Friday, October 2, 2009

Transfers: How Missionaries Reckon Time

In missionary culture the lives of missionaries revolve around transfers.  A transfer occurs every six weeks on a regular cycle and missionaries count their time in the mission field from their first transfer.  Mission presidents on average go on the six-week cycle but some mission presidents might deviate slightly. For the most part the six-week cycle is the accepted time frame for the majority of missions.

How the cycle is measured is done transfer by transfer with weeks 1-6 for the six-week cycle. For example, Transfer 1 Week 1-6, Transfer 2 Week 1-6 etc.  The mission president in consultation with his two mission assistants assigns each companionship to a specific proselyting area for each transfer. For sister missionaries there are on average twelve transfers on the six-week cycle.  For elders there are on average sixteen transfers on the six-week cycle.

The only exception to the regular transfer occurs when there is a problem with a missionary such as an elder or sister becomes too close to a member of the opposite sex or a missionary is fighting with a companion then there can be an emergency transfer. Such transfers occur outside the regular cycle but don't affect the ongoing cycle of transfer counting.  For the most part missionaries reckon time by transfers in their mission and their lives revolve around  their transfers.  They mark their time by their transfers.

The reckoning of time based on transfers pervades missionaries lives.  Whenever I talk to a missionary at church they will inevitably bring up the fact the might be transferred.  There is no telling how long a missionary will last in an area. It could be anywhere from two months to six months or even longer. I stayed personally in a few areas about a month.

 There are a variety of ways that missionaries are informed of transfers.  The majority of them are called out by the mission assistants to the zone leaders to the district leaders down to the companionship.  In some fields all missionary companionships are called but in other fields only the missionaries affected are called.  The latter makes more sense.  I guess it doesn't hurt to call everyone since missionaries wonder who will remain in their district or zone.

A few missions which are geographically small hold a gathering of all missionaries and make an event of transfers.  There are some advantages like bonding or camaraderie.  It can fire up the missionaries and they can meet old friends or new missionaries.  Missionary presidents can use the event to communicate expectations.

Some missions actually have all the missionaries get together for a special transfer meeting.  It depends on the size of the mission and the disruption to the missionaries.  In the Texas Dallas Mission, Elder Kevin Forsell reported on 21 September 2009:
I just got in my new area last week. It's been great!! Ok, I'll tell you how it went: Transfer meeting: Elder McGregor and I went to transfer meeting and I was super nervous because I wanted a really great companion. After a few announcements they announced the new companionships. They called Elder McGregor to stay in McKinney and his new companion is Elder Urchhart. He was my companion while we flew from the MTC to TX. He's really cool. I hope he's my companion someday. Then they called my new area. My new companion is Elder Marshall and my new area is Oak Cliff. :D The area: oak cliff is JUST south of downtown dallas and SUPER ghetto. i love it. It's a bike area!! I dont have a car, but biking everywhere is really fun. The weather is getting better so its not as bad biking in the 105 degree weather. Now its in the 80's. lately its been rainy. We set two dates already, one to an investigator named Domingo and another to Arturo. Domingo is a little unsure... lives alone... wants to learn more. Arturo is part of a part member family. Wife and son are members, he's not... but SUPER excited to get baptized. The Comp: Elder Marshall is from Colorado Springs, CO. He's the only member of his family who's a member of the church and has only been a member for 2.5 years!! But he knows the gospel a lot, and is a really experienced missionary. He goes home in April. He's been in Oak Cliff for 2 transfers already (this is his third) and lately he's only kept companions for 1 transfer. maybe the trend will follow and I'll get ANOTHER new companion next transfer. I hope not though. Elder Marshall is a great example. He's really good at teaching me things and showing me how to be a good missionary. He has a goal to make me a leader by the end of the transfer ( for example, District Leader or Trainer or something).
My own daughter who is serving in the Taiwan Taipei Mission sends home many of her weekly emails with captions such as Week 23 in Zhongli, Transfer 4 Week 6: 4 Baptisms Slated.  My daughter lasted in Zhongli thirty weeks or a little over six months which was a long time in how long a missionary reckons time.

