Transitioning for senior missionaries: Do we have to go home?
Cordell and Cindy Hull, who served in the Bangkok Thailand Mission with assignment to Myanmar, said that “a mission has also encouraged us to simplify our lives so acceptance of future calls will be easier.”
Senior missionaries also discover things at home are different when they return. For example, upon their return from serving in Jamaica, Theron and Shanna Schaefermeyer wrote, “We acclimated well with the family, but we were different. We were used to being active all day and meeting people and accomplishing things. We were now not needed so much.”
Even after a lifetime of experiences, senior missionaries learn many lessons and come to different conclusions. The Sappingtons wrote, “We now have a deeper sense of what ‘family’ is all about — especially the family of the house of Israel.”
The Hulls learned to “be more aware of others around us and how important it is to just open our mouths and begin a conversation (and that) all pain and problems that people encounter in their lives can be helped with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Mary Lou Roberts, who served with her husband, Richard, in the Dominican Republic, felt she increased her confidence in her own abilities as a result of her mission.
Often serving a first Mormon mission influences senior missionaries to serve additional missions. Even after four missions for the LDS Church, the Fords said, “It was such a positive experience for us that we wished to retain that level of harmony and involvement with the Lord’s purposes.”
Marcia Ford added, “My time was so busy and structured serving in the mission office that having such freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want seems ‘wasteful’ to me now. We’ve been home six months — I’m doing OK, but still miss the close associations we shared with other missionaries.”
Deloy and Lorna Roberts, who also served in the Dominican Republic, said, “We knew it would be hard to say goodbye to our friends we had met in the mission field, but we didn’t realize just how hard it would be. It was like ripping our hearts out when we said goodbye to people we may never meet again. It was awful.”
Many things, both good and sad, happened at home while senior missionaries served.
Senior missionaries definitely miss their families. Most of them have children, grandchildren and some have great-grandchildren. Fortunately, senior missionaries can use technology like Skype to connect with their families. Some returned home to attend funerals and marriages. Others witnessed the events from their missions. The Sappingtons' youngest daughter gave birth to their 13th grandchild, and their second daughter married just six weeks after they left the Mission Training Center in Provo.
Many of the senior missionaries watched from afar as grandchildren were born, grandsons received the priesthood, grandchildren received their temple endowments and went on missions, grandchildren were baptized and friends died. But the missionary families seem to cope.
Deloy and Lorna Roberts expressed the sentiments of many missionaries: “While it was difficult for us to be away from our loved ones during this time, we got along all right. And you know what, so did they. Our children and grandchildren were blessed in our absence.”
For many senior couples, their first mission influenced them to go on additional missions. Elder George Herd and Sister Verlene Herd, who are currently serving in the Hungary Budapest Mission, served their first mission in the Slovenia/Croatia Mission. “We had such a wonderful experience on our first mission and we were much more relaxed when we decided to go again. It helped us to know what to expect and we succeeded the first time, so we knew we could do it again and be okay,” they said.
Roger and Sherry Brown, who served in the Dominican Republic West Mission, with Roger serving as a counselor in the mission presidency, said, “We want to go again.”
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