Transfers

Mormon mission life has its own unique culture and a part of that culture is the “transfer.” Transfers happen for a variety of reasons, redistribution of man-woman power, training procedures, covering for departing missionaries, social issues between missionaries and/or members, etc. Transfers are sometimes fraught for various reasons but usually they don’t mean anything in particular beyond the mundane. But sometimes, they are unusual.

My last mission transfer was a combination of the mundane and unusual. My mission was large; it covered multiple countries. It was not an infrequent occurrence for a transfer to involve a plane ride and it was not unusual to be assigned a car—and those cars sometimes needed to be transferred too. The last week of my mission, my companion was going home and we had a car because our area was rural—we had to get around somehow. Bikes weren’t practical. So after I dropped off my companion at the bus depot, I went back to our apartment and packed my belongings, cleaned the place, and spent the evening by myself. The next day I had a phone call telling me to drive 300 miles to the north so that our car could become the tool of another set of missionaries. I set out early the following morning and drove all day. It was early spring and the northern latitude meant deep snow. Indeed, that year we had record snowfall. It was evening before I arrived and the snowplows had made canyons of the roadways with drifts on either side some 15 feet high. I made it to the downtown apartment, but it was against the law to park on the street so I found a phone booth and called my new companion. He met me on a street corner, shivering in the intense cold. We drove to a parking garage and I spend the final 5 days of my mission in our apartment. At first he wanted to know if I wished to meet the branch leadership. No, I said, it was pointless. And that was that.

So, any weird transfers among you ex-missionaries out there? Or any eyewitnesses to unusual mission transfers? How about it?

Comments

  1. Hearing-impaired missionaries will often be transferred across missions, not just areas. I once dropped off a hearing-impaired elder who was transferring from Washington DC to Omaha, Nebraska.

    A former co-worker of mine was called to Chicago, Polish-speaking. He had the same companion and the same area for the entire two years. MTC companions all the way through to releases. He said it was a good thing they got along very well together. So, it was a no-transfer mission for him. Common for married couples, not so much for younger missionaries.

    My worst was a midnight transfer – we had a very high-profile baptism lined up. Two weeks prior, I got a midnight transfer notice. The mission president frankly told me, “Elder So-and-so is from my home ward in Utah. He hasn’t had a lot of success on his mission, so he needs a good baptism story for his homecoming talk in three weeks.”

  2. I served in the Deaf program and was transferred from the east coast to the west coast mid-mission. It’s not as glamorous as it may sound.

  3. Mike: great stories. That was at least honest of your MP.
    RM: that’s one long distance transfer!

  4. I found out from the mission secretary that I was getting my last transfer, because he was replacing me and had a few questions. He wouldn’t tell me where I was going, though. All he said was that the president was pleased with my work and was sending me someplace special. This was northern Germany, and I had spent a lot of time in the suburbs of Hamburg. I had visions of going south to the more hilly country of the Harz Mountains or some enchanting little Dorf. My whole mission, I had heard horror stories about Kreuzberg, the rundown section of West Berlin filled with rats and Turks. So, when the transfer letter came, it of course sentenced me to Kreuzberg. It was easily the most difficult assignment I had on my mission. I found out later that the president had served his whole mission in Berlin, so he considered that a reward. But I’d wager he never spent any time in Kreuzberg.

  5. I mostly hated that in my mission, the MP and others felt a need to keep transfers “secret” until 10 PM the night before your transfer. (I guess they were worried that missionaries wouldn’t work very hard if they knew they were being transferred.) This strategy, combined with the fact that our MP tended to switch us around fairly often (I never spent more than 3 transfers in the same area), meant that every 6 weeks, missionaries were on pins and needles waiting for that late-night phone call. If you did get transferred, you had to pack everything very quickly (and late at night, so you always forgot stuff) and you never got a chance to say goodbye to people from the area. I didn’t like that at all.

  6. I did a lot of work in Kreuzberg on my mission in Berlin. Please don’t dump on it. It’s not your mission president’s fault you didn’t recognize a reward when it was given to you.

