Shattering Stereotypes of Senior Missions
By Darla Isackson
Missionaries don’t always ride bicycles. These days, more and more of them are jumping out of their rocking chairs and traveling to foreign places to take the gospel to the world as senior missionaries. Joyce Goodrich has documented the senior missionary movement in her new book, Rise and Shout, the Seniors are Out: Shattering Stereotypes of Senior Missions.
This is a sparkling compilation of senior missionary experiences. The full color picture on the cover lets the reader know instantly that this book is not going to be a run-of-the mill read! Senior missionaries are shown in temple whites, native costumes, and hard hats; one brother has a stethoscope draped around his neck. Joyce holds a music baton, her husband Gary a camcorder, one sister a garden trowel, another a bowel of fruit. All symbolize the wide and amazing scope of senior missionary service.
The author tells about sturdy seniors who lead out in an amazing variety of teaching and service activities from Vietnam to Bulgaria, Maryland to Mozambique, Thailand to Turkey. Anyone who loves a good missionary story will recognize right away that these exciting and inspirational tales shared by seasoned Saints serving missions in their “latter days” are far and above the ordinary.
Joyce’s enthusiasm for the subject of senior missions is rooted in her own experience. She has served multiple missions along with her husband Gary. Joyce says, “We would have welcomed a book like Rise & Shout! before we served our first mission because we didn’t know how to proceed and we felt very inadequate and insecure about our capabilities. We wondered if it would it be presumptuous of us to say to our bishop, ‘We want to serve a mission?’ What if we were not wanted?”
She continued, “We had always talked about serving a mission when our children were grown, but talking the talk and walking the walk were two different things. When the call came we were very nervous about leaving our home, our grandbabies and our comfort zone. However, we took a deep breath and made the plunge. As a result we caught the missionary fever, and have been involved in this exhilarating work ever since that time. We continue to receive great joy in missionary service.”
Joyce shatters tame stereotypes of missions as she invites you to walk in the footstep of seniors all over the world as they are involved in life-saving, life-lifting humanitarian and teaching activities. Many of the stories are told first person, and while all the senior missionaries may not be professional writers, part of the charm of the book is their candid, down-to-earth sharing.
Readers of Rise and Shout! thrill in the conversion of a Holocaust survivor and Hmong children and feel the excitement of seniors performing in Nauvoo. Anyone who thinks a senior mission is only proselyting is in for a great surprise. Whether managing horses on the pioneer trek, procuring a goat for milk to save an emaciated child, or carrying out an evacuation from a politically explosive island, many of these seniors’ experiences would make great movies!
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Rise and Shout! The Seniors Are Out! Is a 230-page softcover book divided into two parts, with a total of eleven chapters. Interesting pictures of senior missionaries are scattered throughout. Part One includes intriguing chapter titles such as “Senior Missions can be a Call to High Adventure” and “Mission Miracles to Shout About.”
As I edited this book, I became aware of many kinds of missions I had never before heard of: water specialists, horse specialists, building supervisors who undertake building roads with local untrained workers who don’t speak their language. I was especially impressed with the humanitarian scouts who search out worthy projects and assess pressing needs, then supervise the filling of those needs through Church resources. The list goes on and on. Whatever a person’s background, experience or expertise, there is likely to be a mission that needs exactly what they have to offer. I also learned that health limitations and special needs are taken into consideration in all cases – and that many of the most effective senior missionaries are those who refused to let health challenges hold them back. Joyce tells of her concerns about her husband’s health problems, and how they ended up living in the home of a registered nurse who was a constant source of help.
Rise and Shout Is a Rich Resource
Ever thought about a senior mission? Part Two of this book tells of seniors overcoming obstacles to serving. >They rise above limitations, rise to the occasion, rise and shine! They provide an excellent example to their posterity – and that’s worth shouting about too!
Rise and Shout is a particularly helpful resource for priesthood leaders who have the responsibility for encouraging senior missions. It refutes rumors and offers encouragement and guidelines for preparation for prospective senior missionaries. One chapter explains the paper trail; another previews the MTC experience.
Readers share in the great secret – senior missionaries have FUN! Many seniors miss out on the fun because of four other “Fs.” They struggle between Faith and Fear, and concerns about Finances and Family. This section gives many ideas for overcoming the obstacles each of these may pose, plus many practical helps for mission preparation. The goal: to face down the fear monster and move forward in faith!
President Heber J. Grant expressed it this way:
I feel sorry for the man or the woman who has never experienced the sweet joy which comes to the missionary who proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ, who brings honest souls to the knowledge of the truth, and who hears the expression of gratitude and thanksgiving that come from the hearts of those who have been brought by his labor to a comprehension of life external. I feel sorrow for those who have never experienced the sweet joy resulting from reaching out their hands and helping those who were needy… There are also more blessings [that] come to us in going forth to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and laboring for the salvation of the souls of men, than can possibly come to us by merely having a knowledge of the truth of our religion and then remaining at home to mingle and labor in the ordinary affairs of life, and accumulate the wealth of this world that perishes with the using (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, Heber J. Grant page 87).
Summing Up the Message
Near the end of Rise and Shout!, Bob and Tonie Wilcock of Fort Bridger, Wyoming, express their feelings about serving a mission. Bob writes:
Why a mission? Well, because it is right, it is fun, it is hard, it is lonely at times and most of all because it is glorious. It is life at its fullest, and sometimes at its hardest. We thought we had good reason to be fearful about going to Bulgaria. We were wrong. On the Lord’s errand things are in His hands and He cares about us in His perfect way. We served as CES Missionaries, and first counselor in the mission presidency, and did it by driving a car all over the country, staying in hotels you cannot describe, eating food of a wide variety and taste, and in effect going wherever asked, whenever needed.Training took us to Moscow, Germany and to the Mission Home in Sofia… We were sometimes snowed in for three weeks, and traveled roads that were dangerous all the time. So? We lived through it! And more than that, we came to know our Father’s love in a new way as He helped us find difficult places, work through translators, and get by without much sleep. How grateful we are for all of this, for it gave us a better picture of why we are on earth and the brevity of this earthly experience.If all goes as planned we will soon be leaving for another foreign mission and the unknown experiences that will be ours once again. Last year we served a mission to the Institute in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and experienced the same rich blessings that come with the work.May we all feel the power of God as we surrender our will to His is our prayer for all seniors, and may each of us find a way to help others as missionaries.
Rise and Shout! concludes with a quote by President Gordon B. Hinckley:
Plan now to serve the Lord as a full-time missionary… Consecrate a portion of your lives to this sacred service. Think of all that you have that is good… I promise you that the time you spend in the mission field, if those years are spent in dedicated service, will yield a greater return on investment than any other time of your lives. You will come to know what dedication and consecration mean… And so, my dear friends, resolve within your hearts today to include in the program of your lives, service in the harvest field of the Lord as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The author says, “Senior missionaries are a vital part of the ‘chosen generation’ who carry out the Lord’s work in all the nations of the world. Some have joked that seniors don’t ‘lengthen their stride’ but ‘hasten their shuffle.’ After reading this book, I’m sure you will agree that many of this older generation of missionaries do not shuffle, they run! And their strength is renewed by their service.”
The senior missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know the gospel is something to shout about! More importantly, they know it is something to live. In some areas where seniors serve, the Church cannot even be mentioned, but Christ-like service acts as the trumpet voice of testimony.
Rise and Shout! The Seniors Are Out! Is available at most LDS bookstores, or click here to order.