Stake Clerk Nesinali Tuipulotu provided the report for the Tonga stake, the first of many we were able to gather on this trip. We were excited to get it since up to that point we just had no idea how the 15 in 15 program was going in Tonga. We had a great conversation about the principle of "Return and Report" and commended him for getting this done.
Once we had the list of council members Larry and I were able to sign on as helpers to gather pedigree charts for each person so we could review who had all four generations in and who still had work to do.
We talked at length with the FHC director to assess her needs and showed her a few things, like how to help members complete the MyFamily book online by setting the language to Faka-Tonga so all instructions would appear on the screen in their own language.
We had no late night meetings on Monday so we had a chance to connect with Elder Bruce and Sister Debi Beckstrand from Fillmore, Utah. Larry and Bruce went to high school together and played football together for three years. It had been over 30 years since they had last seen each other, so they had a great time catching up. It was their decision to serve a Senior Mission when Larry was working on his high school reunion way back in the Spring of last year that got us to begin considering serving ourselves, so we felt especially blessed to be able to spend some time together.
Elder Beckstrand is a dentist who had just recently retired from his practice in Fillmore, Utah. His wife had worked as a dental assistant in his office for several years. They were the perfect people to come on a dental service mission. So even though they had been looking forward to some relaxation and travel, and of course extra time with the grandkids - when they were asked if they would be willing to come run the dental clinic in Tonga they agreed.
Larry and I had talked some about one day going on a mission. Every now and then we would look at the list of places where senior couples were most needed and dream of the time when we might be ready to go. However, I always thought that was some time in the future, when we were old. Hearing that Bruce - who is the same age as Larry - was going on a mission was a real wake up call for me. Even though I was still working and had several years to go in a job I really enjoyed, Larry had been retired for four years. Since he is twelve years older than me, if waited till I was done with the usual career trajectory he would be nearing 80. After lots of long discussion about it, we decided if a mission was truly important to us we should not put it off.
There would never be a time that would be "perfect". We would always have money worries and concerns about leaving our family. So we made it a serious matter of prayer seeking confirmation to know if this was the right time for us to go...and we got our answer. That's why we are in in the South Pacific instead of back home in Boise.
I will always be grateful to the Beckstrands for their faithful example of going on a mission at a time when it was not necessarily easy or convenient for them. Anyone who says leaving on a senior mission is all fun and excitement is not telling the truth. It's just plain hard and there is a lot of sacrifice. Still, the blessings we have had have been absolutely amazing. Over and over we have had experiences that have confirmed for us that we are exactly where we should be at this time in our lives.
So for any of our friends or family out there who may be wondering if the time is right for them to serve a Senior Mission - we say listen to that prompting. It will change your life for the better and will touch the lives of so many others. It is an amazing opportunity.