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Senior service

The number of senior couple missionaries has increased over the past several years partly because more couples are serving first-time missions but mostly because former couples are serving their second third fourth fifth and in some cases their sixth seventh and eighth missions.
Courtesy Pacific Islands AreaElder Spencer J. Condie with Elder Jean Tefan Area Seventy and senior missionaries Elder Gar Walton and Sister LeAnn Walton invite President Oscar Manutahi Temaru of French Polynesia to attend Papeete temple open house.
Photo by Alan GibbyElder Verne and Sister Shirley Nelson greet Brad Moaalii.
Photo by Alan GibbyElder Verne Nelson and Sister Shirley Nelson of Park City Utah visit new Marine Corps recruits at Camp Pendleton in California.
Photo by Mark PhilbrickSister Marylyn Regen serving with her husband Robert accompanies young girl while serving a senior couple mission in Mongolia. Couples are filling a vital role in missionary effort.
Photo by Mark PhilbrickElder Corwin Ogborn from Orem Utah center cuts ribbon to open a well drilled in Mongolia as part of Church Humanitarian Services.
And a few like Clair and Ruby Andrus — who are sitting on their bags eagerly awaiting their visas to Spain — will soon serve their 10th mission.
Were not doing anything more than many others said Sister Andrus from her home in the Oak Hills 1st Ward Provo Utah Oak Hills Stake.
They are not serving for numbers or notoriety but because service is in their hearts. During the past few weeks while waiting for their visas theyve attended the temple daily. We might as well be serving someone she said.
Of their time as a young married couple she said We went into the military for the opportunities it presented in sharing the gospel. Once after taking a particular vacation they felt that such a trip was selfish. For them travel had lost its fizz. They vowed from then on to travel with a purpose.
With their next mission to Malaga Spain they will have served four Spanish-speaking missions to equal the four French-speaking missions they have served.
Its better to go and make a difference than sit around waiting for the kids to call said Sister Andrus. You get to the point where you understand the opposition (to righteousness). Our family has really been blessed probably more than if wed stayed home.
Not a day goes by that a mission president somewhere around the world doesnt beg for more couple missionaries because couples render such great service in helping small branches grow and in assisting struggling wards said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve and chairman of the Missionary Executive Council.
We have only a portion of the couples needed. Because of limited numbers we cant meet all the requests he said. There is no skill so useless or so obscure that it cannot be used. Everyone has something to contribute. You cant live 60 years without developing valuable skills.
Bishops and branch presidents pray about which couples can be encouraged to submit papers for a call to full-time missionary service. There is an urgent need for them said Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve in the April 2006 general conference.
There are two unique times in our lives when we can truly live the law of consecration and devote ourselves in full-time service to the Lord said Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve in an April 2001 general conference address.
One is as a young man or woman serving a full-time mission. The other is the unique time you are given after having fulfilled the requirements of earning a living. The latter could be called the patriarchal years when you can draw upon the rich experiences of a lifetime go out as a couple and consecrate yourselves fully as servants of the Lord.
The blessings of serving with your eternal companion are priceless and can only be understood by those who have experienced it. My wife and I have had that privilege in the mission field. Each day is a special day with daily rewards that cause personal growth and development in the Lords time and in the Lords way. The fulfillment that comes from this kind of service will bless you your marriage and your family for eternity.
Elder Hales added If the blessings for missionary couples and their families are so plentiful why are only a few thousand serving instead of the tens of thousands that are so desperately needed?
Elder Hales said he believed the four Fs often stand in the way of service namely: fear family concerns finances and finding the right mission opportunity.
First fear. Fear of the unknown or fear that we dont have the scriptural skills or language required can cause reluctance to serve. But the Lord has said If ye are prepared ye shall not fear (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30).
Your life is your preparation. You have valuable experience. You have raised a family and served in the Church. Just go and be yourselves. . . . You are the testimony and you will touch the lives of those with whom you come in contact. Couples normally do not tract and are not expected to memorize discussions or maintain the same schedule as young elders and sisters. Simply be yourself. Serve to the best of your ability and the Lord will bless you.
Second family concerns. The Lord will send special blessings to your family as you serve continued Elder Hales. I the Lord give unto them a promise that I will provide for their families (Doctrine and Covenants 118:3). Couples are sometimes concerned that in their absence they will miss weddings births family reunions and other family events. We have learned that the impact on families while grandparents are on missions is worth a thousand sermons. Families are greatly strengthened as they pray for their parents and grandparents and read letters sent home which share their testimonies and the contribution they are making in the mission field.
Third finances. Some couples who would willingly serve are not able to do so because of age health finances or family circumstances. Perhaps those who are not able to serve could assist another couple to go on a mission Elder Hales said.
Fourth finding the right mission opportunity. The ways in which couples can serve are virtually limitless. From mission office support and leadership training to family history temple work and humanitarian service — there is an opportunity to use almost any skill or talent with which the Lord has blessed you he said.
Elder Hales advised couples to sit down together make an inventory of their health financial resources and unique gifts and talents. Then if all is in order go to their bishop and say Were ready. He said that couples might feel it is improper to approach their bishop or branch president about their desires to serve a mission. But it is proper for a mature sister or couple to let their priesthood leaders know that they are willing and able to serve a mission. I urge you to do so he said.
During the past year serving as a senior missionary coordinator in the Missionary Department said Elder Richard Kenney I have received tens of dozens of worried calls from seniors who didnt think they could serve a proselyting mission.
Typically seniors will use their time and talents according to their discretion to assist in some combination of five activities: strengthening leadership member reactivation referral follow-up community service and guiding new converts in documenting their family history so that they can do baptisms for their ancestors.
When senior couples understand what they will be doing they often say I can do that.
One day recently after presenting a workshop during a zone conference in their Toronto Canada East Mission and then attending a baptism of a young man from China Sister and Elder Sandy and Allan Dietlein shared why they chose to serve a second mission after serving a public affairs mission in Frankfurt Germany several years ago.
We first thought that serving one mission would be enough said Sister Dietlein. Then we got home and thought Are our activities really counting for anything? Pretty soon we were filling out papers again.
Like other grandparents with growing grandchildren she said We wouldnt miss these special events of births and marriages if we werent involved in something equally as great.
There are obstacles to leaving home. We thought wed never find anyone to stay on our ranch take care of the horses the dog and cats irrigate the fields and lawns but somehow the Lord and your good neighbors take care of that.
In the MTC people kept thanking us for our sacrifice. What sacrifice? This is a privilege. What could be more rewarding than the two of us spending all our time together in the Lords work?
Sometimes added Elder Dietlein we have to pinch ourselves because we are so blessed to be on a mission. We wake up each day with our plates full of things to do. We never get bored. Rather than sitting home rusting out we want to wear out doing something useful.
Your Heavenly Father needs you said Elder Hales in his April 2005 general conference address. His work under the direction of our Savior Jesus Christ needs what you are uniquely prepared to give.
Leaving grandchildren in the inexperienced hands of their parents is not easy to do acknowledges David Wade of the Missionary Department. Yet he said senior couple missionaries have a great impact on the work. Such service gets them out of their comfort zones. They return more confident and capable.
Its like the sign that hangs on the wall of the senior missionary couples continued Brother Wade: Serving a senior couple mission sure beats staying home watching your birth certificate expire.
E-mail to: shaun@desnews.com

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