  7. “filled with rats and Turks”

    Some of the best, most memorable times on my mission were spent enjoying the kind hospitality of the wonderful Turkish immigrants to Germany.

  8. Steve G. says:

    Hah, also a Hamburg Missionary, however my time was before Berlin was absorbed in or vice versa.

    Transfers were my favorite. Getting to travel across Germany alone was a special treat in and of itself, which didn’t happen too often.

  9. I was the mission pingpong ball, transferred way too often, sometimes with as little as three weeks in a city before I had to pack up again. Leaving a city wasn’t usually too bad because I had a companion to help lug everything to the train station, but the other end was usually difficult — the new companion had no idea when I would arrive, so wasn’t usually at the station when I arrived. When I’d get to a new city, I had to figure out how to carry all my bags, plus my bicycle (necessary because while I was often in huge cities with metros, I was also sometimes in small cities without), in a strange new city, with no familiarity with bus routes or neighborhoods, and only two hands. When I finally found the new place, I often had to sit in the hall or on the street for hours until my companion showed up with a key.

    I spent more on transfers than all other expenses, including rent and food, combined. And of course that gave me almost no opportunity to make friends with or be remembered by other missionaries in the district, members, or investigators.

  10. PassTheChips says:

    I was in the Osaka Japan mission when the Kobe earthquake in 1995 happened. A month later, the Osaka mission was combined with the Kobe mission and all Osaka missionaries who had 9 months or less were transferred to one of the other non-Osaka/Kobe missions. I was sent to Hokkaido. It was a tiny bit traumatic to go from being someone who kind of knew what was going on to being a newb. That being said, I ended up loving being one of the Frozen Chosen.

  11. Dancer_Esquire says:

    My most memorable transfers were my first and my last.

    My trainer had us spending an inordinate amount of time visiting with a mother-daughter family. The daughter was GORGEOUS and it didn’t take me too long to put together that there was more happening than ordinary member fellowshipping. He got emergency transferred out (so I guess it wasn’t MY transfer, per se) of the area shortly after I arrived in the country – apologizing all the way. (They later got married).

    When the last transfers before the end of my mission were announced, I was very pleased to be staying in the area where I had spent the previous 4 months. It was a challenging but rewarding area where I was comfortable and I was excited to finish in familiar territory. For the life of me I don’t remember WHY (perhaps I wasn’t told) but with 3 weeks remaining in my mission there was an emergency transfer and I ended up in a new area attached to an existing companionship who were the ZLs for that zone. I was told that the three of us would all be ZLs – a responsibility I hadn’t had previously and didn’t want at that point in my mission. Although I loved the two elders I served with and the area was great, I felt like those last three weeks were such a dud of a way to end things. I never had enough time to really gel with the members there or the zone I was serving in. Alas. Silver lining though – the house I was moved out of that transfer was burglarized and robbed about a week after I left. At that time in my life it would have been fairly devastating to lose the little souvenirs and memorabilia I had accumulated over two years right before going home.

  12. Early in my mission, our mission president decided to create companionships with 4-month-in-country missionaries as senior companions. I was in that group. Transferred to a new city, with a brand new out of the MTC companion, with barely the language skills to survive much less teach. I do understand a certain sink-or-swim rapid development logic. I didn’t like it. I don’t recommend it.

    Late in my mission my companion and I came almost to blows (would have if I hadn’t pulled my punch). Obviously that led to an intervention, in the course of which the mission president pointed out that I had had a new companion almost once a month for my whole mission. He gently suggested that I was the constant in that dynamic.

  13. I served in the mountains of Peru where terrorism (the Shining Path) had been rampant about 7-8 years earlier. American missionaries had only been back in some of my areas for a handful of years. One day, while serving in my favorite city and being absolutely in the prime of my mission, I was on splits with a local kid and some drunk guy approached us and asked for money. He was clearly very drunk, and said he was a representative of a terrorist group. I didn’t worry much about it, but since I was serving as a ZL and wanted to be super reliable, I called my MP that night and told him about what had happened. The next day, all American missionaries (8-10) of us) were emergency evacuated out of the city. I left in tears, kicking myself for being overzealous in calling the MP.

