Memory Lane Series
Sister missionaries come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. That’s one of the blessings as a sister missionary; there is no age limit for service. Well maybe there is, but sisters certainly have greater age latitude when it comes to serving a full-time proselyting mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So it wasn’t unusual to me to be assigned a senior sister missionary in the latter stages of my mission. What was unusual was that at age 62, my companion insisted that she be treated like any other sister missionary, which meant she would be riding a bike.
While I struggled with this initially, it was not long before I realised just what this sister missionary was made of.
It didn’t help that the area we were working in at the time was actually about 2.5kms (1 ½ miles) from our flat (apartment), and then it was another 2km ride to the actual suburb we were working in. Summer was upon us, a particularly hot one at that, and we were positioned in one of the hilliest areas of the mission.
But even with all these things going against us, she was determined to face each daily challenge with determination and enthusiasm. So much so, that it was hard for me to keep up with her at times. Each morning we would get on our bikes and she would take off ahead of me, eager to get to our area and start work.
Maybe it was pride on my part, but I often found my enthusiasm assuage and my pride intensify as she accelerated away from me each day. Who was the senior companion here anyway? Well, yes, she was old enough to be my mother, so that made her the senior companion. But actually, in terms of the assigned companionship, I was the designated senior companion. I had been out the longest, and I had been assigned the senior roll. So why was she taking the lead all the time?
I look back on it now and wonder what the fuss was all about. Who cares? We were there to do the Lords work, and who went first really didn’t matter in the over-all scheme of things. Had I not learnt anything on my mission?
But what really astonished me about her enthusiasm and determination was her absolute focus on her goal. Each day, as she got on her bike, her head would go down and her legs would start peddling, and basically not stop till she reached her destination (from the rear it was actually quite a comical scene). This non-stop action included her navigation of the many hills in the area as well as the busiest roads on route – there was simply no stopping her.
On many occasions I would look up from my frantic peddling to see her barrelling across a six-lane dual carriageway without stopping to look or avoid traffic. In her mind, she was on a mission and she was not going to stop for anyone! How did she survive? I suspect faith, but I really can’t tell you.
What I do know, for the three months we served together, that enthusiasm and determination never let up. Indeed, she completed her mission with the same consistent, enthusiastic, faithful, focus.
What I can tell you tho’, is that her bike riding times were soon to be over, as you will find out in #4 of this series, but not from any kind of reckless riding on her part…
4. Never learn to drive on your mission
Under normal circumstances I guess I would find my companions bike riding habits somewhat easy to come to terms with. After all, she was fit and sprightly for a 62 year old, and was keen to get out and do the work. Indeed, as the previous story illustrates, she was not going to let anything get in her way of doing the work.
But what she failed to alert me about was that, in spite of the fact that she was sprightly and in good general health, she actually had a heart condition. Can you imagine my horror when she revealed this to me one morning as she lay in bed stating that she was not feeling well because she was having heart palpitations?
Discussing the situation later with our Zone Leader, and then the Mission President, it was decided that the only solution was to put us in a car.
The only problem with this solution was that I didn’t actually have a drivers licence, and she refused to drive because she didn’t feel safe driving at her age.
Yes, you heard me right!
She could jump on a bike and peddle for almost 10 kms every day without lifting her head once to see if the traffic was against or for her. But she couldn’t get into the safety of a car and drive because she felt she was too old…where is the logic in that?
Solution to problem?
She had a licence, so she would be the designated driving instructor, and I would be whisked down to the nearest Road Traffic Authority (RTA) by the Elders to get my learners permit.
It was one thing for me to pass the written test for a learner’s permit, but another to get behind the wheel of a manual car and drive it around the streets like I knew what I was doing.
I had attempted the driving test twice before my mission, and failed both times – and that was in an automatic. Now I had to contend with gear shifting, which was not something that came naturally to me. My only comfort was in knowing that the Elders had promised to teach me if I managed to pass the written test.
How did that go?
My journal from the time states, “I passed the test! Then they [the Elders] took me to some quiet streets to give me a crash course in driving a manual. I was nervous and embarrassed…[but] before I knew it I was shifting gears with no worries. They then had me drive from their place over to ours (while they followed in their car). That meant driving along several main roads. I was hesitant at first, but thought ‘why not’. I did a pretty good job. The Elders left us at home with the car and that was the end of my driving lessons.” Welcome to the world of driving I say….
N.B. About 5 years ago, last I heard, thus mentioned senior missionary companion was still meeting life (at over 90 years of age) with the same determination and vigour as her mission years.
Hope you enjoy my reminiscences. Please don’t forget to leave a comment so I know that you have visited and enjoyed my stories.