Nearly two years together on Pacific island helps elders appreciate word ‘companion’

Two missionaries serving in this small southwestern Pacific island nation know the meaning of the word "companion." Elder Fred Massing and Elder Timothy Proveau have been companions ever since they entered the New Zealand Missionary Training Center at Hamilton on May 6, 1987.

Both are from Vanuatu, and they are the only missionaries serving on the 5,700-square-mile island, about 450 miles west of mission headquarters in Suva, Fiji. Some 150,000 people of Melanesian, European, Polynesian and Micronesian descent live on Vanuatu. The missionaries each speak three languages: Bislama, which is the national language, and English and French, both of which are official languages.When the two elders entered the missionary training center, they did not realize they would be spending 24 hours a day with each other for the next 24 months. When their training at the center was completed, they went to mission headquarters before being transferred to their homeland of Vanuatu.

During the first month they were back in Vanuatu, they baptized nine people, among whom were Elder Proveau's parents. As of March 1989, they had baptized 33 people, and are scheduled to baptize others before their release date in May. Among those to be baptized are Elder Massing's father and brother.

Elder Massing and Elder Proveau have weekly contact with Fiji Suva Mission Pres. George S. Goble by letters and telephone calls. Pres. Goble and his wife, Sister Joan Goble, visit the missionaries in Vanuatu every six to eight weeks. The zone conferences held during those visits may be the smallest in the Church. Pres. Goble gives the two elders the same instruction he has given all other missionaries in zone conferences.

Pres. Goble said the missionaries have a great attitude for missionary work, and in recent letters to him they have testified of the work they are doing.

The missionaries recognize the unique opportunity they have to serve as companions, but also admit to getting a little tired of each other. Elder Massing recently wrote, "I have been with the same companion all the time. It is really different from other missionaries, but I enjoy our companionship. Sometimes I say, Elder Proveau, I am tired to see your face already.' And he says,I am tired of your face, Elder Massing.' We then laugh and go out and do the work.

"We know that only the two of us have a chance to serve our Heavenly Father in our country as full-time missionaries at this time. So every day we enjoy our companionship and are happy to do the work."

Elder Proveau wrote, "It is nice to have baptisms. It is nice to see those who enter into the waters of baptism with big smiles on their faces."