Couple's motto: 'we'll go anywhere'

In 1945, Sid and Afton Shreeve of Tucson, Ariz., a young couple with small children, were at the stage of life when most couples of their age were intent on getting established.

Instead, when they heard of the Church's vast need for missionaries during post-war missionary efforts, they sent a letter to the First Presidency:"We'll go anywhere," they wrote, "but we hope you will call us on a mission to Argentina," where he had previously served.

They might as well have written a standing letter of availability, for they were not only called to Argentina, but during the next decades were also called to Uruguay, Argentina, Illinois, Utah and Colombia. Their children accompanied them to Argentina and Uruguay.

Together they have served six full-time missions.

In addition, Sister Shreeve counts his first mission as hers as well, for she was a new bride who stayed home and worked to support him while he served in Argentina from 1936-38. He also was president of the Salt Lake Valley Regional Mission, though not on a full-time basis.

"The Church is true," said Sister Shreeve. "It is true! You want to help everybody have the opportunity to join, to share with us in the gospel plan."

Her husband added: "We think all of our decisions for these missions were right. We never had any regrets."

Last Thursday, Jan. 21, they returned to Salt Lake City from a mission in Colombia where they directed the Colombia Missionary Training Center. About the time they unpacked their bags, they mentioned that, "We're as healthy as we can be, and we've offered to go back and open up another missionary training center, anywhere. . . ."

Reminiscing on the rich missionary experiences in their lives, they recalled that in 1945, following their call from the First Presidency to Argentina, they sold their home, their car and furniture.

They served under Pres. W. Ernest Young, his former president who had been called back to Argentina. A former missionary companion, Marian Vance, and his wife, Betty, from Mesa, Ariz., were called at the same time, and sold their home as well.

The Shreeves arrived in Buenos Aires on Jan. 1, 1946, and they stayed there for two years. They immediately began to seek out and reactivate those who had been baptized earlier.

They were willing to stay longer, but in 1948, President David O. McKay, then of the First Presidency, wrote and advised them to return to the United States and for Elder Shreeve to complete his education.

Brother Shreeve attended BYU, where he completed his bachelor's and master's degrees. On the day he attended graduation to receive his diplomas, he was informed that President Stephen L Richards of the First Presidency wished to see him. The new graduate was called to preside over the Uruguay-Paraguay Mission, and asked if he and his wife could leave in three weeks.

"Sure I can - no problem," said Brother Shreeve. Then he called his wife, who was in Arizona, and said: "Hang on to your chair because things are going to be changing fast. You've got three weeks to get ready to go back to South America, but you can't tell anybody yet until the Church has given a press release on it."

She recalled, "I was sitting in a chair that had wheels on it - a secretary's chair. The chair just went right out from under me."

But she knew what to do: she got started selling their home, furniture and car. Within three weeks they were on a ship bound for Montevideo, Uruguay, where they stayed for about 41/2 years.

While there, they helped build the first complete meetinghouse in South America. Elder Richard G. Scott, now of the Council of the Twelve, was one of their missionaries, and an engineer who helped with the building. The Shreeves noted that four of their missionaries later were called as General Authorities, and about 20 as mission presidents.

"It just so happened at a certain point in construction, that President David O. McKay came on a trip to Uruguay, and he laid the cornerstone, and stayed for 10 days," said Elder Shreeve. "It was a choice experience to spend 10 days with him. He was astounded at the progress of the mission."

The meetinghouse was completed in a year, and Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Council of the Twelve came to dedicate the new facility. He also came to consider, because of a shortage of missionaries due to the Korean War, the possibility of closing the mission in Paraguay. After visiting that country, and seeing the progress of the Church, though, he decided that, "We're in Paraguay to stay."

When the Shreeves returned to the United States, their children spoke only Spanish, much to the dismay of their grandmother.

"Looky here," she told them. "You're in the United States now. You've got to learn to speak English."

When the children began speaking English, she commented, "Isn't it nice you can speak English now?"

"Yes," replied Patricia Ann, then 12. "But my dreams are still in Spanish."

The Shreeves returned briefly to the United States from 1956-59, and then returned to South America to work for the United States Information Agency. He coordinated U.S. affairs in Chile. Once, he was in charge of providing activities for four days for 4,000 sailors on shore leave from an aircraft carrier. He put the young men to work refurbishing a Chilean school, named the "United States School." When the men left the repaired school a few days later, the school's director and faculty were weeping in appreciation.

In 1965, he was employed by BYU as coordinator for Latin American studies. He retired from BYU in 1980. During this time, he wrote a popular Spanish text called El Goucho.

After retiring, the Shreeves predictably filled another mission, this time among the Spanish-speaking in Chicago, Ill.

They also served a mission as directors of the Missionary Training Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They arrived at the training center Jan. 8, 1986, and served until the summer of 1987.

"It is amazing to us how many wonderful, educated people had joined the Church after we left there," said Sister Shreeve. "It is the same in northern South America - these people are just wonderful."

Later, they served full-time helping Spanish-speaking members in the Provo, Utah, area find employment. About this time, a group of Uruguayans petitioned to have Elder Shreeve nominated as U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay. Their bid failed, however.

Despite the fact that both Brother and Sister Shreeve had health problems, including surgeries, they accepted a call in 1991 to open the Colombia Missionary Training Center. During this mission they helped train nearly 600 missionaries from Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

They arrived Jan. 25, 1992, and accepted their first group of missionaries on Feb. 7 in a hastily rented hotel. Missionaries were interviewed, organized into companionships and districts and put to work directing meetings and learning to sing.

The Church's new Missionary Training Center facility opened a few months later. Missionaries learned the same lessons as those taught in Provo, Utah, and left to fill missions, boldly declaring the truths of the restored gospel.

Couples who serve "will never miss home like they think they will, and their families will be blessed while they are gone," said Sister Shreeve.

"They will be blessed with marvelous experiences for their whole life."

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