Called to serve in a pandemic: Staying mission-ready

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Editor’s note: Thousands of missionaries across the world are facing upended plans during the pandemic. Some are returning home before completing their missions, others are serving in quarantine and many are receiving new calls. The Daily Universe is looking at how these missionaries are grappling with challenges in a series of stories.

Missionaries who are awaiting a temporary assignment have found different ways to stay mission-ready during their time at home.

Provo resident Malachi Semo was serving in the Japan Sapporo Mission for three months before he was called back home because of the spread of COVID-19. He had only been in Japan for one month after spending two months in the MTC. 

Semo said the hardest thing about being sent home was how sudden and unwanted the change was. 

“It took the whole month in Japan to feel adjusted and ready for more; sort of hitting a stride to do more and serve more fully, but then suddenly just winding up back home has been very weird,” Semo said. 

Malachi Semo smiles in front of the Sapporo Japan temple where he was serving as a missionary before the COVID-19 outbreak. (Malachi Semo)

Despite the rough adjustment, Semo has been staying mission-ready by keeping up with his studies, finding opportunities to serve and bearing his testimony frequently. His ward has even created opportunities for the missionaries who have returned home to connect with members and share a spiritual thought or a lesson with them. 

“I’m grateful to have my family, my ward and ward leaders continue to help and support me by giving me additional opportunities to serve and help those around me, whether it’s in my ward or other family members,” Semo said. 

Asten Aspinall has also been trying to keep up with a missionary schedule after being sent home after serving in the Samoa Apia Mission for five months. The time difference is tough, but Aspinall tries to keep up with the important things.

“Specifically keeping the praying and studying habits has really helped me stay mission-ready and spiritually safe at all times,” Aspinall said. 

Asten Aspinall, right, stands with his companion and a couple that he met while serving in the Apia Samoa mission. Aspinall taught and baptized the husband and helped him and his wife get married. (Asten Aspinall).

Even though both Semo and Aspinall’s service was cut short temporarily, they have both seen a lot of growth in themselves from their experiences.

Semo has learned how to see God in the details of his life. “I’ve seen myself grow from this in recognizing God’s hand in everything,” Semo said. “Being on a mission has taught me the joys of the Gospel and in serving God and others, and how much I want to keep having the Spirit with me.”

He said being home has taught him a lot about serving God and has not stopped his desire to do so. “Even though I’m released and am no longer obligated to follow mission rules, I still want to strive to serve God and feel of His Spirit and continue to progress,” Semo said.

Aspinall has learned the importance of productivity on his mission and how to maintain it during his time at home.

“Before my mission, I could honestly be on my phone or just lay and stare at nothing for hours and not feel useless or very unproductive, but since temporarily being home, I know and feel those times when I am being unproductive,” he said. “I have the motivation and desire to get up and do something productive that will actually help and benefit me or others for my day.”

Semo said his advice for other missionaries who come home early is to continue to seek God and His purposes.

“Recognize that God has a purpose for each and every individual missionary, those who came early and those who stayed,” he said. “I have found many reasons and learned much from coming back early, and I would suggest that you find those reasons as well; don’t sulk or feel sad, but go and serve, and continue to feel God’s love.”

Aspinall advises missionaries to stay productive instead of being busy.

“Find and plan things in your day that will help you be productive and not just busy,” he said. “I promise that consistent daily Gospel studies and daily and nightly prayers will help.”

Aspinall has been called to serve in the St. Louis Missouri mission while Semo waits for his temporary assignment.

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