Sunday, February 1, 2015

Seniors, Transfers, Gratitude

By Rodger Dean Duncan

Senior Missionary Retreat

Throughout the world, mission presidents are virtually pleading for more senior missionaries. (By "more," I mean additional, not older.) The Texas Fort Worth Mission has an official "allotment" of 11 senior missionary couples. But because our mission president has made an excellent case for more, we have them.

Last week we enjoyed a Senior Missionary Retreat. On Tuesday evening we all attended the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. In its 119th year, this is among the biggest events of its kind anywhere. While calf-roping and bull-wrestling are not necessarily our favorite spectator sports, it was a fun evening. We had dinner with our good friends Rodney and Kimberlee Ames (he's our mission president), then spent the night with them at the Mission Home.

Senior Missionary Couples in the Texas Fort Worth Mission - fine people all.                                     
On Wednesday we met for half the day at the Colleyville Stake Center. This included lots of good discussion about challenges, opportunities, and best practices. Some of the senior couples are focusing on military relations (Fort Hood is one of the largest military installations in the world), while others work mostly with young single adults. Rean and I got acquainted with couples who, like us, are focusing on MLS (member and leader support) work. We were interested to visit with one couple (Al and Donna Holland) who lived and served in the same New Jersey stake that we did 30+ years ago. We also enjoyed spending time with Max and Shirley Murdock from our home stake of Independence Missouri. It's a small world, and service in the Church seems to make it even smaller.


One of the many great things about serving as a senior missionary is that you get to keep the same companion throughout your mission!

Throughout the mission, every six weeks there's a "transfer." That's when the young(er) missionaries are moved from one area to another. Not every missionary is transferred, but many of them are. A typical practice is that missionary A will stay in an area when his/her companion (missionary B) is transferred elsewhere. Then, six weeks later, missionary A may be the one to move. This provides continuity in relationships with local members and people being taught. It also gives missionaries the opportunity to meet new people and experience new relationships. Then there's the issue of "missionary dependency." New members of the Church tend to develop strong bonds with the missionaries who taught them. (One of the missionaries who taught me nearly 53 years ago is still a close friend.) The ideal is for new members to develop a strong circle of friends among the members where they live.
Elder Ty Shields (right) is returning
home this week. He was only 18 when
he received his mission call. He is
mature way beyond his years and has
been an excellent missionary. His
companion, Elder McCabe Coats,
will now be a District Leader in
South Waco. GREAT young men!

There are other reasons for transfers, but these are among the most obvious. In any event, I'm pleased that my companion (my wife) will not be transferred elsewhere. I'm also pleased to report that being together literally 24/7 for the first time in 47+ years is very pleasant. (We understand that some senior couples struggle with such constant proximity.) Here's the way I figure it: I plan to spend eternity with my sweetheart, so this is good practice.

Meanwhile, we will sorely miss a couple of the young missionaries who are returning home with honor this week. Since our arrival here before Christmas, we have been with them several times a week and have marveled at their dedication and maturity. We've spent many hours with them during trips to Fort Worth, during weekly District meetings, during Zone conferences, in the homes of members, in teaching appointments, and when we've hosted them in our apartment. We've grown to love them. So saying goodbye is hard, especially when we realize we will likely never see them again.


Because we spent five weeks in Italy before preparing for the Missionary Training Center, and because we then reported for duty in Texas on December 22, we never got any Christmas cards sent this year. And because of delays in mail forwarding from Liberty to Waco, we didn't receive any Christmas cards until well after the holidays. So to all of our family and friends, we send a much belated Christmas greeting. We are so grateful for all of you, and wish you the very best for all of 2015. Meanwhile, we really miss you all. But we're heartened by the knowledge that we're on the Lord's errand.

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