Each week day we work from our office that is within the larger Area Office, which is staffed by local church employees as well as a small group of full-time senior missionaries - including us. Each of us has a responsibility for various operations of the Church across the five countries of the Area: Perú, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. One of the great blessings we have of serving our mission here is to be able to associate with such a fine group of senior missionaries. Most serve for 18 months but some, like us, do so for 23 months (apparently for U.S citizens being away for two years or 24 months affects their social security arrangements, hence the 23 months maximum).
One of the responsibilities of the Area Presidency is the welfare of full-time young missionaries (elders aged 18-26 and sisters aged 19+), of which there are over 6,000 at any one time in the Area. The two area medical advisers (AMA’s) in the next-door office take care of the physical health issues, whilst Craig deals with any mental health issues. One of the AMA’s is a retired cardiac transplant surgeon from Virginia whilst the other is a retired cardiologist from Utah. Together they cover the “hearts and minds”, amongst a myriad of other ailments. Each day their wives are involved in the initial medical screening of missionary applications before their husbands’ review and approve them. Similarily Lesley does the final screening for the entire application, checks for any ommissions, contacts local leaders for clarfication or correction, and then processes them through to church headquarters upon which the young missionaries receive their mission call in due course.
There is an orthodontist and his wife (about our age) from Washington state who serve in the Church’s Humanitarian Services department. He retired early following a snow skiing injury that meant he could no longer work in his chosen field. After a couple of years of adjusting to this they decided to serve a mission. They love travelling to various locations for the Humanitarian Department to donate wheelchairs, or school equipment, or clean water systems, to villages and regions in Perú.
A major emphasis amongst church members is self-reliance, which is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family. In this department are two Canadian missionaries who like everyone else have left home and family to serve. They are also our age. At home he owned and operated a dental technician business. Together they are now involved in a variety of efforts to help train leaders and members in these vital self-reliance skills, including for some learning English. The ability to speak English greatly enhances a person’s job prospects and potential income, with which they can support their family.
In the legal department there are two positions for assistant area legal advisors. We recently farewelled one couple as they headed back to Utah at the completion of their mission. Like his previous career he was involved in the legal aspects of real estate for the Church. His wife did a wonderful job in compiling the history of the Church in the Area. The other couple are from Oregon where he had his own general legal practice before retiring. In addition to his legal responsibilities in the Area, he is also involved in finding and taking care of the apartments where the senior missionaries live.
In the Area Presidency’s office is an executive secretary and his wife, a retired lawyer from Utah, who provide wonderful administrative support to the area presidency as well as us. She is also involved in translating the many missionary applications from Spanish into English before they are sent to church headquarters. This is their second mission, having previously served as mission president in Argentina.
Another couple, from Idaho, are involved in training leaders and organizing church open houses across the Area. They recently arrived and are setting this all up at present. They previously served a similar mission in Argentina.
We recently farewelled one of the assistant executive secretaries and his wife who served here on their second mission, having previously been mission president in Mexico. Lesley took over her responsibilities with the screening of applications. They have a few months at home with family and friends, before returning to the mission field as the president and wife of the Bogota, Colombia Missionary Training Center (MTC), beginning in January next year. We look forward to catching up with them again.
The only couple, also from Utah, who have been out longer than us go home shortly after two years. They have been involved in training and supervising the audits of church finances across the five countries. After both of their spouses died in recent years they met and married. Soon after their marriage they decided that a mission was what they wanted to do together.
Finally, next door to the office, is the Lima MTC, where we spend time with our other responsibility. The president and his wife are a wonderful couple and amazing example of missionary service. They have previously served as mission president and wife in Argentina, as area executive secretary in the Europe Area, and as president and matron of the Madrid Spain Temple. They don’t look like slowing down any time soon.
These are only the senior missionaries with whom we work in the office. Close by in Lima there are couples who work in the temple, in family history, in mission offices, and self-reliance in the various missions.
We all come from various places across the world, bringing different skills and abilities from different jobs and life experiences, with different personalities and accents, leaving over 50 children and untold grandchildren, and even some great-grandchildren at home, to serve in a cause bigger than all of us. We become fast friends fast as we become each other’s family for awhile as we share this experience together.