We received a mission call to serve in the Spain, Barcelona Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, beginning in January of 2020. When we first looked into serving a mission, I realized there was very little information online regarding full-time senior missionary service.
I hope this page will help answer questions or concerns you may have. We welcome any additional questions in the comment section at the end of this post!
planning for a mission
When we were married 38 years ago, we talked about serving a senior mission… one day. “One day” seemed like a long time away when we were young, newly married, and had our whole lives ahead of us! How quickly time flies. Before we knew it, all of our kids had grown up and moved out of our home and we were presented with an opportunity to serve years ahead of when we originally planned. This process started roughly three years before we reported for our senior missionary service!
Why we chose to serve now
Our plan to go on a senior mission was accelerated when Grant met with this friend Craig Galli late in 2017. The short version – Craig told Grant he and his wife Lark were recently called to preside over the Spain Barcelona Mission, beginning in July of 2018 and he had an impression to ask us to serve with them. One thing led to another, and after lots of prayers and very distinct and clear answers, we put into motion the plan to serve for 18 months, beginning in January of 2020.
We have shared accounts of our story about serving a mission now, instead of waiting for retirement in two different publications. Both give more in-depth details about our decision making process to serve as full-time senior missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The first is an interview on our favorite podcast, Mint Arrow Messages. The episode was recorded the night before we left for the MTC by our daughter Corrine, the blogger and podcaster behind Mint Arrow. We talk about a lot of factors, including our first encounter with a person who sparked our interest in going earlier than originally planned, as well as the way our trip to the Holy Land in 2017 impacted our decision.
We were also featured in LDS Living Magazine in the May/June 2020 issue in an article written by Morgan Jones. The article in LDS Living gives more of a deep dive into our personal stories of how we both became converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as the background behind how A Bountiful Kitchen readers helped support us on this mission!
Serving during COVID-19 and how this has changed our missionary service…
Little did we know when we left in January of 2020 to report to the Mission Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah how much the world would change in a matter of weeks! COVID-19 was spreading in far away places and it seemed to be something that would not affect us in Utah or Spain. The virus we read about and shrugged off was about to change the world as we knew it. And it was about to change missionary work forever.
We were called to be missionaries assigned to Young Adults in the Spain Barcelona Mission, and ended up being assigned to the Balearic Islands. Our senior missionary service assignment charged us with developing relationships with the young adults from 18 and up, providing activities on a weekly basis, teaching classes, etc. We were excited about our assignment and looked forward to getting to know the JAS (Jóvenes Adultos Solteros) in the city of Palma and surrounding areas. We hit the ground running on January 25th when we arrived in Palma.
On January 29th we hosted our first activity at the church, serving dinner and directing activities for about 30 young adults. Each week the number grew and we were quickly settling into our new life working with the members and young missionaries of our church in Palma.
That lasted for about 7 weeks before the quarantine was put into place in Spain and a State of Emergency was announced and enforced. The quarantine in Spain was one of the most restrictive in the world, with no ability to leave homes except to go to the grocery or pharmacy on a limited basis. We learned very quickly how to use Zoom and What’s App video calls as a means of communication and connecting with our Young adults and our young missionaries.
The pandemic changed the way our mission service looked, but not our purpose of helping others Come unto Christ. We were blessed to be able to stay, even though most of the senior missionaries around the world returned home in mid March.
Seven senior missionaries plus our mission leaders, Craig and Lark Galli, stayed to serve in the mission during the lockdown. At the current time (October 2020) we are still in the Baleares serving, and grateful we were allowed to stay when so many of the missionaries (young and older) we love had to return home.
In this section, we will answer questions that are most frequently asked about senior missionary service. If you have a question NOT answered here, leave it in the comment section below and we will answer as quickly as possible!
What are the rules for senior missionaries?
I’m often asked what are the rules for senior missionaries? What do you wear? Same as young missionaries. Can you color your hair? Yes. Can you be separated from each other? Unlike the younger missionaries, we can go solo to the store, run errands, etc, but we usually do most things together. All of these questions and more pertaining to senior missionary work and rules in general are on the Serving As A Senior Missionary Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints website.
