A Senior Couple Mission: Living the Law of Consecration Today
By Ken Allen
When Sue and I were married in college thirty-five years ago, following a Church mission and Study Abroad in Europe, we promised each other we would serve a mission together when the children left home. True to that promise, in late 2004, when our two youngest children were both called to serve as missionaries in Latin America, we also answered the call, suspending our careers and literally putting our house in order, completely clearing it of thirty years of accumulation. The rental income now comfortably supports us in our modest lifestyle as Senior Missionaries.
We were called to serve in Hamburg, Germany, in one of the several new Institute Centers for Young Single Adults in Central Europe set up as part of the Outreach Initiative under the direction of Elder L. Tom Perry during his service as Area President. The Institute Centers, each staffed by a senior missionary couple, unite the resources of the local Mission, Stake and Church Education System to serve the needs of Young Single Adults in the region. We have found ourselves calling upon many of our life’s experiences and are relearning old language skills through our service with the young people and young missionaries at the Institute Center. We train young leaders as part of the Institute program and teach with the young missionaries and participate as part of a Missionary District. There is another aspect of our mission experience that is so common now that we do not think to comment about it. Fewer and fewer of the missionaries in our Zone are coming out of Utah. We send out young missionaries from our Outreach Center group to Salt Lake and to Poland, to Italy and to Austria. We have young missionaries from Black Africa by way of Vienna, Austria, Mainland China by way of Frankfurt, Nice from the South of France, Geneva, Switzerland, British Columbia, Ecuador by way of New Jersey, Southern England, Northern Michigan, and from Hesse and Saxony here in Germany. We must “import” native English teachers from other Districts for our missionary-led English language courses for investigators and new members!
The Institute Center provides a pleasant and spiritual environment. Young people come to do homework, watch a Church video or BYUTV via satellite, enjoy an evening meal, browse the book collection, prepare a lesson, play table tennis, pool or Foosball, check out a Young Single Adult chat room or website, study the Gospel alone or with the missionaries, take a class, or just hang out and chat. This Institute Center now attracts well over a hundred young people each month to Institute and language courses, local firesides, CES broadcasts, concerts, home evenings and sports, such as soccer, volleyball and basketball. It is truly a fulfillment of the prophecy by Elder Perry that if we do our part, the Lord would do His part to help people come unto Him.
Besides our work with the young Elders and Sister missionaries in teaching and street displays, we work closely with the Institute Student Council and Institute Director as we staff and maintain the Center facilities, which in our case are located in the Stake Center. With our Center computers, printers and video recorders, we can design and produce custom missionary proselyting and teaching materials for the whole zone of young missionaries serving the region around the Center and share our work product throughout Central Europe. We also fix computers, give career counseling, maintain a Church-sponsored website, make portraits or take event photos, prepare meals, host and record Church satellite broadcasts in several languages, tend a vegetable garden, and shovel snow.
We stay in contact with our family and friends all over the world through a weekly e-mail, even exchanging video clips with our grandchildren via the two laptop computers we brought with us. We keep track of our finances and most of our needed personal affairs through the Internet and spend our preparation days cleaning, shopping and writing. One of our friends from home has since joined the Church, and we often cross paths with someone who is acquainted with someone we know.
Occasionally we enjoy outings with the young missionaries and attend concerts or the opera with the other senior missionaries. On weekends, we travel to one of the dozen German wards and branches in the region to speak (in German) on High Council or Outreach assignments, meet with the Young Single Adults and teach an occasional Sunday School class. Our free time without the distraction of television and movies has allowed us to study the scriptures and the language intensely, read, prepare a talk or a lesson, do a little genealogy, and help in various service projects. We have knit infant booties and house shoes, tutored in English, helped out a neighborhood newspaper, taught courses, and made oral history videos for local members. For exercise, we walk along the pleasant lakeside paths of the Alster, greeting people and sharing our presence as missionaries. Our biggest stress has been driving the streets of Hamburg and vying for a rare parking place on the crowded side street of our apartment.
We have shared inspiring spiritual experiences as people find meaning to life and answers to the eternal questions and as they change their lives. Here is joy and rejoicing as we nourish the hungry, comfort the afflicted and care for the sick. Such are the rewards of “tithing” a period of time of our lives.
Perhaps our eldest married daughter feels abandoned, although only temporarily. She has now sent off seven members of her immediate family in missionary service. As of January 2006, her brother, sister, parents, in-laws and grandmother are all serving as missionaries. But how great will be the joy upon reunion!
Kenneth and Susan Allen of the Palo Alto Second Ward, Menlo Park California Stake, served in the Germany Hamburg Mission (January 2005 to August 2006).