News of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pittsburgh area, counsel from its leaders, and reflections from its members.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sister Missionaries in Pittsburgh

Back in March, the New York Times published an article highlighting female missionary service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (See the Church's response here.) With the lowering of female missionary age minimums from age 21 to 19, the Church has seen an unprecedented surge in the number of missionaries serving throughout the world.

How has this change affected the Pittsburgh area? It means more missionaries, especially more sister missionaries! The New York Times article highlights a few aspects of sister missionary work for which we wanted to get a local perspective. We decided to interview a few of these missionaries who are serving in two Pittsburgh congregations to learn more about them and what they experience as missionaries in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Sister Stokes (left) and Sister Jones (right)

Sister Kinney (left) and Sister Mortimer (right)

Tell us a bit about yourselves:
Sister Stokes: I'm from Pleasant View, Utah. I like to longboard, play the piano and violin, hike, occasionally cliff jump, listen to music, and explore caves.
Sister Jones: I'm from Southern California and live in a horsetown called Norco. I like to play sports, mainly softball, and do anything outdoors. I am planning to be a returned missionary, be a wife and mother, and have a career in the medical field.
Sister Kinney: I'm from West Jordan, Utah. I like to dance, sing, hike, camp, and do anything outdoors. I'm an adrenaline junkie. I love photography, traveling, talking with people, and laughing.
Sister Mortimer: I'm from Utah as well. I like to dance, read, and think.
What influenced your decision to serve a mission?
Sister Kinney: I've had my ups and downs with what I believe, especially during high school when I experienced some turbulence and didn't do all I should have. After coming to gain a true testimony, I desired to share the happiness and joy I feel with others. It made me want to be a better missionary.
Sister Stokes: It just felt right. My parents had both served missions, and they were great examples to me.
Sister Mortimer: I desired to help others and share the source of happiness I've found.
How did the Church's decision to lower the age for female missionary service affect your decision to serve a mission?
Sister Jones: If it weren't for this decisions, I would have never thought about going on a mission. It was never in the plan or my mind until after that announcement. Even then it still took me a while to decide.
Sister Kinney: When all my friends started leaving at age 19, I had a random wish that I could serve a mission, but I didn't want to wait. I had never planned to serve at age 21, so the age change definitely influenced my desire to serve.
Give us an overview of a "day-in-the-life" of a sister missionary.
Sister Mortimer: Wake up at 6:30; get ready; study for two hours; proselyte, serve, and teach; be home by 9; plan for the next day; be in bed at 10:30.
Sister Jones: Wake up. Pray. Exercise. Pray. Eat. Get ready. Pray. Study. Pray. Study. Pray. Pray. Leave house. Talk with EVERYONE: on the bus, on the street, in Taco Bell, in the store. Teach lessons. Come home. Pray. Plan for tomorrow. Pray. Get ready for bed. Pray. Sleep.
What are some challenges you've experienced as a missionary?
Sister Stokes: Everyone can choose for themselves. I want so badly for the people I teach to make good choices, but when they don't, it's difficult for me because I care about them.
Sister Kinney: I often feel inadequate for the work. Also, it's hard when there are things happening back home that are out of my control. They sometimes shake my focus.
Sister Jones: When I first came here, I was nervous to talk about the gospel to random strangers. I didn't want them to say "no" or push me away, but after putting my trust in the Lord and talking with people, I've learned ways to talk about the gospel. 
In what ways are you and other female missionaries leaders in the mission?
Sister Stokes: Sisters can train brand new sister missionaries. There are also Sister Training Leaders who help the sisters throughout the zone (which consists of several missionary companionships in one region).
Sister Kinney: Since I'm serving at the beginning of the age change, I feel like I'm setting and example of missionary work for my family and all girls in the Church.
As you look forward, how do you foresee this missionary service affecting your life?
Sister Kinney: It is applicable to EVERYTHING! If I can take the knowledge I have learned here and apply it to my future, I will be so much better off.
Sister Mortimer: It is changing me for the better! It will help me be a better wife and mother in the future.
Sister Stokes: I will forever be a better member of the Church, sister, daughter, and, most importantly, disciple of Christ.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Sister Jones: Being a sister missionary is fantastic. It is hard work, but the work is worth it. Seeing the change the gospel can bring to people's lives is incredible. I feel so privileged to be helping the Lord with His work.
Sister Stokes: The people of Pittsburgh are amazing, and missionary work is life-changing! 
We're so fortunate to have these and other sister missionaries serving around and with us. Thanks go to them and their families for all the sacrifices they make to serve for a year and a half.

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