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Sacred service rendered by senior missionaries

Leaving home and family opens windows of blessings

COVE FORT, Utah — On a warm but windy day in late September — with the height of the visiting season over and the steady stream of summer visitors now down to a manageable trickle — most of the several dozen senior missionary couples serving at the Cove Fort Historic Site in central Utah had a moment to catch their breath and relish one another's company.

"We greet each other with hugs," said a sister missionary as she gave an embrace of endearing sisterhood to Sister Carol Ann Cheney while walking toward the fort.

Sister Cheney and her husband, Ray, from Lindon, Utah, were in the last days of their six-month mission. In truth, spending the summer serving a mission had not been in their immediate plans. Earlier in the year, as they considered their future, they had lofty desires to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in the South Pacific islands.

But one Sunday, as Elder Cheney scanned the listing of missionary opportunities on the bulletin board, he was entranced by the opportunity to serve at Cove Fort.

After a quick discussion with the bishop their summer plans changed abruptly. Travel brochures were tucked away as they began studying the history of the fort built by President Gordon B. Hinckley's grandfather, Ira Hinckley.

Converts to the Church in San Marcos, Calif., of seven years, the Cheneys wondered what they had to offer when there were so many well-qualified lifelong members.

Yet, they found their mission to be twice rewarding as they absorbed knowledge from other missionaries, while sharpening their own testimonies by sharing their witness.

"Your Heavenly Father needs you," said Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve, speaking on the topic of senior missionaries during the April 2005 general conference. "His work . . . needs what you are uniquely prepared to give. Every missionary experience requires faith, sacrifice and service, and these are always followed by an outpouring of blessings."

Other couples serving at Cove Fort, including three, who, like the Cheneys, celebrated their 50th anniversaries during the summer, concur that "the miraculous blessings we seek for ourselves and our families," come in the sacrifice of serving.

"What sacrifice?" countered Deloris Ray, from Gilbert, Ariz., serving a six-month mission with her husband, Karl. "It's supposed to be a sacrifice to serve a mission, but we're having too much fun to call it sacrifice."

"We do enjoy each other's association. We have family home evening together and date nights. And someone is always knocking on the trailer door inviting us to come have watermelon."

"The Lord brings people here," added Dixie Willis, from Kaysville, Utah, completing an 18-month mission with her husband, Si; their second mission. "Visitors often say, 'We don't know why we're here. But we felt like stopping.'

"The crowning moment is seeing those who feel the Spirit," she continued. "We never know the rest of the story when they leave, but with some you connect, as if longtime friends."

"Whether or not the results of every mission are . . . obvious to mortal eyes, all those who serve make an invaluable contribution in the sight of the Lord," said Elder Hales.

Boyd and Connie Terry from Bountiful, Utah, felt some years ago that serving a mission in Cove Fort would be good. Last year, when the bishop looked them in the eye during tithing settlement and said, "You two would do great in Cove Fort," they felt it was time to respond.

Celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary from their trailer they found that mission service is "happy service." They fondly remember a lady from Japan who said their tour "changed her life." They recount how a visiting couple from France with serious health concerns said their tour was more curative than seeing a doctor.

The Terrys are grateful to have extended their six-month mission into 18 months. "We love it here," said Elder Terry.

"If you have felt stirrings to engage in this work, however quiet those feelings may be," continued Elder Hales, "do not procrastinate the day of your service. Now is the time to prepare; now is the time to be called, the time to sacrifice. Now is the time to share your gifts and talents, and now is the time to receive God's blessings for you and your family."

Pray to feel the Lord's love for others, admonished Elder Hales, and receive "His love and confidence in you."

"When a couple is called, they not only help accomplish the work of the Lord throughout the world; they plant a seed of service in their families that will blossom for generations to come."

Elder Hales continued, "There are so many calls. There are calls to teach the gospel to those who desire to receive the truth, including to youth in the Church Educational System; calls to work in welfare and humanitarian service; in temples; in family history centers, mission offices, and historic sites; calls to 'do the greatest good unto thy fellow beings, and . . . promote the glory of him who is your Lord' " (Doctrine and Covenants 81:4).

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