Saturday, January 8, 2011

How did Elliot end up in Clinton, Oklahoma?

Lindsay asked a question in the comments.  (Hi Lindsay!  Lindsay is Elliot's cousin, the daughter of Elliot's uncle Don, my brother.  Lindsay has a great blog about her two twins, one of whom is also named Elliot.  You can see her blog here.)  So, on to Lindsay's question.  She asked how missionaries are chosen to move locations.  I'll answer that question, and another Lindsay didn't ask, after the jump.

A little background will help answer Lindsay's question.  (Yes, I can be long-winded, sorry.)  Elliot's mission covers a specific geographic area, and he will stay within those boundaries for the duration of his mission.  Each missionary in the mission is assigned to a specific city or area within the mission boundaries for varying periods of time.  As I understand it, their assignments run on six-week rotations, meaning that every six weeks there are transfers within the misison.  Every six weeks, some missionaries complete their service and return home and new missionaries arrive to replace them.  With the rotation of missionaries, and for a variety of other reasons, missionaries are transferred within the mission boundaries.  That doesn't mean each missionary moves every six weeks.  Usually a missionary will be assigned to an area for a longer period, even for several months.  Elliot will always have another missionary with him in his assigned areas, but his missionary companion may change from time to time.  So when the time for transfers comes along, each missionary may get moved to a new location, or get a new companion, or both. 

So how are the transfer decisions made?  When I was on a mission, we would joke about the mission president (here's Elliot's mission president and wife, pictured at right) using a map of the mission and a handful of darts.  But that's not really how it works.  Generally, the mission president will work with his two assistants (usually two of the more experienced missionaries assigned to the mission) to figure out the logistics of the transfers - who is leaving, who is arriving, what missionaries will need a new companion, what areas will need a new missionary, whether certain areas need more or fewer missionaries, etc.  One other twist for Elliot is that he is designated as a Spanish-speaking missionary.  That has to be factored into the decision process also, since not all areas of his mission need Spanish-speaking missionaries and, generally, they will try to pair him up with another Spanish-speaking missionary.  With all that information, the mission president will then prayerfully seek guidance as he determines what assignments should be made.  Once he has made those decisions and announced the transfers, the fun begins.  Missionaries begin moving all over.  Returning missionaries are taken to the airport for their trips home.  Transferring missionaries need transportation from their old areas to their new areas.  New missionaries need to be picked up at the airport and taken to the mission home and then sent out to their new areas.  All of this happens in just two to three days, typically.

So, Elliot is now in Clinton.  Because Clinton is such a small town, his assigned area will include other communities and rural areas around Clinton.  The mission provides a car for him and his companion while they are assigned there so they can cover the area more easily.  We do not know how long he will be in Clinton or how many different companions he might have while he is there.  You can see the record of his transfers and his companions over to the right (===>). 

Thanks, Lindsay, for the question.  I hope that wasn't too long-winded. 

Now, on to the question Lindsay didn't ask.  How did Elliot end up in Oklahoma in the first place?  I'll spare you more of my ramblings and instead give you a link to an address given by Ronald A. Rasband (pictured at right), who is one of the general authorities of the church, the Senior President of the Quorum of the Seventy.  He spoke at the church's general conference in April 2010, on the topic of "The Divine Call of a Missionary."  The link takes you to his address on the church website, and includes both the text of his comments and a link to the video of his address.  The particular story that I wanted to share runs from about 4:08 to 9:45 on the video.  I've copied the relevant text below.  It's a great story of Elder Rasband's experience in the process of helping to assign missionary applicants to missions all over the world.

From "The Divine Call of a Missionary:"

With the encouragement and permission of President Henry B. Eyring (pictured at right), I would like to relate to you an experience, very special to me, which I had with him several years ago when he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Each Apostle holds the keys of the kingdom and exercises them at the direction and assignment of the President of the Church. Elder Eyring was assigning missionaries to their fields of labor, and as part of my training, I was invited to observe.
I joined Elder Eyring early one morning in a room where several large computer screens had been prepared for the session. There was also a staff member from the Missionary Department who had been assigned to assist us that day.

First, we knelt together in prayer. I remember Elder Eyring using very sincere words, asking the Lord to bless him to know “perfectly” where the missionaries should be assigned. The word “perfectly” said much about the faith that Elder Eyring exhibited that day.

As the process began, a picture of the missionary to be assigned would come up on one of the computer screens. As each picture appeared, to me it was as if the missionary were in the room with us. Elder Eyring would then greet the missionary with his kind and endearing voice: “Good morning, Elder Reier or Sister Yang. How are you today?”

He told me that in his own mind he liked to think of where the missionaries would conclude their mission. This would aid him to know where they were to be assigned. Elder Eyring would then study the comments from the bishops and stake presidents, medical notes, and other issues relating to each missionary.

He then referred to another screen which displayed areas and missions across the world. Finally, as he was prompted by the Spirit, he would assign the missionary to his or her field of labor.

From others of the Twelve, I have learned that this general method is typical each week as Apostles of the Lord assign scores of missionaries to serve throughout the world.

Having served as a missionary in my own country in the Eastern States Mission a number of years ago, I was deeply moved by this experience. Also, having served as a mission president, I was grateful for a further witness in my heart that the missionaries I had received in New York City were sent to me by revelation.

After assigning a few missionaries, Elder Eyring turned to me as he pondered one particular missionary and said, “So, Brother Rasband, where do you think this missionary should go?” I was startled! I quietly suggested to Elder Eyring that I did not know and that I did not know I could know! He looked at me directly and simply said, “Brother Rasband, pay closer attention and you too can know!” With that, I pulled my chair a little closer to Elder Eyring and the computer screen, and I did pay much closer attention!

A couple of other times as the process moved along, Elder Eyring would turn to me and say, “Well, Brother Rasband, where do you feel this missionary should go?” I would name a particular mission, and Elder Eyring would look at me thoughtfully and say, “No, that’s not it!” He would then continue to assign the missionaries where he had felt prompted.

As we were nearing the completion of that assignment meeting, a picture of a certain missionary appeared on the screen. I had the strongest prompting, the strongest of the morning, that the missionary we had before us was to be assigned to Japan. I did not know that Elder Eyring was going to ask me on this one, but amazingly he did. I rather tentatively and humbly said to him, “Japan?” Elder Eyring responded immediately, “Yes, let’s go there.” And up on the computer screen the missions of Japan appeared. I instantly knew that the missionary was to go to the Japan Sapporo Mission.

Elder Eyring did not ask me the exact name of the mission, but he did assign that missionary to the Japan Sapporo Mission.

Privately in my heart I was deeply touched and sincerely grateful to the Lord for allowing me to experience the prompting to know where that missionary should go.

At the end of the meeting Elder Eyring bore his witness to me of the love of the Savior, which He has for each missionary assigned to go out into the world and preach the restored gospel. He said that it is by the great love of the Savior that His servants know where these wonderful young men and women, senior missionaries, and senior couple missionaries are to serve. I had a further witness that morning that every missionary called in this Church, and assigned or reassigned to a particular mission, is called by revelation from the Lord God Almighty through one of these, His servants.

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