Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blessings of Couple Missionaries Serving

When a person serves a mission there are blessings that come from that service. Sometimes the people serving are blessed. Sometimes their families at home are blessed. Other times the people in the areas in which they served are blessed. That blessings come from serving a mission is a continual theme of the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dozens of testimonial articles have been published in the church publications. It is a theme of ward, stake, regional and general conferences. Most members of the Council of Twelve have made pronouncements about the value of Christian service and its attendant blessings.

In 2005 Robert D. Hales said about the effects of couples serving had on the people in their areas: "A couple called to India helped a school for blind children build sanitary facilities and acquire braille typewriters. A couple in Hawaii nurtured a little branch of 20 members to 200 and prepared 70 members to attend the temple together. A couple in Peru arranged for medicine and Christmas toys to be provided to 550 children in an orphanage. A couple in Cambodia taught institute classes and gave leadership to a branch which, after only 10 months, grew to 180 members. A couple in Russia helped local farmers increase their yield of potatoes to 11 times that of the state farms, while a couple in the Philippines helped nearly 700 poorly nourished families learn to raise rabbits and cultivate vegetable gardens. A couple in Pennsylvania assisted 60 individuals, half of them members of other faiths, in preparing their family genealogical records. A couple in Ghana helped drill and refurbish wells, bringing water to 190,000 people in villages and refugee camps.

Whether or not the results of every mission are this obvious to mortal eyes, all those who serve make an invaluable contribution in the sight of the Lord, for all “have compassion, making a difference.” 15 Couple missionaries are role models and examples of strength to full-time missionaries and to priesthood and auxiliary leaders throughout the world. I express my gratitude for all these and the thousands of others who are serving in so many capacities, contributing millions of hours in service to their fellow man.

My brothers and sisters, if you have felt stirrings to engage in this work, however quiet those feelings may be, 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 your family. “There is a constant need for more couple missionaries,” President Gordon B. Hinckley has said. 16 As this work rolls forward, that need is increasing. Let us, in our richest years of experience, maturity, wisdom, and most of all, our faith, rise to meet that need as only we can." (Robert D. Hales, “Couple Missionaries: Blessings from Sacrifice and Service,” Liahona, May 2005, 39–42).

In 2004 Russell M. Nelson described how the families and investigators by former Seventy now serving as a couples missionary were blessed: "I think of Elder Lloyd Poelman and his wife, Sister Catherine Poelman. Parents of 9 grown children and grandparents of 20 grandchildren, they now serve in a remote part of Chile, working in a small branch. They make frequent visits among less-active members and with families recently converted to the Church. These visits provide opportunity for the Poelmans to read with those families and bear testimony of temple blessings. In their mission branches, they have also taught people how to conduct music and play simplified versions of the hymns on small electronic keyboards. Elder and Sister Poelman recently wrote: “Baptism is only the first step in conversion. When the initial excitement subsides and the new converts continue facing the need to work long hours just to put bread on the table, they need others to help them who share the joy of the gospel. That is our specialty. Part of our work is preventive—staying close to new converts. Yet others who rarely attend meetings have not lost conviction and receive our messages gratefully. As we watch the changes brought about in the lives of those we visit, we feel blessed to be receiving constant tutoring and help from the Lord in this work and, at the same time, to know that our family members back home are vicariously sharing our calling and those special blessings." (Russell M. Nelson, “Senior Missionaries and the Gospel,” Liahona, Nov 2004, 79–82.)

In 2001 Robert D. Hales spoke about the blessings of a mission for family members: "What is the best way to teach our children—and grandchildren—light and truth? What is the most important way to set our families, both immediate and extended, in order? Is it possible that in spiritual matters our example speaks louder than our words? Temple marriage, family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening are all vitally important. But there is another dimension—the dimension of service. If we are willing to leave our loved ones for service in the mission field, we will bless them with a heritage that will teach and inspire them for generations to come.

It is significant to me that after commanding the Brethren to teach their children light and truth and set their families in order, the Lord immediately called them on missions. “Now, I say unto you, my friends, let my servant Sidney Rigdon go on his journey, and make haste, and also proclaim ... the gospel of salvation” (D&C 93:51).

As we serve in the mission field, our children and grandchildren will be blessed in ways that would not have been possible had we stayed at home. Talk to couples who have served missions and they will tell you of blessings poured out: inactive children activated, family members baptized, and testimonies strengthened because of their service.

One missionary couple left a farm at home for their son to manage. During the somewhat dry year that followed, their farm had two hay cuttings while the neighbor’s had only one. The neighbor asked their son why he had two cuttings compared to their one. The young man replied, “You need to send your folks on a mission.”

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?" (Robert D. Hales, “Couple Missionaries: A Time to Serve,” Liahona, Jul 2001, 28–31.)

In 2001 Robert D. Hales said couple missionaries will bless the lives of those they teach: "But the Lord has said, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 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. The Lord has promised that angels will go before you (see D&C 103:19–20). You will be told by the Spirit what to say and when to say it in a very natural process as you strengthen young missionaries, testify to investigators and new members, teach leadership skills, and friendship and fellowship less-active members, helping them return to full activity. 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....

