SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — “Dear Elder Pinkston. You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Argentina Buenos Aires ”
Before Patrick Pinkston, 19, could finish reading his mission call, a large whoop went out from family members who had gathered at home in Simi Valley to hear the news. But that was just the beginning.
Heidi Pinkston, 21, who had been covering her face with her hands while her brother read his mission call, was next. “St. Petersburg Russia,” she read, and more cheers rang out from the captive audience.
Two down, one to go.
There was much speculation as to where Haley Pinkston, 23, would serve. “How about Oregon?” called out a family member. “Oregon would be good,” replied another.
But after the foreign lands of her siblings, Haley was a little anxious. Patrick strained his neck to catch a glimpse of the paper as Haley read: “You are assigned to labor in the Singapore mission.” Again, a roar came from family members.
“Wait, really?” someone asked as Haley held her hand to her forehead.
“Singapore,” Haley exclaimed. “Where is Where’s a map?” she asked as the family laughed and continued with their applause.
“When do you report?” came the next question. Nov. 9, 2011, for all three Pinkston missionaries.
It is not often that three Mormon missionaries from the same family are out at one time. And it's even rarer to receive their mission calls the same day and report to the Missionary Training Center together. That was the story of Patrick, Heidi and Haley Pinkston.
The three Pinkston siblings sat on folding chairs at their grandma’s house and took in the thought of what the next year and a half to two years would bring. It would be a change for them and also their parents as they prepared for their missions. Their mom, Julie, recalled that day with fondness.
“It was overwhelming,” she said. “I was in awe that my Heavenly Father was sending these three incredible young adults to foreign lands so far away from each other, but teaching the same message, the gospel of Jesus Christ. I feel so blessed to be their mother.”
Pinkston and her husband, Rob, who served a mission to Spain, have always encouraged mission service. They talked to their children from the time they were little, about when they served a mission, not if they would serve a mission. Sunday nights included gathering with extended family and hearing updates on cousins who were serving missions. But the decisions to serve were always up to the Pinkston children. The two older Pinkston children, Jessica and Jamie, chose to serve missions and were both called to Brazil.
Jamie recalled that just before she returned home, she wrote her family and told them that her first two days back would consist of sharing mission stories with her family. She continued to lend her knowledge to her younger siblings as they prepared to leave.
“I have talked to them a lot about my experience and everything I did,” Jamie said. “As far as my mission goes, I’ve done everything that I could to convey to them the importance of what they are doing and give them advice.”
Some of the advice that has been passed down through siblings is to love their mission companion, communicate with them and above all, obey the mission rules.
“The most important thing was to obey all the commandments that they had and that way God would help them in everything they would be doing,” Jamie counseled the three missionaries.
With all three out at once, their mom and dad have had to adjust to a quiet household. Only Jamie and the youngest son, Davis, remain at home and go to school. Although it was difficult to send her two older daughters to Brazil, Pinkston agreed it was a little more difficult to say goodbye to three at the same time.
“All the sudden they were gone,” recalled Pinkston. “There are days when I come home and see something that reminds me of a specific memory with them, and the tears come. But I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather have them be. The house seems very quiet.”
Some may think that Pinkston has more time on her hands but she said she keeps busy with her church calling, keeping up with her family’s busy schedule and running the household.
“Life goes on,” Pinkston said. “It has been fun getting emails from them as they serve in the MTC. They each write on a different day, so every week it’s like Christmas.”
Since each of her missionaries want to hear how the others are doing, she spends a lot of time relaying messages. Some of the messages include:
Heidi: “The MTC may be the most wonderful place ever. I absolutely LOVE it!!!"
Haley: “Learning the Malay language has been pretty amazing and stressful. I can’t believe how much our group can already speak and understand! I know that the Spirit is hard at work with us.”
Patrick: “The MTC is an awesome place. I’m trying hard and learning good Thanks for washing my clothes while I was home.”
For some, the reality of life is discovered while serving a mission. No longer is there someone to cook meals, do laundry, and clean the house. Young adults learn different ways to turn ramen noodles into a gourmet meal, clean their living quarters in 30 minutes to pass apartment inspections and even keep white clothes white.
Another thing that is learned is the value of money. Sending out one missionary is expensive, but sending out three posed an even larger expense for the Pinkstons. Patrick worked the whole year before his mission to raise the funds needed. Heidi and Haley attended school but still managed to save some money.
“We were a little concerned about how we were going to support them,” Pinkston said. “The family saved money and said a lot of prayers that things would work out. I felt in my heart if we were sending out three kids the Lord would bless us somehow.”
And the family was blessed. Relatives stepped in to help and Pinkston said that has been a great answer to prayers.
“I never dreamed I would be sending three out at the exact same time,” Julie said. “It has been a fun surprise. There is nowhere else (I) would rather have (my) kids at this point of time.”
Dirk Heim, former bishop of the Pinkstons’ ward in Simi Valley, said they are an important part of the ward, which has a strong missionary force among its members. In the last five years, 20 missionaries have served from the ward.
“We have a great missionary tradition in the ward,” Heim said. “The Pinkston family has been a big part of it.”
In addition to the five Pinkston siblings, several cousins have served missions and even both grandparents have served. Heim said that missionaries inspire members of the ward. Patrick was serving as a teacher in the Primary before he left.
“It is a great example when the younger people can see people they know and have built a relationship with, “ Heim noted. “When he comes back they will be very excited about that.”
Not only is the ward blessed, but Heim said missionaries and those they serve grow and come closer to the knowledge of the Savior and of God’s plan for his children.
“I know they will come away with a love of Heavenly Father’s children and a stronger testimony of the gospel,” Heim said.
He also offered some advice that is applicable as young missionaries embark on a journey that will change their lives forever.
“Prepare early,” he counseled. “You don’t want to be just a missionary. You want to be an effective missionary. Study, strengthen (your) testimony and be ready to be a great missionary.”