  14. A large (12+?) group of us that were all heading home together boarded the mission transfer van at the northern mission transfer hub for the four hour trip to the mission home. As we were pulling out of the church parking lot the mission fleet coordinator that was driving said “This is for all of you” then he hit play on the stereo and blasted Mama I’m Coming Home by Ozzy Ozbourne. We all cheered.

  15. In the mid-nineties, my husband got transferred from Brussels to Toronto due to an injury. Nowadays I suppose they’d just “transfer” you home in that scenario (or not let you go in the first place – his injury happened shortly before his mission).

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    I was transferred from Northglenn, Colorado to Colorado Springs. I was supposed to take the bus, but my companion and I decided to make a road trip out of it and drive our mission car. We’re driving south on I-25, and there in the right lane just a little ahead of us is our MP driving his fancy car(!) So instead of passing him we eased back as nonchalantly as possible, he took the next exit, and he was none the wiser.

    A little bit later I got a speeding ticket (I don’t recall the details; I think I was doing 75 in a 60 zone or something like that.)

    When we got down there we hung out for a while with a member friend. They dropped me off at the bus station and my old companion drove back north. My new companion picked me up and just assumed I had come by bus.

    So yeah, not exactly righteous, but we had a blast that day.

  17. Kev, car stories need their own post. I’ve got a bunch of those. Next time. All these transfer stories are great ones.

  18. My mission consisted of all of Hong Kong (and Macau). Public transportation was good enough (and Hong Kong isn’t that big) that for every regular transfer, those missionaries being transferred and their companions, would meet at Kowloon Tong metro station. Then people would trade companions and return to their areas. No one had to travel alone. It was like a mini mission conference every month or two. And you always had people to help you carry your stuff, unless both you and your companion were being transferred at the same time. I guess we were spoiled.

  19. I cherished each transfer I took alone. All three of them (I only served in four wards). A few hours alone on a train does wonders for the introvert’s soul. Any companion attempting to talk me into a car ride instead would’ve gotten the same response I gave to my cross-country star companion who wanted to play full-court basketball instead of half-court: “It’s against the rules, Elder.”

  20. About halfway through my mission, I was midnighted into the office to serve as mission secretary, on the morning of December 26th, 1987. The mission secretary, as some of you may recall, takes care of transportation arrangements for missionaries departing the mission. The previous secretary had been out for one transfer longer than I had (we had actually had the same trainer), and while Prez was doing his late December round of visits across the mission, this elder bought himself a plane ticket, left Prez a note, and just went home. He was a convert from a part-member family, his brother had been ill, and I think he was just having a very hard time of it.

    I worried about him for years, but eventually came across his name – he’s a somewhat well-known LDS columnist in certain circles, is active, and seems to be doing just fine, so I’m glad it worked out for him. Italy Catania in the late ’80s was a difficult and depressing mission, and a lot of us had trouble coping.

    The secretary role turned out to be a blessing for me in many ways. For five months I at least felt that half of my day was spent doing something useful, and I got to know many of the missionaries who came in during that time, as I was often their transportation to and from the airport, mission home, office, and whatever form of transit would bring them to their first city.

  21. I served in South America. The capital city and its suburbs were pretty concentrated, and then the rest of the country pretty sparsely populated. If you were near the capital, where the mission home was located, everyone would come into the office and exchange companions there on the night of transfers. I was in mostly sparsely populated areas. I had been in the country maybe 6 months and could get around okay, but didn’t know the layout of the country very well. Instead of taking a bus into the office and then back out from there, since I already knew my new assignment, I just jumped on a bus headed in the general direction of my new city and figured it out as I went. I had no map, no idea where in town our apartment was, and no way of calling my companion to tell him what time I’d be there. Since I went straight there instead of to the mission office, I arrived around 3 am at the bus station. I asked a taxi driver if he knew where Los Mormones lived, which he did, and he dropped me off outside the apartment (only about 4 blocks from the bus station). I threw some rocks up at the second story but didn’t get a response. I didn’t want to wake up some other random person if that wasn’t really where they lived, so I “slept” on the sidewalk for about 3 hours with my stuff until I saw someone else in the street around 6 am and got confirmation that it was the right apartment, at which point I threw several more rocks until my new companion staggered out onto the balcony to see what was going on. Knowing what I know now, I’d probably have made more of a sight-seeing trip out of it and arrived at a normal hour.

