It’s that time of year when all over the world, Mission Leaders (formerly called Mission Presidents) for our church make a giant switch.
The new Mission Leaders are trained and make their way to wherever they are assigned to take the places of those who have served for three years.
What are “mission leaders,” you might ask? Well, it is a couple who have been called to preside over one of the 408 missions worldwide for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Each mission has approximately 200 missionaries, and the Mission Leaders are the stewards over all those missionaries for 18-24 months. They take them under their wings and guide them as they serve.
Basically, it is a pretty big job.
This past fall two of our best-friend couples (one who happens to be Dave’s sister and her husband) were asked to serve.
And they accepted.
It has been so interesting and awe-inspiring to watch first-hand as they have prepared over the last six or so months in anticipation. All the emotions. All the things to get in order before leaving home for so long. The work they are involved in. The homes they live in (do they sell them? rent them out?). Most of all I think for all the couples called, the thing they worry about leaving the most are their children and grandchildren.
Of course, some bring their children with them. My parents, for instance, were very young (31 & 29) when they were called to preside over the England, London mission. They brought their then-four children (including me) right along with them, and then had two more in the three years they served there.
But I think the majority of Mission Leaders now are more in the empty nest stage.
This, of course, is something that changes so much of life for them. They basically agree to serve wherever they are called.
They don’t find out where that will be for a month or so after they agree to serve.
If Dave and I were distracted with anticipation as to where they would serve, I can only imagine how it was for them!
But finally the announcements were made.
One hundred and sixty-four of the 408 missions in the world will get new leadership this month.
Dave’s sister and her husband were called to the Sierra Leone, Freetown mission.
The official language is English although there are many different tribal dialects, the main religion is Islam, and from what I understand only 30% of the population there has electricity. They are nervous, of course, but it is amazing to see their willing hearts in action.
Those missionaries will be so lucky to have them!
Their own missionary is out serving a mission and won’t finish until next month. He will be released to them in Africa before he comes back to the states.
They will be so far away it will be pretty difficult for their kids to visit and almost impossible for their five (almost six) grandkids to come visit (all kinds of vaccinations required). Yes, it’s quite a sacrifice!
A couple weeks ago my other sister-in-law gathered us all for a little going-away dinner for Christy and James.
Paul told us all kinds of things he had researched about Sierra Leone and we all asked all kinds of questions.
Claire was excited to entertain the kids as everyone talked…gosh she sure loves these guys!
We are going to miss these two with all our hearts. James has been Dave’s business partner for so long and Christy has been such a mothering (and life) mentor to me and we share so many memories of spring breaks and life in general spent together. We love these two so much!
Below left they are answering questions at our dinner gathering and on the right is when we went to their “farewell” at church.
Our other best friends were called to preside over the Iowa City, Iowa mission.
How do you think it would feel to get to Zoom call from the Prophet to give you a special calling?
Nichole was my roommate in college and Denny and Dave knew each other growing up and we have shared so many memories and deep discussions and adventures over the years. We have been along with them for the ride in many ways as they have prepared.
We are trying to be cheerful about all this, but it’s tough to let friends go!
We had a dinner together with some other good friends to send them off the night after James and Christy’s dinner.
Love them all forever.
We also got to get together with these guys plus some other dear friends in Utah last week:
And then it was off with all of them to the Mission Training Conference.
I love that Nichole sent me this picture of all of them during that conference last week:
Look at those incredible people!
It sounds like it was a pretty amazing experience.
Christy and James left yesterday for Africa, and Nichole and Denny leave tomorrow for Iowa.
I have often wondered over these months of preparation what we will do without them! (Sure, it’s a big deal for them, but what about us they’re leaving behind?? Ha!)
They are some of the best of the best and they will be missed sorely (and we are determined to go visit).
But oh those lucky missionaries who will get them for their leaders! I guess we musth share them.
I know they will grow in such beautiful ways as they embark on this adventure of a lifetime.
And I think we’ll grow in many ways as we watch and support them from afar.
God speed, dear friends!