Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kennebec (Maine) Journal Profiles LDS Missionaries Carter Howell From Snoqualmie, Washington And Seth Munger From Lehi, Utah

These small-town media profiles of missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in action rarely break the radar screen of the Church News or the Mormon Times. So I like to grab 'em and push 'em, if for no other reason, to let these champions for Christ know their efforts are appreciated.

On June 9th, 2009, the Kennebec Journal in Maine profiled two LDS missionaries serving in Central Maine. I've added a couple of extra points throughout to provide more depth. On the spot is 19-year-old Carter Howe of Snoqualmie, WA and 20-year-old Seth Munger of Lehi, Utah. They were interviewed at the LDS chapel in Waterville. Both are serving two year missions; Munger has been in the Waterville area about eight months, while Howell has been there about three months. The mission area covers a lot of territory, ranging from Unity to China and other parts of central Maine. And they travel everywhere by bicycle.

A missionary's assignments can be frequently changed. "You get a call on a Sunday night and by Tuesday, you're gone," Munger said. But they don't move as a team; if one is transferred, another will show up to replace him. Munger and Howell did not know each other until Howell showed up to replace a missionary who was reassigned. Often, friendships forged between missionary companions can last a lifetime.

Like in the cases of other missionaries discussed on this blog, the lives of these missionaries are also highly structured. No television, no radio, no movies, unless Church-related. They can call home twice a year, Christmas and one other day, usually Mother's Day. They can write and receive letters and are allowed Internet access for e-mail 30 minutes a week. But most become accustomed to it, and these two were no exception. "It's not as bad as you think," Munger said. "It's for our benefit to keep us more focused on what we're doing." [Ed. Note: Considering what's on TV nowadays, it's probably not much of a burden.]

The typical missionary day begins at 6:30 A.M. and follows a schedule that includes time for prayer -- both solitary and with others -- and planning for the day. There is time for meals -- an hour for lunch, another hour for dinner -- and then more door knocking in the evening. Their curfew is 9:30 P.M. Lights out at 10:30 P.M. Knocking on doors, or tracting, is not an easy task, but they relish it, even though some people may slam the door in their faces, or hide and refuse to answer the door if they see the missionaries coming. The occasional person who wants to hear the message makes their efforts worthwhile. Additionally, what also helps is the Church's counsel to the regular members to do the finding and referring, so the missionaries can spend more time doing the teaching.

Missionaries actually pay for the privilege of preaching the Gospel. Both worked to save the money to pay to support themselves as missionaries. That means about $10,000 a year. "I didn't make it all myself," Munger said. "My dad helped me out. He said he'd help with either college or the mission." In addition, missionaries must learn budgeting skills. They are allowed to spend no more than $150 a month for food and personal expenses. Additionally, they may accept dinner invitations to the homes of other Church members, and many members do invite them.

At the end of the interview, when the Journal asked if there was anything special they should tell people in the article, Carter Howell had only one request. "Tell people not to be mean to us," he said. "We are just 19- and 20-year-old guys and we're not different than other people."

Actually, that last statement may be a bit modest. By accepting a mission and successfully completing it, these guys, if they remain faithful, are placing themselves on the fast track to exaltation.

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