    My first transfer was from the big city to about the furthest place you could get (8 hour bus ride to the main city for that zone, then 2 more hours by bus to the area, so we only saw other missionaries and got our mail once a month during zone meetings). On the 8 hour bus ride, I bought a 2 liter of Sprite with the new ZL headed out to the zone with me, which we took turns drinking right out of the bottle. We got to the bus station for the main city, and everyone else’s companions were waiting for them. It was then I found out I had to get on another bus. I had to go to the bathroom, but didn’t want to pay to use the bus station bathroom, so I just figured I’d go when I got there. About an hour into the two hour bus ride, I was not in good shape. I was sweating, shaking, and about ready to bust my bladder, no idea how much further it was. Then this old granny asked the bus driver to stop the bus because she had to got to the bathroom. She got off and squatted and did her thing under her traditional dress. The guy sitting next to me on the bus asked if I needed to go. I guess he could tell. I said no, because I didn’t want to go pee on the side of the road by a grandma. Another hour later, we finally arrived. I had no idea it was a 2 hour bus ride. I could barely even say anything to my comp other than where’s the bathroom. By that point, I couldn’t even go other than a tiny bit, because I’d been holding it so long. Later in the mission, I got so used to people peeing everywhere, that I’d just stop on the street in the middle of town, wherever,and go.

  22. Gilgamesh says:

    My last transfer was to a small Italian town in Tuscany (Toscana for the New Iconoclast). The city had been open for 1 month and the previous Elders were transferred out due to their heavy flirting and constant video game playing. I had 1 1/2 months to go on my mission and was a ZL on the other side of the peninsula. Instead of taking a train, the AP’s picked me up on the east coast, drove to the west coast to pick up my companion and then drove two more hours south. When they dropped us off they let us know that 1.) The closest members were 2 hours away by train and 2.) We weren’t allowed to have services in our apartment. This would have been a problem if we wanted to invite someone to church. The only way to do so would be to bring church to them. Since we were in Italy, it never became a problem.

    Being the only members became isolating, so we began to meet with a local Baptist church just to get some sense of Sabbath community. We would then go back to our apartment to partake of the Sacrament. One Sunday, the pastor invited all the parishioners (about 70) to offer the sign of peace with their neighbors, only to amend the invitation by saying “except for the two young men in the back, you are not welcome here.” We both looked around and then realized he meant us and then left, knowing we were not wanted. We had met a couple of families from the States in that congregation and the following week we received a phone call inviting us to come back from one of the families. It seems the pastor’s ungracious attitude caused quite a stir. After we left a number of families approached the pastor and let him know that if we were not welcome to quietly worship with them as fellow Christians, then they would worship with us. That following Sunday, we sat in the back as usual. As he began preaching he offered us a heartfelt apology for his unchristian behavior the previous week and assured us that we were welcome anytime.

    Within two weeks weeks we received a call from a member who lived 1 1/2 hours away who wanted to have church. Her nonmember husband picked us up every Sunday and drove us back after a lunch and Sacrament meeting. We did this for three weeks and he was baptized two days before I came home.

  23. Scott J says:

    I served in South America and my mission was very large. Transfers of 8 to 12 hours were pretty normal, all by bus. Most of my transfers were very long bus rides and I got to see a lot of the country. By favorite transfer was when I was transferred from the main city out to an outlying area. The elder who called and told me about the transfer said I was to travel with a sister missionary that had been in my district and had been in the MTC with me, so I knew her very well and we had spent many P-days together during our mission. So for about 12 hours I had a female companion, yes I was an elder. Our old companions took us to the bus station and then they left. We spent the evening, night and morning on that long bus ride, talking and sleeping and just relaxing. I was leaving a difficult companionship and she was traveling on her first long distance transfer, so we both were in a good mood. At one point I remember her sleeping on my shoulder and thinking “man I do miss the feel and smell of a woman”. I still had a year to go. All in all it was the most memorable transfers.

