Thursday, February 26, 2009

Who Pays for a Mission Presidents Children's Education

Most of us don't think about the actual demands of educating mission presidents' children in foreign countries. In other countries in the world there are sometimes limitations on educating non-residents children. We take for granted the U.S. education systems who even let illegal immigrants be schooled for free. It can be a challenging thing to have mission presidents' children receive almost equal education in other countries in the world let alone shoulder the cost.

Recently I was interviewed by Solbridge International School of Business in Daejeon, Korea for the job as university librarian and head of IT. The salary and free housing were attractive and paid around $100,000 U.S. tax-free a year. As we neared the end of the video conference the vice president of academic affairs discussed my taking the job he said oh by the way since your children don't speak Korean they will have to go to an international school. I was told that the cost would be around $20,000 U.S. per child at an American school. I would have cleared $40,000 tax-free dollars after paying the $60,000 tuition and book fees for my three children left at home. Having lived in Saudi Arabia I would also have had to incur transportation costs of getting them to and from school which could run a thousand dollars in gas. We take for granted school busing in the U.S. which is a major economic advantage from other countries. In other countries they might charge you a couple of thousand dollars per child to pick them up in a shuttle bus. I was currently making around $80,000 and taking home about $70,000 so I had to decline their offer since that would have negated any financial gains.

My daughter who served a mission until March 2008 in the Korea Daejon mission said I should have contacted a member there who sometimes waives tuition for members. I don't know if that member was running the school back when President Rife served or not so maybe the church didn't have to pay or paid a reduced rate. I didn't really know who the member was so I didn't pursue the possibility.

As I was reading the call of Richard Rife from his journal it brought this subject to my mind for discussion since most Americans don't realize the educational challenges when working in other countries.

When Brother Rife met with President Thomas S. Monson then a counselor in the first presidency he was told that the Church would pay for his children's education:

December 22, 2000 (Friday)

It was great fun being with President Monson in his office for about 35 minutes. He could not have been friendlier or more cordial. He did most of the talking, telling us about his experiences as a mission president in Canada. About halfway through our meeting, he said “By the way, we’re calling you to be president of a Korean speaking mission, and I assume your answer is yes?” We indicated that it was, and he continued on with his stories, all of which were instructive and delightful.

President Monson urged us to attempt to save all the missionaries, if at all possible. He suggested that we try everything in our power to keep them out there with us in the mission field. And he told us to be gentle with them.

At least twice during our interview, he told not to worry, that the Church would pay for our three younger children to attend private American school in Korea.

President Monson said that this year the Church is calling 112 mission presidents and that, in their First Presidency Meeting, Brother Hinckley (as President Monson referred to him) said: “I know two of the future mission presidents; I’ll call them. Would you and Brother Faust call the other 110?” President Monson said “I took 55 and Brother Faust took 55, and you’re number 42 on my list, so I’m making good progress.”

He told us that he knew we were up in the air about the possibility of a mission president calling and that, therefore, he had asked his staff to get us in to his office before Christmas so that the uncertainty would not spoil our Christmas. I considered that to be very thoughtful on his part.

After a thoroughly delightful 35 minutes, he bade us farewell, and we left his office and headed for the elevator in the Church Administration Building. Before the elevator arrived, he burst out of his office door and said “Did I tell you that the Church will pay for your children’s education in Korea?” He said “I didn’t want you to have a bad Christmas worrying about how you were going to pay for private school in Korea.”
It really makes sense that the Church would take care of the matter. I'm not sure that all mission presidents need to take advantage of it since some have economic resources. But unfortunately some do and it is not unreasonable for families that give three years of their lives in service to be provided this since it is a benefit that even companies and universities give to employees. Putting it in to economic perspective the mission president and his family are simply earning nothing more than the price of their children's education while giving up three years of earning a salary with the potential of putting away about forty or fifty percent of their income and the loss of retirement benefits. I don't consider it a unrealistic expense of my tithing.

In Saudi Arabia I was given around $20,000 for tuition and books for my four children. Of course they had to go to an Egyptian school unlike other ex-pats where one kid received as much as my four children combined. I unfortunately was working for the Crown Prince's personal university as Dean of Library Affairs. I am sure even some mission presidents in an attempt to guard the funds of the church might put their children in a school like the one mine went to.

It actually is a good investment in the future of the children of mission presidents. One they learn to live for three years in a country where they will pick up the language skills and cultural nuances in varying degrees. My younger children learned French, Arabic and English in their Future Windows' school as the faculty were all Middle-Easterners primarily Egyptian, Syrian, and Lebanese. If I had stayed for three years my thirteen year old son who was conversational after only one year would have been almost fluent. He was required to take Islamic Studies (Koran) which was taught in Arabic and was akin to being taught the Book of Mormon. One night we watched a Arabic soap opera and he translated for the whole family. Can you imagine the value of a young man to the Church who went to school with the elite people of the country of Saudi Arabia's children or any other countries?

I don't think it is surprising that mission presidents' children grow up to be future mission presidents and leaders in the church with their international experience. Not to mention they are building relations that will help the church in years to come. I think it is money well spent in raising up a generation of future leaders.

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