Latter-day Saint Life

20 happy surprises of a senior mission from couples who have served

Elder Warren Gubler and Sister Alisa Gubler visiting Salt Lake City for training prior to their mission.
Photo courtesy of Alisa Gubler

“Senior missions are some of the best-kept secrets in the Church.”

In putting together this article, I spoke with three couples who’ve recently returned from serving senior missions, and the quote above is just one example of their enthusiasm for the work. My “proof-is-in-the-pudding” takeaway was how eager each and every one of these senior couples were to talk about their experiences and to encourage others to serve a mission.

Something this exciting to this many people, coming from very different walks of life and who served very different missions, had to be simply amazing, right?

The short answer is yes. Here are some of the unexpected blessings and pleasant surprises these couples shared with me.

The Social and Emotional Benefits

Sister Pam Speirs with children from the Sierra Leone Freetown Mission.
Photo courtesy of Pam Speirs

“You can’t help somebody grow spiritually where you don’t grow spiritually,” says Aaron Speirs, who has served senior missions with his wife, Pam, in the Philippines and Sierra Leone (and has another mission call to serve in Australia this fall). “Whether it’s working with a young missionary or a new convert or someone just learning about the Church, there’s a bond that takes place, and there’s a spiritual friendship that surpasses any other kind of friendship.”

Here are a few of the sweet and powerful relationships that they and other couples shared came from serving a mission:

  • “We loved interacting with the locals and met and came to love people from a variety of interesting cultures and backgrounds whom we never would have met otherwise.”
  • “We were surprised at the close bond we made with other senior missionaries. We became like family as we served together.”
  • “The biggest and most pleasant surprise was how quickly and how MUCH I would love the young missionaries. It was so easy to feel God’s love for the young men and women I would see coming in and out of the mission. They are His laborers, and He loves them so much!”
  • “One not-so-pleasant surprise since coming home has been how much I miss being an active part of the work and feeling the energy of the young missionaries.”
  • “The people in our mission taught us so much more than we could teach them. I cannot imagine missing the opportunity to teach our friends that God’s church has been restored to the Earth. We would have missed seeing their lives change day by day as they embraced the teachings of the gospel. And we would not have met so many beloved, eternal friends.”
mission office.jpg
Elder Alan Christensen and Sister Renée Christensen with some of the young missionaries serving in the Côte d’Ivoire Abidjan West Mission.
Photo courtesy of Renée Christensen.

Having Talents and Abilities Enhanced

Many senior missionaries I talked to found their physical, mental, and temporal abilities and talents enhanced beyond what they could previously do.

As Renée Christensen, who served in the Côte d’Ivoire Abidjan West Mission with her husband, Alan, put it: “I was surprised how much the Lord is willing to strengthen our efforts to get the work—His work—done. My office work was a little hectic at times, and I learned quickly to ask for heavenly help. It always came.” She says she often referred to two quotes from President Thomas S. Monson:

  • “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”
  • “If we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help.”

Alisa Gubler, who served in New Zealand with her husband, Warren, had no prior training in journalism but served as a Pacific Area Church Newsroom editor and had articles appear in the Liahona magazine while on her mission. She also taught English lessons to an area leader’s wife who wanted to improve her language skills.

Pam Speirs shares, “We found that the Lord just takes the experiences of your life and puts you in a place where all those experiences will help the most. And you don’t know exactly what’s needed when you go. But the Lord just little by little gives you all the things that will be most beneficial for people to grow in the gospel and to build the Church wherever He sends you.”

Elder Alan and Sister Renée Christensen, who served in the Abidjan Côte d’Ivoire West Mission in 2023.
Photo courtesy of Renée Christensen

And the “what is needed when you go” can also be a pleasant surprise. Renée says, “It surprised me how much we were truly needed. I figured we would just go fill a calling-type assignment but quickly realized that the work we were doing really made a difference and helped ease the load of the very busy mission leaders.”

Unexpected Financial Blessings

“We were pleasantly surprised at how much money we saved by serving a senior mission because we thought it would be the opposite!” Alisa Gubler shares.

