Our family is so excited for the homecoming of our folks next week. They have been serving their third mission together as a couple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All three missions have been to Brazil, where my father-in-law also served a full time mission as a young man years ago.
When I met my husband back in 1993, working at Yellowstone National Park, his parents were about to leave on their first mission together. They had been called to serve as President of the Sao Paulo North Mission in Brazil. This is a three year mission, and they had three young children that came along to experience this service with them. Their four older boys had already returned from their full time missions, and their other daughter left for her mission to Italy at the time. I was brand new to the church, and was in complete awe of this act of service. They were giving up so many things by going, and I just could not comprehend how happy they seemed to be to give it all up. This family understood the blessings that would follow, including the joy they would experience in service as a family. I learned so much from their experiences, and their example to me. Their letters home were amazing, and it was with such sweetness that we welcomed them all home three years later to Utah.
Years passed, and their children were all grown now. The folks were asked to return to Brazil on their second mission together, to run the Perpetual Education Fund, PEF. This amazing program helps give people an opportunity for education that they might never have had otherwise. The folks were so dedicated in their service again, despite knowing the grandchildren they would be missing, and sacrifice that was there. I was not nearly as excited for them to go this time, and I remember having doubts that foreshadowed what was to come for me. But they were such beautiful examples again of service to the people of Brazil, and they returned home two years later.
Our family left the church prior to the next mission our parents were called to serve. You can read about that here. So my response was not nearly as positive to their news. They had been contacted and requested to serve as President of the Brazil Missionary Training Center, MTC in Sao Paulo. This news was received just prior to us visiting the family during the summer of 2011. I was never shy about my feelings towards the church at the time, so it was not surprising to my husband’s parents that we were less than supportive. I did not have a testimony of the missionary work the Mormon Church was doing, and did not want them to leave. Their response to serve was so immediate and sincere, and their kindness in dealing with me overwhelms me still today. My husband’s parents treated me with such tenderness, as they always have. They were sensitive to my feelings, and did not want me to feel hurt or offended that they would choose to serve the Lord, over what I considered time with our family. Knowing that my children would not be taught the importance of missionary work, it must have killed them to know their grandchildren might not understand why they were going. Yet our folks showed our family increased love, as they always did, and shared their testimony simply by example. They lived their Gospel, and they chose to serve the Lord. It was a quiet example, that they did not flaunt in our faces, or argue with me over. It was simply a fact that they would miss us, but they were needed in Brazil to do His work.
At the time my children’s grandparents left on this third mission two years ago, I had no intention of returning to the church. Without repeating my earlier story about all of this, I will just say that I would never have believed I would be where I am today. Blessings do come from missionary service though, and in ways that we can’t always predict. Older couples that are able to go on a mission have a distinct opportunity to serve. Their life experience blesses the mission field, and their example blesses those of us back at home.
“The impact on families while grandparents are on missions is worth a thousand sermons. Families are greatly strengthened as they pray for their … grandparents and read letters sent home which share their testimonies.”
Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Couple Missionaries: A
Time to Serve,” Ensign, May 2001,
I know that my sudden conversion back to this gospel was a direct result of their example and their service. I am so grateful for them, and the impact they have made on me.
To find out more about missionary work, you can go here.