cause in which we are engaged.
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Of all the blessings we enjoyed on our mission to St. John’s Newfoundland, the blessing that lingers deepest in our hearts is that of serving with the young Sisters and Elders. We were overwhelmed with their absolute commitment to the service they had been called to render. These young ambassadors for Christ were called of God; their lives were examples of the pure love of Christ, of charity, of diligence and humility. They changed us. These precious young missionaries found joy in obedience and gave of themselves completely. We saw acts of charity toward the less fortunate, complete commitment to helping souls come unto their Saviour and a willingness to go where others would not. In the Church, we hear much about this special generation of youth. We saw it with our own eyes.

We will ever be grateful for the privilege of serving a senior couple mission. Some might think that in our late 60’s, this might be too much to expect. We simply couldn’t have found such a satisfying adventure anywhere else. We had fun, shed tears, shared love and received in return blessings beyond measure.
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Our family was blessed in our absence. On the day, we returned from our mission we were met at the airport by a literal tribe of noisy weeping well-wishing Noftles. We went directly to the chapel in Abbotsford where one of our granddaughters was baptized by her father. What a way to end our full-time mission!

May God bless every senior couple who chooses to give of themselves to serve the Lord as missionaries. Our prayer is the joys of our experience will be theirs.