You see, senior couples are absolutely crucial to the success of our mission. They bring maturity, stability and patience with them. They answer phones, send out letters, sort mail and packages, take care of finances, help train local leaders, help with missionary housing and transportation, teach Institute and recovery programs, staff family history and employment centers, fellowship new converts, help rescue those who are lost, serve as role models for the younger missionaries, etc., etc., etc.
Senior couples aren't asked to do more than they are capable of doing. They aren't required to maintain the same working hours as the younger missionaries. They aren't required to learn Spanish if they don't want to. We need them to simply share their time, talents, and abilities in helping the Lord spread His gospel here in the Texas McAllen Mission.
One couple, the Omerzas, completed their service in our mission last week. They loved the opportunities they had to share their talents and abilities here in Texas. They loved the small branches where they were able to contribute direction and wisdom. They fell in love with the people they served. I know that their decision to serve a mission is one that they will cherish and speak about often.
We will soon send home two other missionary couples. We have greatly appreciated their service and they will be sorely missed. Our office couple, the Snyders, are scheduled to leave us in June. The Andersons, who staff an employment center, are scheduled to leave August 1st. We have called and pled with the missionary department, but we know that we are not the only mission in desperation. Sadly, young full-time missionaries may have to be taken from the field to help run the office. We know that's not what the Lord had in mind when he called them to serve here.
When Steve and I were extended the call to serve, President Eyring said, "There's never a right time to serve, but right now is the time for you." We had faith that it could be done, we went to work to make it happen, and now we're here- with no regrets. It is through faith that people heed God's counsel to "choose you this day whom you will serve." This is a time in our lives that we will never forget. Missionary work is one of the few opportunities in the Church where husband and wife may share the same calling and experience spiritual growth together.
I can understand that probably one of the most difficult challenges is for couples to leave their children and grandchildren behind. Certainly it tugs at a grandparent’s heart to miss the births of new grandchildren, birthdays, weddings, and other special family occasions- it does mine. Yet the example a missionary couple sets for their posterity is priceless in terms of the prayers offered in their behalf and the strengthening of testimonies felt by their children and grandchildren. These are the children that begin to plan and talk about “when I go” rather than “if I go” on a mission. I have even heard of children "renting" their parent's home so that their parents may have the financial means of experiencing a mission together. It's the child's way of paying his parents back for the support once given to his own missionary service.
In 1996, Elder David B. Haight said:
"Serving a mission gives retired people a chance to use their talents and gifts again. They discover that they are truly needed, and as a consequence they find a powerful new sense of direction in life. They joyfully lose themselves in new experiences and opportunities for growth. The reward for those who serve is often renewed health and energy. When they go home, they are filled with the rich spirit of missionary work and a great love for the people they have served."
(By the way, we have great mild winters...)