  24. Great story Gilgamesh!

  25. Seven of us entered the MTC together and it was finally time for all of us to go home. We all met in the mission home the night before we were to leave. At one point we thought to take inventory of our necessary documents. One Elder discovered that he had sent his passport and vaccination certificate home in the mail. He was to meet his parents in Amsterdam the next day and they were going to tour Europe together. He was one very disappointed Elder because he had to go to the consulate and get a new passport and certificate. I wonder what his parents had to say to him?

  26. lehcarjt says:

    I served in the canary islands, so most of the time transfers involved moving people via plane. Twice I had a companion fly out in the morning and then my new companion didn’t arrive till late at night. That left me the only sister missionary on the island for an entire day. Greatest thing ever for an extreme introvert. I turned the days into devotional (as I wasn’t supposed to leave my apartment). Those were some of the most deeply spiritual days i had as a missionary. And probably where I first began to realize that I find God in solitude rather than community.

  27. Mike R. says:

    My last transfer was the first for a new MP. I was in Wandsworth (South London) at the time, and while I loved the people, the city itself is a little wearing — especially if you can’t leave. I was very surprised when the new president called and asked if it was okay with me if he transferred me to Weymouth for my last month. At the time, Weymouth was one of the furthest areas in the mission out from London (except for the Channel Islands), and I think a lot of missionaries regarded the higher-baptizing areas in London as superior to exile outside the M25. But at that time, when the MP said “Weymouth” I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than there. It was perfect, and I must have seemed perplexed — both that he thought there was any chance that I wouldn’t want to go, and that the person who clearly had authority to just send me was asking my opinion. I had an idyllic final month with a wonderful branch and a good companion.

  28. rkt,

    I, too, must speak up in defense of Kreuzberg…! I actually began and ended my mission in West Berlin, in the late 70s, starting with three months in the Neukölln Ward (which included Kreuzberg). Yes, the majority of people we met in that part of town were Turkish Gastarbeiter (guest workers). We quickly figured out that the usual door approach wouldn’t work, and built our message around God speaking to prophets again in our day. That would often lead to interesting conversations. (I remember one discussion that was conducted in four languages – we spoke English to one Turkish gentleman, who would translate for his wife; his brother didn’t understand English but spoke German, so we also taught him in German so he could translate for his wife, who spoke a tribal language rather than Turkish). Even though we lived in the back room of an undertaker’s business, I counted my time in Kreuzberg/Neukölln as a highlight of my mission! (I fell in love with the Turkish bakeries, too…) I later got to spend the last six months of my mission back in Berlin, though in a different area.

    (Is it just me, or do we have an unusually large number of Hamburg/Berlin missionaries here?)

  29. John Mansfield says:

    My last transfer started in the early afternoon of a mid-autumn day on a comfortable bus headed north. I had traveled this same route a year before, but thoroughly relished it this time, in part by knowing what to anticipate, including the beautiful late afternoon sun which I was seated on the left to enjoy, and the hours of solitude. About midnight I stepped off the bus. The year before I had continued on to the city with our mission office. This time I waited until dawn for the eastbound bus that would carry me the last 180 km to my destination. It was remarkably pleasant to spend the AM hours alone on the street of an unfamiliar small town.

    The transfer before that I flew south. I had flown south before, and one thing I missed in the Patagonia was fresh milk. I went to the mission office to pick up my plane ticket and for a ride to the airport. Before getting into the car, I stepped into a shop next to the mission office and bought a 1-liter bottle of milk, and I drank it on the way to the airport.

  30. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I once had to drive 8 hours (with my companion) overnight, to an Area Conference. After the 2-hour conference, we drove the 8 hours back. Shortly after arriving at our apartment, exhausted, I got the call that I was being transferred, to the city we had just been to for the Conference, and had to be there the next morning! I spent the next hour feverishly packing my stuff, just barely making the bus for another 8+ hours on the bus (making frequent stops). They couldn’t have just told me I was being transferred and had me bring my stuff with me to the Conference? Seriously?