Some mature couples and single sisters have been called as missionaries to teach English as a second language to students, teachers, and government officials in Thailand. These retired teachers and educational administrators, by giving freely of their gifts and talents developed through their many years of teaching experience, have made remarkable progress in teaching English to students, training teachers, and being good ambassadors for the Church in Thailand.

Jerry and Karen Johnson served in Hong Kong, teaching English as a second language. One day after class, near the end of their mission, a little second-grade girl, to whom Sister Johnson had become very attached, came up to her and, putting out her arms as though she were an airplane flying, asked, “Meiguo?” meaning “America?” Sister Johnson looked at her and said, “Yes, we are returning to America.” She buried her head in Sister Johnson’s chest and sobbed. “I held her tight and sobbed right along with her,” Sister Johnson said. “Fifty other students gathered around, sobbing right along with us. Our mission has placed us in the center of a whirlwind of love that seems to envelop us.”

As Jesus sent forth the Twelve to go on their missions, He commanded them, saying, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). Where much is given, much is expected. You have received much in your life; go forth and freely give in the service of our Lord and Savior. Have faith; the Lord knows where you are needed. The need is so great, brothers and sisters, and the laborers are so few." (Robert D. Hales, “Couple Missionaries: A Time to Serve,” Liahona, Jul 2001, 28–31.)

In 2004 Gordon B. Hinckley described the effects a missionary couple had on humanitarian efforts: "Now there has been added another element. It began some years ago when drought in Africa brought hunger and death to uncounted numbers. Members of the Church were invited to contribute to a great humanitarian effort to meet the needs of those terribly impoverished people. Your contributions were numerous and generous. The work has continued because there are other serious needs in many places. The outreach of this aid has become a miracle. Millions of pounds of food, medical supplies, blankets, tents, clothing, and other materials have staved off famine and desolation in various parts of the world. Wells have been dug, crops have been planted, lives have been saved. Let me give you an example.

Neil Darlington is a chemical engineer who worked for a large industrial company in Ghana. Eventually, he retired.

He and his wife were then called as a missionary couple. They were sent to Ghana. Brother Darlington says, “In areas of famine, disease, and social unrest, we were there as representatives of the Church, extending a helping hand to the destitute, the hungry, the distressed.”

In small villages they drilled new wells and repaired old ones. Those of us who have fresh, clean water in abundance can scarcely appreciate the circumstances of those who are without.

Can you picture this couple, devoted Latter-day Saint missionaries? They drill into the dry earth. Their drill reaches the water table below, and the miracle liquid comes to the surface and spills over the dry and thirsty soil. There is rejoicing. There are tears. There is now water to drink, water with which to wash, water to grow crops. There is nothing more treasured in a dry land than water. How absolutely beautiful is water pouring from a new well.

On one occasion, when the tribal chiefs and the elders of the village gathered to thank them, Brother Darlington asked the chief if he and Sister Darlington could sing a song for them. They looked into the eyes of the dark-skinned men and women before them and sang “I Am a Child of God” as an expression of their common brotherhood.

This one couple, through their efforts, have provided water for an estimated 190,000 people in remote villages and refugee camps. Contemplate, if you will, the miracle of this accomplishment.

And now, literally thousands of their kind, married couples, couples who otherwise might simply have lived out their lives in largely idle pursuits, have served, and are serving, in scores of ways and in scores of places. They have worked and continue to work in the impoverished areas of America. They have worked, and still do so, in India and Indonesia, in Thailand and Cambodia, in Russia and the Baltic nations. And so the work expands. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “‘I Was an Hungred, and Ye Gave Me Meat’,” Liahona, May 2004, 58–61.)

In 2001 David B. Haight described the blessings of missionary couples: "When you think of the majesty and the impact and the spiritual direction of this work out in the world and that this work is meant to reach the people of the world, it is thrilling just to contemplate what lies before us.

There was a Brother and Sister Andrus from Walnut Creek, California, who had served four missions, and then they were called to go to Zimbabwe and assigned to the district in Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. This was their fifth mission.

As they told of the marvelous things that they were able to do in reactivating people, she told a story of how there was a little portable electronic organ in the chapel and how she started showing some of the boys and girls in Bulawayo how to play the organ. There was also a little piano keyboard in another room, and she would have a class where the organ was and another one where this little keyboard was. She would teach these children to play the organ after school. They said they started a temple preparation class in the reactivation process, and before they left they were able to put 28 people on the bus to go from Bulawayo all the way to Johannesburg to the temple, 650 miles away—two days and one night. They said, “We’ve talked about how we are in our late 70s now—these two old people wandering around in Africa having the greatest period of our lives, the greatest excitement we could have.”

Think of Dr. Alan Barker, who had retired from the Salt Lake Clinic, a wonderful cardiologist here in Salt Lake, who, together with his wife, accepted a mission call to the Philippines. While there, they accomplished a marvelous work in helping correct a serious disease problem. He was there long enough to help find a solution to the problem and obtain the needed medical equipment and medication.

These are examples of the marvelous service being given by senior missionary couples in various parts of the world." (David B. Haight, “Gratitude and Service,” Ensign, May 2001, 70.)

I am sure there are many other blessings that couple missionaries receive from serving a mission. I hope that couples who have served will share some their blessings with us.

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