So, what is it like to be a senior missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? I think the answer to that question will be different with each missionary you ask. First of all, missionaries live by rules – lots of rules. These rules are designed to enhance spirituality, provide structure to the day, keep missionaries safe, instill a love of serving others, help one develop spiritually, emotionally, physically, and increase in wisdom and knowledge. There is no TV, no internet (except during a small designated time each week and then only to communicate with family), no music (except uplifting religious music), no movies, and no phone calls (except those related to missionary work). The typical missionary day starts at 0600 and includes time to prepare physically (eating, exercise, grooming), mentally (planning the day’s activities), and spiritually (scripture study, missionary lesson practice, prayer). Then it’s off into the world with appointments to teach, knocking on doors, or meeting people on the street. Being selfless and rendering service to others is also a big part of being a missionary. Throw in some meetings, a few reports, and searching out the lost sheep and it can be a full day. The typical missionary day ends with lights out at around 2200.
Fortunately, senior missionaries don’t have to follow these rules. Eighteen-year-olds, who have not learned many of the lessons that life teaches, require the structure of these rules to make them productive in the work. Just about everything that is prohibited for the young missionaries is allowed for us, with the proviso that nothing we do should detract from our spirituality, so that we may have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost to guide us in our labors. We are adults and need to act like it. By the time the younger missionaries have finished their service (2 years for males and 18 months for females), they will be, too – at least most of them. They will have developed the discipline and knowledge that they need to make their way through the world successfully.
As military relations missionaries, our call is different. We are sent here to minister to the unique needs of those serving in the armed forces. It turns out that cooking is a major part of our assignment, which goes hand in hand with planning and shopping. We conduct Sunday services on Fort Eustis for soldiers who are in training. We plan mid-week activities in the evening (for those who train during the day) and at mid-day (for those who train at night). We coordinate with the younger missionaries on opportunities for them to teach and to serve. We are mom and dad for some of the soldiers. We teach classes to help military families deal with the stresses of deployments and returning from deployments. We reach out to local bishops to see if we can assist them with issues with military families. We teach a temple preparation class for those who have not yet been to the temple. We coordinate with the professional clergy (aka the chaplains). We attend graduation ceremonies for “our soldiers.” Suffice it to say, our days are full and varied. We will fill you in on specifics in other blog posts.
There is no “typical” day for us. Some days are more hectic and others are calm. Some start early, like Mondays, where Doug has to be on the post by 0700 for new soldiers’ in-processing. Others start later, like Fridays, when we are off to a district training meeting with other missionaries at 1000. The end of the month brings paperwork and reports for both the Church and the Army. Saturday and Sunday are always busy. Saturday is the preparation day for Sunday. It may include shopping, cooking, lesson preparation, inviting soldiers to Sunday meetings, and lots of little details (that we have been known to forget – hence the development of checklists, just like any good pilot depends on). On Sunday, we provide rides to missionaries, set up the chapel, sometimes give rides to soldiers who are allowed to ride in cars (most of them are prohibited from doing so), conduct meetings, teach lessons, serve meals, clean up, collapse in exhaustion, and then write blog entries.
We live in an apartment in Newport News, VA. It seems like a nice town from what we’ve seen. Our apartment complex is located very conveniently to shopping, grocery stores, and dining establishments. It is also adjacent to the Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, also known as Patrick Henry Field (PHF). The airport, which is quite nice, is served by a small number of regional jet operations supporting Delta and American. Frontier Airlines was the last airline to serve PHF with large aircraft. We do get quite a few military aircraft doing practice approaches at PHF, including F-22s, F-15s, T-38s, C-32s (B757s), C-40s (B737-700s), and VC-25s (B747s used to transport the president). The fast movers make quite a bit of noise, but they only operate during the middle of the day (and only when there isn’t a cloud in the sky), so even though we hear them, it isn’t really obtrusive. We don’t even notice noise from the other air operations at PHF in our apartment.
We have a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in a nice complex called “The Featherstone.” It’s got a few years under its belt, but is well maintained. This is the first time we have ever lived in an apartment building. We did live in a four-plex while finishing college, but other than that we’ve only lived in single family houses. The apartment is spacious enough for us and the kitchen is adequate. It came furnished, including one large, very strange piece of artwork. The apartment is on the first floor and faces the tennis courts. This is much better and more quiet than facing the parking lot. We brought a few pictures with us to combat the sterility of blank white walls and have hung drapes to give the place a homier feel. We like it and find it to be a very comfortable home for the next two years.