By Kevin V. Hunt, creator of the “Missionary in Training” and “Camp of Ammon” Programs
Being a missionary has always been a major focus in our family – and has been a long-standing tradition. I don’t know when my parents first instilled in me a desire to serve a future mission, but I must have been pretty young. My mother often said that the first time I talked of my mission, I asked her if I could take my blanket and Teddy Bear, Pogo, with me. She said, “Sure … if you want to!” By the time I went on my mission, Pogo was long since gone – but I did take my blanket (a new one – that Mom made for me for the mission) with me.
Each of my parents and six of seven siblings went on missions. (One sister began her mission as a mother and raised missionaries). Likewise, in my wife’s family … Lou’s parents and ALL of her nine siblings served missions.
My wife, Lou, and I both served missions (shortly after the Restoration!). She went to Melbourne, Australia and I went to Alabama, Flaw-da and Jawja – and spent the last six months in the visitor’s center in Nauvoo. And we’ve also served ward and stake missions and I’ve been a Ward Mission Leader several times. So, we have strongly encouraged our children – girls as well as boys – to go on missions. Seven of our nine children (four daughters and our three sons – and five sons-in-law – so far) have all served. The grandchildren are waiting in queue for their time to serve but it will be a couple of years since the oldest of the 31 grandchildren is just now age 12.
Our oldest daughter, Jackie, was called to Venezuela and spoke Spanish. Then after we got one missionary out, all the rest of the children just kind of fell in line and went too. Lou said that’s why she went on a mission – because her oldest sibling – a sister – went and set the example. Jenae served in England and Wales. (She had to learn to speak real English!) Kaylea decided to serve the marriage mission and is now raising a bunch of missionaries. More on her and them later … Our first son, K.C., taught cowboys down in Ft. Worth, Texas – and like his father, learned to say “Ya’wl”.
Rusty served in Brazil and spoke Portuguese. Then Keith went to Oakland, California and spoke in Spanish. Marinda, a desert rat like the rest of us – froze up in Wyoming. Lana chose to be a mom – and home missionary trainer. She always wanted to be a mom – and she is doing that now in a good way.
Larissa was our seventh and last missionary. She served well in Minnesota. For two years before her mission, she had some unique training. For almost every home evening program we read missionary letters from her missionary sister as well as three cousins. Those letters – combined – had great lessons on faith, the Holy Ghost, dependence on the Lord, the scriptures, and likely much more than we could have taught her on our own. She said that it was those letters that convinced her that she needed to go out to serve.
Going on a mission, for our children, was kind of expected – as it had been for us. So intense was the family tradition and expectation that Marinda wasn’t sure if she wanted to go or not. She didn’t want to go just because we wanted her to go. She wanted to go for the right reasons. She went back and forth – sometimes saying, ‘I’m going” and then “No, I am not going!” She even got her wisdom teeth out – the ultimate mission commitment – and then backed off again.
Finally, my wife and I had to back away a bit. Then, on her own, she made her decision. Her siblings helped her complete her paperwork and all other steps without Lou and I knowing of her plan. The first that we knew of her plan to serve was literally the day that her call came in the mail! Talk about being surprised! She did pull a good one over on us. But, of course, we were thrilled!