Yesterday, Wednesday May 21st, I did an interview with a remarkable reporter from the SL Tribune, whose son is currently serving a mission in Uganda. She said he had assumed that he’d be the Church authority for his mostly African companions. Not so. His first companion, from Ghana, had been raised LDS and had given up a scholarship to Oxford to serve a mission. His father was a bishop.
Oh my. We are at the second generation now in Africa. I had not realized so much time has passed.
Yesterday evening, Bruce and I welcomed twenty-one missionaries into our branch at the MTC. As the missionaries come into the room, I generally shake their hands and say, “Welcome to your mission.” We then spend a couple of hours getting acquainted.
Let me give you a sense of who we got last night:
Several of the missionaries come from blended families, where death or divorce have ruptured expectations. At least one young man delayed his mission for a year until he could work through the issues his mother’s death had introduced. One missionary was from Scotland. When I shook his hand, I noted his tie. “It’s not my tartan, but it’s a good one,” he said in a thick accent. I answered, “You’re from Scotland, aren’t you. Either that or you’ve mastered the accent.” “I’m from Scotland.” “Well, you have a very good accent.” “Thank you very much,” he said. “ I’ve been working on it for eighteen years.”
We had a humorous exchange, but when he stood to bear his testimony, I saw his depth.
We ask the missionaries to tell us why they’ve chosen to serve. Of course, most have sung “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” since they were old enough to carry a tune. But there are exceptions—several who had not considered a mission until recently.
Several of the young men had had periods of inactivity. One, a musician, gave up an orchestra tour which included Carnegie Hall so he could serve. (I’ve reported elsewhere on one of our rock-star elders, who finally sold his guitars to pay for his mission.) One got a college degree focusing on international relations, and even taught for a year. He was admitted to law school with the goal of improving international justice. He is twenty-four years old, and chose to defer his law school admission for two years so he could serve a mission. His family is mostly inactive, and he hopes his example will inspire them. More than that, he is serving a mission because he genuinely believes in the restored gospel. He will be going to Africa. Of course I won’t share his name, but I am eager to see how this mission prepares him for the rest of what he’ll do in his life. He will learn about Africa in a way no class on international law will ever teach him.
As I left our new crop of elders and sisters last night, I thought about the reporter I had met with that morning. I wondered if our missionaries might meet her son’s African companions. I wonder who is being prepared now for the burgeoning work of the future.
I thanked God for the privilege of being a part of it.
P.S. The next screening of Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons will be on Saturday June 14th at 12:30 p.m. in the Museum of the African Diaspora, as part of the San Francisco Black Film Festival. We’d love to get any BCC Bloggers there. The sfbff has a good website.