Inside the Missionary Training Center: It takes a village to run what amounts to a small city

Published: Tuesday, March 22 2011 10:00 a.m. MDT

Elsewhere, the health clinic is staffed by two doctors and several nurses, the barbershop is humming with four to five employees a day, and alterations and sewing services are available (but missionaries must sew on their own buttons).

MTC volunteers also aid in the arrival of new missionaries on Wednesdays or are among the 1,400 who help staff the MTC's Training Resource Center, where they role-play for missionaries in teaching situations.

Another element of Provo MTC staffing is ecclesiastical in nature. Missionaries are divided into 50-plus LDS branches — small, language-specific congregations — which are supervised by nearly 200 lay priesthood leaders with extensive mission, stake and ward leadership experience.

"We're working with missionaries who are willing to pay the sacrifice to serve," said Ronald J. Wright, whose second go-round in an MTC branch president means Sundays chock full from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. with worship services, council sessions, training meetings and interviews. "Every minute with them is a spiritual experience."

Training to serve in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission, Elder Norriss Webb and Sister Carol Webb of Lake Oswego, Ore., relished their time in the Provo MTC — where in years previously, they had dropped off four of their children for their own missions.

"I can't say enough about the young people who teach us," Elder Webb said. "They're not just teachers. They are strong — strong in the gospel."

Added Sister Webb: "But very humble at the same time.

"Our kids taught here," he continued, "but we didn't know what they were doing.

"Now we understand what they did," she finished, "and why they loved it."

email: taylor@desnews.com

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