Kentucky, Louisville Mission

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Email for Ward Mission Leader in Clarksville, Indiana

I am the Ward Mission Leader in the Jeffersonville Ward of the New Albany Indiana stake. Bishop Roger White and I wanted to write you about a missionary that is coming home to you this week, Elder Follett. We are copying his Bishop and family in on this email as well.

We know that you likely get a number of missionaries that return home from your stake. While it is not a common practice for us to write a stake president about a missionary's service, we think that there are some things you should know. Please know that Elder Follett has served with honor. I get the privilege to serve with many missionaries (we have had 4-6 missionaries serving in our ward most of the last 20 years.). He is among the most notable. Thank you for sending Elder Follett to us. He was an amazing tool in the Lord's hand. 

Missionaries who serve in our area are an integral part of our ward. We have 4 full time Elders in our ward alone, with about 185 people attending each week. As you can tell from those numbers, that means that the missionaries are often in members homes and working with them closely. Their service is important to our ward, which covers much of a complete county.

Elder Follett served as a leader in the mission and several of the missionaries took me aside when he arrived here. I think what they told me speaks volumes about how he served. To a person, they confided in me of his dedication. They mentioned that he served most of his mission in areas that the other missionaries were glad they were not serving in. (That is putting it mildly.) They told me of how hard it was and how much they respected him for serving diligently and without complaint, when others did. They told me that the areas he served in had little to go on and it was truly tough to find investigators. This was all unsolicited by me, but they wanted me to know how truly good an elder he was and is. In the time we have served together, I have come to see why they respected and loved him. When he arrived in our ward, he was one of the friendliest, warmest and most fun missionaries I have ever served with. He was comfortable in the humblest of circumstance as well as  the most formal.  

 I truly wish I had more time to serve with him. It is a shame that we do not get more time together.

Elder Follett has served in our ward only 7 weeks. The last 7 weeks of his mission, which is partly why we are writing.  It is uncommon for missionaries to get "trunky transferred" (transferred into a brand new area on the last transfer of their mission.) But it does happen.  

In his case, the area had been closed the previous transfer due to a shortage of missionaries and then reopened. No teaching pool to start with. No one who knew the area to start with other than the other Elders in the ward. Only the area book and 7 Sundays to do something with it. Elder Follett took on the challenge and wrote an epic last chapter to his mission. It was a treat to observe.

I have watched many missionaries shut down on the last weeks of their mission, and it would be even more typical to expect it in this case due to the difficulties, but he did not. Even tonight he is serving with everything he has. 

During this 7 weeks he connected with virtually all of the members of our ward. His area was expanded to include his old area temporarily as well, due to other missionaries being transferred. (His mission president was comfortable having him cover whenever there was a need because he knew it would get done.)  He helped locate more than a few people in our county that we did not know where they were and served diligently and well. He has worked tirelessly. We thought you should know. We consider him family.

We have had a number of people in the area that missionaries refer to as "eternigators". One such couple was Felippe and Tonya and their teenage children. They have been attending the neighboring ward on and off, and because I had worked with them and knew them, I got to work with Elder Follett and his companion in teaching them.

They have been studying off and on with the missionaries for several years. Still not married. Husband still not baptized. Wife is a less active member. Children attending church only now and then.  I counted no less than 12 missionaries that had taught them at one time or another. 

Elder Follett's loving persistence was there at the right time. I am writing this on Sunday night. Earlier this weekend, on Friday, they were married. Elder Follett helped them get the paperwork so that they could get married. He helped prepare the reception for them, as they live humbly, and with medical expenses and it was out of reach for them. He found a missionary that could decorate a cake. He found decorations. He literally found a way over every obstacle so that they could get married and so Felippe could get baptized. All of this again happened in 7 weeks, from not knowing them to befriending them, to  teaching them, to facilitating all of this. Amazing.

I had the pleasure of sending some of the missionaries that had served here the news that after years, these people had finally been married and joined the church and that their efforts to teach them were not in vain. It was a tender moment.

There are no words to describe how thankful returned missionaries are who don't even know Elder Follett for him taking care of the person that they taught 2-3 years previous. 

The number of obstacles was impressive. Elder Follett and his companion stayed with it. I have attached photos of their reception and of Felippe's baptism yesterday. Felippe was confirmed today in that ward.

You also need to know that while we love all of the missionaries, we do not write letters to Stake Presidents about all of them. You are indeed standing in the presence of greatness and humble service when you greet him as he arrives home. Please welcome him home appropriately for his valiant service. Please thank his mom, dad and family for their sacrifice in sending him. They have sacrificed greatly. We have appreciated the time he has been here more than you will know.  

And we realize, that our ward is only one of the areas where he served this valiantly.

As a Ward Mission Leader you grow to love all of the missionaries, but you especially admire and appreciate the ones who have that special balance of confidence and humility and love that Elder Follett does.  They are indeed special.

In a couple short days we will send Elder Follett home to you safe and sound (and tired ;-) ). We will miss him. Since we cannot be there, we would ask that you do a couple of things to show him our gratitude for his service.  

Please share the contents of this letter with him as appropriate and  (again) thank his family for his service. Please make sure that they FEEL it. His family needs to know that he was a great missionary. So often people try to measure the mission by the number of baptisms, but each mission is different and his was full  of extraordinary challenges. Having several children serve missions and one to go,  I could only hope that they served to his level. That is all I can say. I am honored to have served with him. 

Please convey the love of the families of our ward to him. Please let him know that he has #refrigeratorprivileges here in Jeffersonville and that we expect him to use them. (grin)

Please pass the contents of this letter as appropriate to your high council to let them know what an impact this young man has made. I am sure that while they get to see many missionaries return, they would want to know of his service. He has returned with honor. 

Thanks again for sending one of your best and brightest to serve on a mission. It has been our honor and privilege to serve with him here, even for a short time. He has made a dent in our universe and a lasting impact. 

We hope and pray things continue to go well for your stake. 

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