When young people think of preparing for a mission, they usually think of reading the Book of Mormon or partnering with a missionary to make visits. But there is much more to preparing for a mission than becoming spiritually strong.
In Zimbabwe, Sister Reeve Nield noticed how many fine young missionary-aged Latter-day Saints had no chance to go on missions no matter how much they wanted that opportunity. They were living day to day, making only a few dollars and sharing most of that with their families. Many were unemployed. Even when they managed to save a few dollars, frequently that money was needed to pay for medicine or transportation for family members in need.
Getting the medical and dental exams required in mission application papers, obtaining expensive birth certificates, identification, and passports, and finding a durable suitcase, let alone suitable clothing to fill it, seem impossible to these faithful young adults.
Realizing that these young members needed practical help preparing to serve missions, Sister Nield decided to hold a meeting to begin dealing with the challenges. She expected 15 or 20 to show up, but 92 came to that first meeting. Then word spread, and there were 230 at the next meeting. The young people were willing to work to prepare for their missions. They just needed a mentor to guide them through the process.
Basic tasks like getting a birth certificate were very complicated. Many applicants had only hand-written birth certificates, and the costs were prohibitive to get the electronic copies needed to apply for passports. Official ID, which was also required for a passport, cost even more money, not to mention the cost of the passport itself. But these missionaries and their mentors knew that God could give them answers and that He wanted these young people on missions. So they prayed hard and got creative answers.
The missionaries discovered that if they gave blood at a local clinic, they could learn their blood type for the missionary application and get paid as well. A Church member who was a nurse came to a meeting and gave the young people free medical exams.
Sister Nield went to the police commissioner to get the required international clearance for their applications, hoping to get the $12 fee waived. She explained, “These youth are righteous. They are virtuous. They are honest. They finish school. They want to go serve the Lord. How many youth are you going to find like that? If you leave them out on the street, what will become of them? But if you help, they will become the leaders of Zimbabwe.” The police commissioner agreed to waive the fee, and instead of taking the usual 10 days, they got their international clearances the next day.
The young adults attended the mission preparation meetings faithfully, not only learning from Preach My Gospel, but learning etiquette, learning about patriarchal blessings, filling in genealogy charts, and learning about the temple.
By the time the first group finished the classes, there were 238 young adults ready for missions with their applications filled out. Then calls came to do another set of classes for other young people in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
And so an army of young African missionaries have begun their journey. People in the Johannesburg MTC are asking, “How is it we are suddenly getting so many missionaries from Zimbabwe?” And the answer is young adult members and mentors. Preparation and prayer. Motivation and miracles. In Sister Nield’s words, “These young people are really bright lights. They are just outstanding youth. And it is just so fun [to work with them]. They are our kids.”
Excerpted by Marnae Wilson from “Why We Suddenly Have So Many LDS Missionaries from Zimbabwe,” Maurine Proctor, Meridian Magazine, September 12, 2014