Last November, the First Presidency announced an important change to missionary service. Beginning January 2, missionary-age youth in North America may officially embark as service missionaries. With the individual in mind, each service mission is customized to the needs and abilities of the one who has been called to serve. For some, that may mean being able to serve a few hours a week; others may serve more than 40.
Who is being called as service missionaries – and how does it work? Missionaries can serve for a period of time between 6 and 24 months. Those who started a proselyting mission and came home early can apply to complete their missions as service missionaries. Those who have limitations keeping them from a 18-24 month proselyting mission are also prime candidates.
Service missionaries’ days are filled with volunteer work at a variety of locations. Evenings and weekends still mean a base at home. In the Denver area, service missionaries can be found at Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, Lutheran Family Services, the Bishop’s Storehouse and the Denver temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Overseeing and coordinating the efforts of service missionaries are Elder Ed and Jayne Swapp, Service Mission Leaders for the Colorado Denver, Southwest Slope, Service Mission Area.
Elder and Sister Swapp are primed and ready, having recently served as Mission President and companion in Monterrey, Mexico as well as a proselyting mission in the Dominican Republic just prior. Seeing the work of the Lord move forward through service missionaries has been a blessing.
Elder Swapp shares his conviction that, just like proselyting missionaries, service missionaries are truly full time missionaries, and the Lord has expectations for them as well. “They will be stretched, they will be refined, and they will be tested.”
The blessings of the mission are felt by all involved. Elder Davidson, serving in the Denver area, reported in last week’s email, “I’m excited to go back to my assignments every day and serve in a Christlike way.”
Though today’s service mission program is young, service missionaries follow a pattern set through the ages. “Just as Christ did, just as Ammon did, these missionaries are changing hearts through their service,” Sister Swapp shares.
Those working with our missionaries recognize the similarities, too. Trained simply to serve and not to proselyte, service missionaries still wear their missionary tag to each assignment. Those with whom they serve feel the influence of the Holy Ghost through serving together.
Two examples will illustrate their impact. The first comes from Elder Cochran’s service, who has been serving in the Western Slope. He radiates love. Those he has served have noticed. Recently, Elder and Sister Swapp toured Elder Cochran’s volunteer facilities at Habit for Humanity. As they met various employees throughout the departments, workers recognized their missionary tags, realized they were connected with Elder Cochran, and repeated over and over, “We love Elder Cochran. Send us another like Elder Cochran. We love Elder Cochran.”
One service missionary in Arizona made such an impact on her co-worker that when her co-worker’s home doorbell rang and two proselyting missionaries were on the front step, she recognized their name tags and invited them in. Within a few weeks, she and her family had taken all of the discussions and were baptized. The open door that led to that baptism began with a service missionary.
Created with the idea in mind that there is a way for everyone to serve, Elder Swapp reports, “The service mission is breaking stereotypes. As church membership understands it and gets behind it, it will have a magnificent impact.”
In the meantime, those who have been called to serve continue to give their offering serving the Lord – growing their testimonies and changing their lives in the process.