 Elder Bradley McMullin described on 2 September 2009 the details he learned through a call about transfers in the Illinois Chicago South Mission:

Everything is going well. We got transfer calls last night. Pretty crazy stuff. Elder Denter and I are staying the same. Elder Sorensen is leaving Prestbury for Woodridge 2, which is in the Joliet Zone. Elder Gates, who is a really good soccer player, is taking his spot. Elder Price, from Woodridge 1, is becoming a new Zone Leader in Chicago. Elder Tzunun is taking his spot to be with Elder Barker, who's been in his first area for 6 months already. Elder Baum is coming to take Elder Wiser's spot in Naper 6. The Spanish are all staying the same. We've also got a new AP, Elder Wilson, who was a Zone Leader in Chicago. There's the news for the Zone! The other Sisters and the Geneva Elders are staying the same.
Elder Michael Bentz serving in Germany describes the process of killing off or sending home former companions in a future transfer:

Yeah, this new place Bad Homburg is pretty sweet, my comp, Elder Braithwaite, from Highland, UT is way cool, he dies in 2 transfers, so I might end up killing him as well as my trainer, oh well, it doesn't bother me very much.
Elder William Boy serving in the Virginia Richmond Mission expresses his feelings about not having to pack his things when not being transferred:

Elder Shock is leaving for home at the end of this transfer and so I will probably be staying here for the next 12 weeks and I am so happy to be here, and feel secure in that I don't have to pack everything up in 6 weeks. ( that is a pain).
Even church leaders sometimes have an impact on whether a missionary is transferred.  Elder Brent Parson shared a bishop's request to his mission president:

So this week was the week of transfers. We were talking to our Bishop about how this transfer is going to be complicated because tons of new missionaries are going to show up and how Elder Bie was probably going to be transferred.

So then on Sunday after having lunch with him he asked me to give him my cell phone and put me on the line with President. I was a bit confused but I dialed President's number and gave it to him. He said a bunch of stuff to President but pretty much said that if there was anyway possible to keep both of us here in the area then he would be really happy because we are doing really good work here in the area. I relaxed as I heard this haha and thought it was way cool that he did that.

So then Monday night came and we received the call to see who was going to be transferred. I still thought, despite my Bishop's call, that Elder Bie was going to leave...but it wasn't so. My Bishop got his wish and we both are going to stay here another month and half at least.

Well we didn't have much else to do and my comp had to talk to President about some stuff so we went to the Mission Office for transfers today.

Both us and my entire zone were sure that my comp was going to be transferred and that I was going to train seeing as I am "in that season" of the mission and there are 21 new missionaries showing up, but alas that didn't happen.

I was actually kind of disappointed. I thought that maybe I had lost some of President's respect or something like that but one of my friends who is one of the Assistants called me over during transfers and told me that they literally had put me up on "the board" that President has with all the missionaries in the mission as a trainer with my new noobie companion and everything...but then right before they finalized the transfer my Bishop called saying that he really wanted us to stay.

And so President decided to change everything and now I will wait a bit longer to train I guess. I mean, it's cool what happened and everything but on the other hand I really wanted to train. But whatevs, I am still happy with everything that is going on here in the area so I don't have much to complain about.

Speaking of that we had 2 baptisms last week and 2 more this week.

 Elder Kyle Parker feels that transfers are based on spiritual impressions:
 Hello Hello. This week wasn’t a very eventful one so sorry about that. We are trying to find new investigators and it is kind of hard. This coming week is the last week of the transfer. We really don’t know what is going to happen to either of us. President Drewes kind of hinted  I might be staying but you never know with that man. I have been in Jackson, Tennessee for 4 and ½ months now. I haven’t stayed in an area longer than that so statistics show that the logical choice would be that I get transferred but transfers aren’t supposed to be logical, they are spiritual and it is up to the Lord whether I get transferred or not.
 The concept of transfers is a real part of missionaries lives.  We as members and general members or parents of missionaries don't fully understand the telling of time in the same way as missionaries serving.  We see things in minutes, hours, weeks, months, and years.  We try to shape events in missionaries lives on that basis. We don't really relate to a six-week period as defining and impacting the lives of missionaries.  We would be able to talk to missionaries better if  we could to fit their activities to the way they see time rather than the way we see time.  It would be more meaningful to understanding missionary work if we could understand the transfer cycle better. My daughter always laughs when she calls twice a year and see talks about transfers and it goes right over our heads.  It is unique to LDS missionary culture.

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