Here are just a few of the specific examples of some of the surprising financial blessings senior missionaries saw while on their missions:

Elder Warren Gubler and Sister Alisa Gubler serving in the Pacific Area offices in New Zealand.
Photo courtesy of Alisa Gubler

  • “We chose to sell our home before our mission, which meant no property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, or utility payments. Even if you rent your home, it’s still a significant savings.”
  • “We didn’t have to pay car insurance or registration because we just parked our cars for 18 months!”
  • “Since we each brought two suitcases that weighed exactly 50 lbs each—the maximum amount allowed—we weren’t tempted to do a lot of shopping, so we saved money on unnecessary items.”
  • “Our only expenses were our housing, our car, the Church’s excellent medical insurance, groceries, and gasoline.”

Blessings Back Home

Many senior couples worry about their families back home. President Jeffrey R. Holland shared in 2011: “Those little darlings will be just fine, and I promise you will do things for them in the service of the Lord that, worlds without end, you could never do if you stayed home to hover over them. What greater gift could grandparents give their posterity than to say by deed as well as word, ‘In this family we serve missions!’”

And here are a few more insights some of these senior couples had about the impact—and maybe little-known flexibility—for family members of senior missionaries:

  • “I was surprised how easy it was to come home when we had a son’s wedding to attend. Our mission leaders were so supportive and made accommodations to cover our work in the office while we were gone.”
  • “Senior missionaries can go home for big family events like weddings, new babies, and funerals! I went home to help our daughter when she had a new baby. You can also have family come and visit.”
  • “I loved watching how much our family at home just took care of one another as the months rolled on. We literally lost ourselves with time and seasons and all the events at home.” 
  • “Our mission has blessed our marriage because we worked together, counseled together, and learned together on a new level. We even learned to drive on the left-hand side of the road together!”
  • “I felt and saw the Lord’s hand in the lives of my family. We weren’t immune to challenges and problems, but I felt a lot of peace knowing I was on the Lord’s errand and entitled to blessings and help from above when difficulties arose.”

Spiritual Blessings

And then of course, as with all missionary service, there are unmatched spiritual blessings that come from serving. Here are some of the most powerful experiences these senior couples shared:

  • “One of the many blessings of serving a mission is the refining process that occurs as you leave behind the cares of everyday life and focus on serving our Heavenly Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and our fellow brothers and sisters. You see things more clearly in an eternal perspective, which makes it easier to prioritize what is truly important.”
  • “You cannot serve a mission—testifying every single day of the Restoration of the gospel or a prophet on the earth or the Book of Mormon or any of our unique truths—without it just strengthening your testimony, without the roots of your testimony growing stronger and stronger. I was amazed how more fervently those truths become a part of me.”
  • “No matter what you do or how are called to serve, you have a badge on, and you can talk to people and testify to them of the gospel. And that changes you. I will never be the same after serving.”
  • “My testimony that God loves every one of His children all over the world grew enormously. In sometimes wild situations and against all odds, I watched the Lord take care of His missionaries and His children. He always did. He never failed.”

“Our two missions have added a wonderful dimension to our lives,” Alisa concludes. “Having served missions for two and a half out of the past five years, I can say that whether you’re a young person or older, if any of you are thinking of going on a mission sometime in the future, my advice is GO! From recent conversations with friends who are serving, I know there is a great need, and you will bless many lives, not the least of which is your own.”

Elder Aaron Speirs and Sister Pam Speirs serving in Sierra Leone.
Photo courtesy of Pam Speirs

In the October 2023 general conference, Elder Ronald A. Rasband gave this incredible apostolic promise:

“As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I ask you to serve as a missionary in the gathering of Israel and perhaps even serve again. We need you—we need you. We are grateful to you seniors for the lives you have led and the examples you have been in your homes, wards, and stakes. I now invite you to take your know-how, coupled with your time-honored testimonies, and go on a mission. …

“I also promise that as you serve, you will feel the love of the Lord in your life, you will know Him, He will know you, and ‘how great shall be your joy.’ Your dedicated service to Jesus Christ will inspire and bless your family, your grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. ‘Peace, and love [will] be multiplied’ in their lives for years to come.”

You can watch his full address in the player below.

For more inspiring stories about senior missionaries and opportunities to serve a senior mission, check out these articles below.

Thinking about a senior mission? Here are the answers to all your questions
Here’s where the Church needs senior missionaries right now
‘The Lord intervenes’: 1 couple’s experience in overcoming obstacles to serve as senior missionaries
Though senior missionaries may miss family, blessings of service are ‘gold,’ says Church leader

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