Special to The Sun
Edmond resident Christopher Stephenson recently returned from working as a missionary for two years in Harare, Zimbabwe, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Stephenson’s mission work included preaching, providing community service, ministering to the sick and assisting other missionaries in their work assignments.
“It’s been hard, but by far the most precious time of my life,” Stephenson said.
Though English is the official language of Zimbabwe, he said he also learned some Shona and smatterings of other dialects as he needed them. “It took a few weeks before I could understand anybody or they could understand me, since the accents are so different,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson’s mission work for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was voluntary as missionaries and their families fund their own missions except for their transportation to and from their field of service.
Stephenson says he plans to work until the start of the winter semester when he will return to his studies at BYU-Idaho where he will continue his studies in a pre-dental program.
Nearly 70,000 missionaries are serving missions for the Church at any one time. Most are young people under the age of 25, serving in nearly 400 missions throughout the world.
Missionaries can be single men between the ages of 18 and 25, single women older than the age of 19 or retired couples. Missionaries work with a companion of the same gender during their mission, with the exception of couples, who work with their spouse. Single men serve missions for two years and single women serve missions for 18 months.
Missionaries receive their assignment from Church headquarters and are sent only to countries where governments allow the Church to operate. Missionaries do not request their area of assignment and do not know beforehand whether they will be required to learn a language.
In some parts of the world, missionaries are sent only to serve humanitarian or other specialized missions. Those missionaries do not proselytize.
For more information on missions, visit www.mormonnewsroom.org.