  31. Regarding the issue of transfers being kept a secret, about halfway through my mission, the MP instituted a new policy of not telling people where they were being transferred to until they arrived at their new city. This was only even an option because the way we did transfers was to have one van drive west-to-east through the mission, picking up and dropping off transferring missionaries, and another drive east-to-west through the mission at the same time (this was in Texas). So when we got transferred, we would just be told to get on the eastbound van or westbound van, and then at each stop it would make, we would find out if we were getting off there or continuing on. I don’t recall exactly what his reasoning was for playing things so close to the vest, or even if he ever articulated a reason, or if it was just “because I said so.” In any case, it always struck me as odd.

  32. When I was in charge of transfers I kept things secret while I was still working on them. But we usually announced them a week or so in advance, I think. One time while I was trying to figure out where to put everyone, one of the other missionaries who lived in the apartment kept pestering me for the scoop. After a while I decided to “accidentally” leave the board I used to arrange the missionaries out where he would find it. I had arranged it with the most outrageous and ridiculous parings I could think of.

    Sure enough he found it and promptly called the missionaries he was closer with to share the news. They weren’t really amused (they were relieved though) when I told them it was fake, but I got a kick out of it.

  33. Another from me. I served as my MP’s personal secretary, and it was understood that office assignments were for 6 months. I loved the first couple months of being an office Elder; air-conditioned offices, lunches at Subway, etc. – all huge luxuries in South America.

    One of my responsibilities was to update my MP’s transfer board each month. This board consisted of a picture of every missionary with a running list of how long he/she had been in each area. So, each month, I would update each missionary’s card by adding a mark indicating another month in their area.

    By month 4 of my office stint, I started really dreading office work. All I wanted was to be out in the field full-time again, teaching, meeting people, etc. So, one day I snuck into the MP’s office and made myself a brand new card, adding an extra month to my time in the office and subtracting a month from a previous area. The President and APs never realized I had doctored my card, so after just 5 months in the office I got transferred out into what became my favorite area of my mission (from which I was emergency evacuated 4 months later…see my first post).

  34. Well done, Steve K.

  35. Mike W. says:

    I got transferred from the first world to the third world half-way through my mission. Going from English-speaking to foreign speaking to boot.

  36. Leonard R says:

    My final transfer – home – was memorable. On the ride from the train station to the mission home, one of the “office elders” driving us excited said, “Did you hear that your plane blew up?”

    He wasn’t joking. We were scheduled for TWA 801, which was the Paris-New York return flight of the ill-fated TWA 800.

    They had to divert a variety of planes to get everyone home. Ours was a Tel Aviv-NY direct flight; my MTC companion and I made our first connection in NY, but not our second one in Chicago, so our families both ended up having to stay overnight in our destination city.

    Two the other elders travelling home decided to profit from it and took the metro in to the Eiffel Tower… assume but don’t know if they made it back in time for their flight (they were put on a slightly later diverted flight.

  37. Gilgamesh said, referring to not being able to invite investigators to church, Since we were in Italy, it never became a problem.

    This is an Italian mission in a nutshell! Dio ti benedica, Anziano!

  38. My mission was in the late 1960’s, in California. My shortest time of service before a transfer was less than a week. Seems that a 19-yr old young lady my companion and I had taught and baptized when I was in this one city about a year prior had been talking up how much she liked me and wanted to express her feelings in person. Word got back to the stake president.

    So, when I was transferred in to a different ward in that same stake, the stake president, remembering my name, called the mission prez and I was sent elsewhere–quickly. Strange, because all of the other young ladies we taught there got a crush on my very good looking companion–one of them actually did look him up and with her father “accosted” him (to express her desire for marriage–not because of anything he had done–at a farewell party the missionaries were giving him (in another city about 200 miles away) just a day before he flew home. ;-)

  39. If we include “transfers” home, my trip had two exceptional features. Traveling with my parents, we flew from Busan, Korea to Nagoya, Japan, on the way to Tokyo (Narita) to fly to the U.S. I arrived in Nagoya without a visa and the authorities would not let me proceed to Tokyo. My parents went ahead and I was escorted by a very attractive young female immigration officer on the train to Narita. She made sure I stayed on the train; otherwise nothing untoward happened. But it was certainly not by the book. Then my father had an accident in the airport that required an overnight hospital stay over a Saturday night. After an all-nighter at the airport and then hospital, I dutifully made my way to a church service Sunday morning. But I forgot to put my tie back on. Somebody reported me all the way back to my mission president and I received a reprimand. It arrived after I was home and released and by then, frankly, unimpressed.

