Policy Changes Make Mission a Reality for Some Senior Couples
“Before the missionary policy changes, it was a wish and a desire. Now it’s just a matter of saying yes when the time is there. It’s a reality.” —Suzanne M. Romig
Throughout their marriage Brent and Suzanne Romig had talked about serving a mission together after their six children were grown. Both had a love for missionary work—Brother Romig served in Holland as a young man, and Sister Romig’s father was a mission president in Tahiti just before she was born.
But last year, when they started researching their options to serve as a senior missionary couple, they began to realize that, due to the slow economy and falling housing prices, they would be limited in when and where they could serve.
Then, during summer 2011, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles approved changes in senior missionary policies to encourage more couples to serve full-time missions. As of September 1, 2011, couples may now serve for 6, 12, 18, or 23 months. In addition, a cap of $1,400 (US) per month has been established for housing costs. Previously, mission costs varied depending on location, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars per month.
The policy changes will allow more senior couples to answer the call President Thomas S. Monson made during October 2010 general conference: “To you mature brothers and sisters: we need many, many more senior couples. … There are few times in your lives when you will enjoy the sweet spirit and satisfaction that come from giving full-time service together in the work of the Master,” he said.
In addition, during the October 2011 priesthood session of general conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged couples to serve, saying, “We need thousands of more couples serving in the missions of the Church. Every mission president pleads for them. Everywhere they serve, our couples bring a maturity to the work that no number of 19-year-olds, however good they are, can provide.”
Now the Romigs, along with other couples, are realizing that because of the recent changes, serving a mission may become a reality sooner than they thought possible.
Serving under the New Policies
On October 10, 2011, the first six-month welfare missionaries—Lyle and Roslyn Archibald, from Ogden, Utah, USA—entered the Provo Missionary Training Center to begin preparations for a humanitarian medical mission in Chuuk, one of the four island states that comprise the Federated States of Micronesia.
“I think it’s a wonderful change,” Brother Archibald said. “The new options are more attractive to many because of both the financial repercussions and the flexibility with time.”
As the Archibalds were considering serving a medical mission to Micronesia—Brother Archibald is a retired physician—they were concerned about the effect 18 months or two years in tropical conditions would have on Sister Archibald, who is very sensitive to heat.
“We hadn’t found anything that fit us, but when we heard ‘six months,’ we immediately felt good about it,” Brother Archibald said. “I’m not sure we would have found a mission that would have worked for us otherwise.”
The Romigs were at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, where they volunteer as Church service missionaries three times a week, when they first heard of the policy change.
“We can go wherever the Lord wants us to, and we can do it sooner,” Sister Romig said. “More and more people I know of are realizing in today’s world with the thin-stretched economy, they have to think more about when and where they serve. The changes to the missionary policy minimizes these factors.”
Brother Romig said there are also more opportunities to serve in different locations now. “We were seeing the light dimming as far as prospects and opportunities, yet we were willing to go anywhere,” he said. “The changes allow us now to put our names in and say, ‘Wherever He wants us to go, we can do that.”
Right now the Romigs are housesitting for their cousins, who are serving a two-year couples mission in Billings, Montana, USA. Shortly after they return, the Romigs will be able to leave on their misson—and they will go wherever they are called.
The policy changes have opened up the opportunity of couples serving multiple missions in the future, Sister Archibald added, pointing out that the shorter time periods allow time to come home more often to help with family or other obligations before setting out on the next mission.
“The option of how long to serve makes it so that we will likely serve multiple missions in the future,” Brother Archibald affirmed.
Many couples like the Romigs and the Archibalds have planned to serve a mission, but may have seen it as something a long way off because of timing or financial reasons. The recent policy changes have expanded couples’ opportunities to serve.
“I truly feel more than anything it’s a chance to pay back my Heavenly Father in some kind of service,” Sister Romig said. “Before, it was a wish and a desire. Now it’s just a matter of saying yes when the time is there. It’s a reality.”