Today in the 5th Ward of the Meadow Stake in Las Vegas, Nevada, I attended a wonderful sacrament meeting featuring a returned missionary AND his recently-released mission president from an unusual mission. Before I tell you about what I heard, see if you can guess the mission. It may be the largest and yet smallest mission in the world. Largest in the sense that it’s 3000 miles wide – pretty much the size of the continental United States. Yet it may also be the smallest mission in another geographical sense. Also of note, there are nine native languages spoken in this mission, but at least some of the languages that some missionaries must use there are not taught in the MTC.
Made your guess?
Answer to follow after the next paragraph.
Let me first say that sacrament meeting in the 5th Ward was a welcome spiritual refreshing after having to wait for about an hour to get my luggage and escape from the Las Vegas airport, where I was surprised at the barrage of sexually oriented ads that assaulted the eyes wherever I looked. Downtown New York and Chicago are absolutely tame compared to Las Vegas, at least based on what one encounters in the airport – not to mention the revolting soul-sucking society-trashing industry of gambling that is provided at every turn. Away from the airport and the strip, there is refuge still to be found in the shelter of Latter-day Saint meeting houses.
So in the 5th Ward, I heard from Kyle Wong, recently returned missionary, and his former missionary president, Philip Pulsipher, who completed his three-year service in July. President Pulsipher kindly came out to Las Vegas from St. George to participate with Kyle. And they came from which mission? Perhaps you guessed it: the Micronesia Guam Mission, which occupies a huge swath of the earth’s surface, nearly all of which is water. There are nine tiny island groups, including Guam, Yap, and Saipan, all so small that the cumulative land area makes it one of the smallest missions in the world, if not the smallest. (Anyone know for sure?) And among these islands, there are nine languages, including Chuukese, the language of the tiny island of Chuuk (formerly known as Truk).
Elder Wong left the MTC thinking he was an English-speaking missionary, but soon found that he was going to be serving on Chuuk and would be speaking Chuukese. No MTC preparation is available for this one. A great challenge!
Brother Wong’s spiritually uplifting experiences on his mission and his accomplishments there were given added credibility by the powerful words of his mission president. What an unusual homecoming! President Pulsipher could offer his perspectives about how he saw Kyle grow, and what the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ did for him and his companions as they sought to follow the Lord and bring others unto Christ.
I was intrigued to learn that one island where Elder Wong served had only 500 people, and it seemed that they all knew the missionaries, had all been contacted, didn’t like the Mormons, and nothing more could be done. But with faith, Elder Wong and his companion moved ahead and soon found one, then two, then three people who were touched by the Spirit and became members of the Church.
I spoke with both of them afterwards. My “small world” experience came in speaking with President Pulsipher. His brother is in Appleton, Wisconsin, my home town, and he helped one of my sons get a great job that helped him prepare financially for his mission – a mission here in Las Vegas.
On top of that, one of the missionaries serving in the 5th Ward area, Elder Tuise, is from Samoa, and in the MTC met the Samoan elder that would go to Appleton, Wisconsin and win the hearts of many people there, Elder Tuipolutu. The latter is from the same ward as another Samoan that was one of my son’s outstanding missionary companions in Nevada.
Many interesting connections. And an interesting mix of experiences today in Las Vegas, one of the spiritually darkest and brightest cities in the world.
P.S. (Oct. 16, 2006) – The first speaker was Kyle’s father, former bishop and current ward mission leader (also my current calling in Wisconsin). Since the program that Sunday was on missionary work, Brother/Bishop Wong was speaking in his capacity as ward mission leader and not (just) because he was Kyle’s father. And he was true to that assignment, giving a great and inspiring talk from the scriptures about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, much more focused on the Savior than on any mortal in the building that day. All the talks in that meeting were solid, inspiring, based on scripture, and focused on helping people grow in their faith in Christ. What a delight!
Kyle’s father has chimed in here with a very kind comment to this post (comment #6).