Saturday, March 28, 2009

Logan, Utah LDS Mission Couple Ron And LuAnn Harris Deliver The Gospel To Students At Kalamazoo University In Michigan

On March 28th, 2009, the Kalamazoo Gazette published a story about Ron and LuAnn Harris, who volunteered to accept a call to serve a couples mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Like other couples who volunteer for a mission, the Harrises has a choice. "There were two new openings -- Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Kalamazoo", said Ron. "I'm old enough to remember that [Glenn Miller] song about having a girl in Kalamazoo, so we said, 'Let's go to Kalamazoo'".

Since September 2008, the Harrises have been serving as full-time unpaid Church Educational System (CES) coordinators for the Kalamazoo University Branch of the LDS. CES coordinators, along with all other missionary positions, are enumerated and described HERE. The local branch is a congregation that hosts a variety of activities for young adults at its church building at 910 W. Main St. These activities include a course on scriptural texts, including the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and on church doctrine called the "College Institute." Students are offered a variety of times during the week to attend hour-long classes team-taught by the Harrises.

"At the university, these students are learning about worldly subjects", said Ron. "The institute is organized so they can come and spend an hour a week just talking about religious subjects".

Ron is 76 and LuAnn is 75, which makes them older than most church workers serving young adults. Their age, however, poses no problems for student Jeremy Strabbing, a WMU junior from Grand Haven who attends the institute sessions. "Isn't it great to learn from someone who actually knows Scripture from experience and who has been learning it for a long time? It's better than learning it from somebody who's 22 who hasn't spent a lot of time with it", he said. "They're good teachers who really bring a lot to the table".

This mission trip is the second for the couple, who are from Logan, Utah. Like other Mormon missionaries, the Harrises are required to finance their trips. They are considered ordained but are unpaid because the LDS church does not have a professional clergy.

Ron was a professor of electrical engineering at Utah State University for 35 years, and LuAnn is a registered nurse who supervised a medical clinic. Their contact with university students on the job helped attract them to serving as missionaries in a college setting. Among the serious questions asked him are questions about how the LDS church is different from other churches and why someone should observe Mormon rules for personal conduct.

The Harrises are scheduled to stay in Kalamazoo until April 2010. After that, they will either take another mission assignment and be replaced here by another couple, or head home to Logan. They are a long way from their home and extended family but are committed to their work in Kalamazoo.

Opportunities for mission service are further discussed HERE. A March 11th, 2005 article published on the LDS website discusses couples missions in greater detail. Unlike younger single missionaries, who go where the Church sends them, older missionary couples get more input into their choice so the Church can best use their professional and life experiences. In addition, as we've seen in this article, mature missionary couples can better reach some investigators who may be put off by the "overly-scripted, assembly-line" approach sometimes employed by the younger missionaries. Final decisions on missionary calls are made at the top of the "food chain", by either a member of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve.

No comments: