Service has taken on a new and exciting meaning for the missionaries who ordinarily greet visitors to the restored historic areas at Nauvoo and Carthage, Ill.
Since January, they have been acting as teacher aides in area schools, staffing a local family history center, a public library, a local historical society and assisting residents of a health care center.There are currently more than 50 couples serving missions in Nauvoo. For most of the year they act as tour guides or act in any number of other capacities in what has become the largest such restored area in the United States.
During the winter months, however, the number of visitors to the area diminishes for a time, and the missionaries look forward to becoming involved in the wider community, where they serve between four and six hours a day, two days a week.
This year, 32 of the missionaries are assisting students in Keokuk, Iowa, and Nauvoo schools as one-on-one tutors in reading, math, writing and health education. Five missionaries are assigned to a nursing center and provide companionship and activity for the patients. Other missionaries help staff the Family History Center at Nauvoo, the community public library and the Hancock County Historical Society in Carthage.
"The response from the teachers, students, nursing home patients and others who are touched by this effort has been very gratifying," said Elder Duane Richins, who coordinates the assignment of missionaries to the designated locations. "Assisting children who may have fallen behind academically to learn to read or comprehend the complexities of math can be an uplifting experience for both teacher and student."
Last year the staff and students of the Keokuk school felt strongly enough to prepare and send an engraved plaque expressing appreciation for "all the help given to our elementary students in the Keokuk School District." Russ Derr, a principal in the district, said: "A highlight of each year for the students and teachers is the time when the volunteers from Nauvoo come to lend a hand. The only disappointment in the program is that they cannot be with us all year long."