For the past 30 years, Church-service missionaries have provided needed work in a variety of positions across the globe, blessing their lives and the Church worldwide.
"I don't know why more people don't serve," said Sister Linda Gentry of the River Oaks 3rd Ward, West Jordan Utah River Oaks Stake, who has been a Church-service missionary for more than two years.
Sister Gentry is just one of more than 18,000 Church members around the world who fulfilled a Church-service mission during 2008. That number of members serving in this large army of volunteers is estimated to be higher in 2009.
President N. Eldon Tanner, who served as a counselor to four Church presidents, initiated the Church-service missionary program in 1979, helping many Church departments and operations provide needed products and services. Since then the program has grown in size and in scope.
While there are exceptions, Church-service missionaries typically live at home and fulfill a part-time, work-related assignment in a Church department.
"The brethren have always taught us that blessings come through service," said Joel Moriyama, Church-service Missionary Program director. "We truly believe this program offers priesthood leaders and members the opportunity to bless lives. And, of course, the Church benefits as well."
He said the Church-service missionary program is used in many parts of the world and in almost every Church organization. For example, employment resource centers, bishops' storehouses, distribution centers, seminaries and institutes, recreational properties, Deseret Industries, Family Services, facilities management, farms, regional family history centers and departments at Church headquarters all run with the help of Church-service missionaries.
Sister Mary Ann Olsen said she has found working as a Church-service missionary both productive and self-benefiting.
"I'm reinventing myself," she said. "When they say 'Whom the Lord calls He qualifies,' they're talking about us, because none of us are qualified (to begin with)."
A member of the Snyderville Ward, Park City Utah Stake, Sister Olsen urged members who might feel prompted to serve a mission to do so. "Please, don't ignore those promptings," she said.
Sister Verna Schweppe agrees. She served a full-time mission in Nauvoo and was eager to contribute her knowledge from that experience to other work that needed to be done. For the past 18 months, Sister Schweppe of the North Ogden 20th Ward, North Ogden Utah East Stake, has been involved with the Nauvoo Restoration Project, an endeavor seemingly tailor-made for her, which she said she doesn't feel was an accident.
"The Lord has His hands in the completion of the projects, and He really did in this one," Sister Schweppe said.
Elder Reynaldo Diaz Rubio has served several Church-service missions. Currently, Elder Rubio serves as the Church-service missionary coordinator in the Mexico Area.?In an interview with the area presidency, he was asked, "How do you see yourselves in ten years?"?He replied that he sees himself "actively participating in the building up of the kingdom of God." He concluded with his testimony of the Church-service missionary program: "The Lord has taught us how to bless the lives of others through a mission."
Sister Annette Hemsley, who serves in the Church Office Building with the Church-service missionary program, said the individuality of a service mission allows people of all backgrounds and abilities to serve.
"That's the nice thing about a service mission – it's so personalized," she said.
This is Sister Hemsley's third Church-service mission. Previously she served at the Beehive House and Joseph Smith Memorial Building. On each of her missions she has learned something different, she said, and each time it's something special she couldn't have learned anywhere else.
Sister Hemsley of the Peacefield Ward, Layton Utah Valley View Stake, said for her, service missions have proved to be a perfect fit.
For more information about fulfilling a Church-service mission, contact your local priesthood leaders, go to www.lds.org/csm, or contact the Church-service missionary program office at Church headquarters at 801-240-4914 or [email protected]