Each senior missionary service assignment will differ. Our mission president asks us to take care of specific assignments, other than that, we set our own hours for missionary work. That said, we wake up every day with a full list of tasks and never feel like we accomplish everything we have on our list!
Do Senior missionaries go to the Mission Training Center (MTC)?
Yes! Most senior missionaries go to the MTC for a week of training (assuming no COVID-19). Most are housed in the senior housing that is on the property, but some senior missionaries stay in near by hotels if the MTC housing is full. If you live close enough, staying home and driving to and from the MTC is also an option.
The classes for missionaries start early in the morning, so we decided to stay in the MTC housing. The cost was minimal for lodging. We also bought meals in the cafeteria to have the full experience which allowed us to visit with other couples and young missionaries during meal time.
Let’s just say the food was not the highlight of our MTC experience! Meals can be purchased on a cafeteria plan on a day by day basis. It is an “all you can eat” set up. While most of the food was not appealing to me, there was always a salad or fresh fruit option along with a wrap, or soup, or baked potato bar where I found fresh items I liked.
There is a kitchen and dining area in the senior lodging section which we did not discover until the last couple of days at the MTC! The MTC provides linens (bedding and towels) and each room is similar to a hotel room with a small sitting area, table and private bathroom as well. There is a little supply room on each floor with extra hair dryers and other various supplies left behind by other senior missionaries to use in case you forgot something at home. You can park a car in a nearby lot that is secured within the MTC property. When it is time to leave, there is a place to drive up and load your car with luggage right outside the elevator.
Since we received an assignment to serve specifically with the Young Adults, we had three additional days of training after the initial week of senior missionary training.
Other senior missionaries who have assignments related to military relations, Institute instructors, and office support also stay for additional training beyond the first week. We were at the MTC for a total of 8 days. On Wednesday of our second week, we drove home in the late afternoon, packed up the rest of our belongings, did some laundry and flew out on Thursday morning for Spain.
Available opportunities or how do you decide where to serve? Can you choose?
Unlike junior missionaries (18 &19 years of age), senior missionaries have the option to either submit a missionary application and be assigned without a request to serve in a specific area of the world with a assignment request OR you may also look over the available senior missionary opportunities and request to fill an assignment with a need in a specific location.
The request does not guarantee you will receive an assignment in the requested area, but most seniors we know have been assigned to the area they request. Senior missionary service opportunities are available all over the world, in many different capacities (medical specialists, instructors for Institute, office workers, member support, etc).
In our MTC District (below) there were 4 couples assigned to: California Church Camp to manage the camp, Military relations on a base in the USA, two couples assigned as Young Adult missionaries, one in Spain (us) and one in Poland.
A typical day will look different for every senior missionary depending on the assignment. We wake up and do our individual scripture study and also a companionship study together.
We usually do a workout in the morning or evening depending on the weather and our schedule that day. The rest of the day is spent making calls, attending appointments, visiting members of our congregation (only outside for now), cooking (of course), preparing for our Institute lesson we teach each week, assignments for my primary calling, Grant’s duties serving in the mission presidency, working on social media with missionaries, various Zoom meetings, and any other assignments given to us by the mission leaders.
Will you stop blogging while you are on your mission? What will happen to A Bountiful Kitchen??
This is probably the question I am asked most often! When a senior couple or a senior sister commits to serving a full time mission, they are expected to leave all work affairs behind. In my case, our mission leaders talked this over with Grant and me before coming to the mission.
The Galli’s wholeheartedly encouraged me to continue to regularly post and maintain my social media accounts as a means to share the my love of cooking and the gospel with people back at home and in the mission. Since I was used to sharing about my faith before the mission, this seemed like a natural fit. I have loved weaving cooking into our daily mission life and sharing with A Bountiful Kitchen readers on Instagram about our senior missionary service.