  40. Elder Alma Sonne, grandfather of one of my childhood friends, was being transferred home from Europe in 1912. He was scheduled to board ship then was asked to wait until other Elders could get passage together with him on the next ship out. He was disappointed until that ship, the Titanic, sunk en route.

  41. sidebottom says:

    When my companion was emergency transferred we ‘redecorated’ the apartment to make it look like there had been a bloody struggle. I don’t remember what we used for blood, but it filled the sinks and coagulated well enough for a convincing neck wound. It took the APs much longer than it should have to figure out it was all made up, though in fairness they hadn’t been given any context for the emergency transfer.

  42. Roger Hansen says:

    I served a 2 1/2 year mission. The Vietnam war was on. At the end of our mission, 5 of us had gotten permission to be released a week early (it was Christmastime and not much missionary work was possible) so we could tour Spain. At the last minute the decision was reversed. But transfer notices were already out, so we were transferred to the Mission Home for the remaining week. The plan was for us to work on a study guide of the OT. Think make work here.

    I showed up at the MH a day late; I made a brief tour of nearby Ghent. The MP was livid and threatened to send me home a week early, having served 2 years, 5 months, and 3+ weeks. Luckily, while I was in the MP’s office a parent of one of the other missionaries called. Since the war was still going, he wanted his son home and in college. It was a heated conversation. After that conversation, the MP just sent me on my way and told me to sin no more.

  43. another anon says:

    I served in a smaller European mission in the mid-90’s. There were a few logistical quirks that were really unique to our mission–things like a regular transfer schedule that occurred every two months, visa issues that required missionaries to periodically be transferred to a part of our mission that crossed country lines, and a heavy concentration of missionaries in just a few places. We also had a mission president who was really pattern oriented. It soon became something of a tradition that, on the pre-transfer P-days, the elders would make really detailed predictions about who was going to go where.

    One elder in particular got really good at it–I remember one month in particular in which he guessed over 70% of the transfers correctly. He later ended up becoming one of the AP’s. In a bit of bragging one day, he told the mission president all about how this all worked. The mission president was apparently nonplussed. When the next transfers were announced, nothing made sense–the mission president basically took all the “rules” and did the exact opposite. After he announced those transfers, he immediately turned to his his AP and asked: “what was your percentage this month, elder?”

    It went like that for several cycles before things settled down and started making sense again.

  44. another anon, Unless by the time you served there had been a dramatic change in European culture from the time I served in a small European mission that later had to be periodically transferring missionaries to the part of the mission in a different country, transfers every 2 months could never make sense — unless the sense was to keep the missionaries moving so that they would never have time to form the connections to people that might lead to enough trust to allow teaching. Of course, by “making sense” I think you meant “being predictable,” rather than the “sense” I just gave it.

    BTW, anyone, when/where did the word “transfer” in missionary-speak come to mean a period of time (e.g., here, 3 months). It sure confuses folks who listen in English.

  45. JR, good question. I’ve wondered that myself, as that is strange to me to refer to a period of time as a transfer, such as I was in the area for 3 transfers. What is the average length of time between transfers for most missions? It seems like I’ve seen some that are 6 weeks. but we always had them once a month. Being Spanish speaking, we didn’t use the word ‘transfer’ and actually called them ‘cambios’ (changes). That said, when referring to how long you were in an area, it was just months. I was in that area for 3 months or with that companion for 2 months, etc. (mid 90s). The transfers or cambios were events that occurred, not the time period in between.

  46. The church changed transfer periods (at least for most missions) from four weeks to six weeks in the year 2000 or so.

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