The treats I make most often in Spain include Tried and True Chocolate Chip Cookies, Levain Bakery Cookies and 30 Minute Blondies. All have to be adapted a bit to Spain’s high humidity and sea level altitude which are the complete opposite of our dry desert/mountain living environment!
Who pays for a mission and how much? Will or can I have a car?
As senior missionaries, you are required to pay a fixed monthly amount (which varies depending on where you serve) which covers rent and health insurance. Opportunities to serve and approximate amounts for senior mission assignments are available to view on this page. If serving in the United States, most senior missionaries using a car on the mission drive their car to the mission and use it while serving. In foreign countries, a car may be available for senior missionaries but not in all cases. In our mission, the mission pays for car insurance costs and we pay for gas.
Can family visit? Do you get time off?
Most missions presidents are quite generous when it comes to the senior missionaries and visitors. Our mission president welcomes family members visiting the senior missionaries to make the mission experience a family experience. Unfortunately, so far, we have had three of our four kids and their families cancel tickets to come to visit because of COVID. We hope all of our family will be able to visit before we head home next year!
As far as time “off” goes, every week the missionaries (young and old) have a preparation day. This day is set aside for personal errands, shopping, visiting local sites and recreating. We usually head out for an adventure in the morning after we study and end by about 4-6 pm then resume our mission work again!
Most missions have 1-2 senior retreats or get aways with other senior missionaries per year. It is a fun way to gather with the other senior missionaries and get to know each other better. Traditionally (not during COVID-19), senior missionaries may also travel to mission and zone conferences.
What do you do with belongings at home? Can we serve from home?
We were fortunate to have one of our kids stay in our home during our time of service. We have talked to senior missionaries who have served multiple missions who close everything up, turn the key and come back 18 months later. Some turn off the water to the home, and set the thermometer so no freezing occurs during the cold months. Some remove batteries from their cars and discontinue insurance on vehicles. We opted to keep a minimal auto insurance plan, leave our cars at home and have someone drive the cars once a month around the neighborhood.
Foreign language training at the MTC?
Seniors can receive 3 months of online foreign language training through the MTC before their senior missionary service begins, and additional training for up to 4 months after reporting to their mission. All of the junior missionaries receive language training at the MTC for 2-8 weeks depending on their skill level, and the language they are speaking in the mission.
Can you serve in an area and not speak the language?
I often receive this question on my social media from seniors who want to serve in a foreign country, such as Spain, but don’t speak Spanish. Yes, you can serve in an area and not speak the local language, but I think it would be more difficult.
Many people in our area speak English, because this is a tourist destination. But many do not. In the grocery stores, small bakeries, restaurants, fruterías, etc. there are often only Spanish speaking workers. Depending on where you serve, many of the members of our church speak English as well as the official language of the country. I am fortunate because my companion speaks fluent Spanish, which makes life much easier for me during our time of senior missionary service!
Leaving kids and Grandkids, missing out on big events…
Besides financial considerations, I think this may be one of the main reasons that seniors most often hesitate to leave home to serve. We have several young grandchildren. We had two sons that were unmarried at the time we announced we were going to serve. Our oldest grandchild will turn 8 during our mission service time, so we will not be present at her baptism, and we have aging parents. All of these things weigh heavy on our minds…
In the podcast episode mentioned earlier we talk about the decision to serve now, and why it was so important in spite of all we may miss back at home. Simply put, we felt it was right and we felt we were supposed to serve now.
As senior missionaries, we can return home (at our expense) if needed for major events and emergencies. We have chosen to stay in Spain unless we have an emergency we feel needs attending at home. The bottom line is, there will never be a convenient time to serve a mission!
We know we are where we are supposed to be at this time in our lives. We love the Savior and feel so blessed to be able to serve together in the Spain Barcelona Mission! For all who are still reading (wow!) we hope this post will help you see yourself in the role of a senior missionary someday soon.
One last thought. We have traveled around the world and experienced beautiful sites, eaten at wonderful restaurants, and stayed in amazing hotels. Nothing compares to the opportunity we have had to serve the people of Spain as representatives of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Hermana y Elder Foster <3