Mormon moms wait for a special call

KENNEWICK — Rachel Perry might get flowers or a special dinner cooked by her husband and kids for Mother’s Day.

But the most meaningful gift she’ll receive is a phone call from her youngest son.

Jared Perry, 19, a Southridge High School graduate, is on a two-year mission in El Salvador and Belize for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He and other missionaries are only allowed to call home twice a year, on Christmas and Mother’s Day.

That means for Perry, today is special in more ways than one.

The phone call is “the highlight,” she said. The whole family will gather and ask questions they’ve been saving up. They’ll also savor hearing Jared’s voice after communicating with him solely via e-mail for months.

“You get to connect to your son who’s been gone so long,” Perry said.

She’s not alone in her excitement. Right now, thousands of young Mormons are on missions in the U.S. and abroad, including about 250 from the Mid-Columbia. Their parents will be waiting to pick up the phone today to hear about their adventures.

Barb Stapleton of Kennewick has a son, Greg, 19, in El Salvador. He left for his mission in November and has more than a year to go. Men serve two-year missions and women serve for 18 months.

During Greg’s last phone call, “e made up a list of questions to ask so there wasn’t a lot of wasted time. What he’s doing, living conditions, food he eats, that kind of thing,” Stapleton said.

The family will be together again today.

“I think all the moms get pretty excited about (the call),” Stapleton said.

The missionaries do too. They spend their days teaching people about their religion, helping neighbors with tasks such as yard work and volunteering in the community. Contact with family and friends is limited so they can focus on their work, church leaders said.

Still, “I think every missionary has days and times when you think of home,” said Rachelle Tolman, 22, of Florida, who’s serving a mission in the Tri-City area.

“It makes you appreciate your family more. You realize the things they taught you. You recognize how much you love them and miss them,” added fellow missionary Brett Clark, 21, of Indiana, who’s also serving in the area.

Tolman and Clark are two of the 200 young Mormons from around the world on missions in the region between Ellensburg and Eastern Oregon.

They hail from the U.S. — like Tolman and Clark — or as far away as Ukraine and Pakistan.

They keep tight schedules and only write their families — usually via e-mail — once a week.

Missionaries know going in that’s part of the deal. Tolman and Clark said the work they’re doing is important and worth the sacrifice. They feel they’re touching people’s lives, and also are being changed for the good in return.

They don’t mind the hard work, the long hours.

“We try to talk to everyone we see,” Clark said. “We know the message will bless their lives. Who wouldn’t want to share it?”

Missionary moms said they see changes in their kids when they come home. They’re older, of course, but also more mature, they said.

They have stronger communication skills thanks to hours spent knocking on doors and talking with new people.

“They go out a child, and when they come back, they’re (adults),” Perry said. “They grow a lot, not only physically but spiritually. I think it makes them better prepared for what’s next in their lives.”

Her son Jared has a little over a year left to go in his mission. That means he’ll be away from home at least one more Mother’s Day.Tolman and Clark will be done with their missions by then. Tolman has 10 months left, and Clark has one.

By this time next year, they’ll be able to call their moms whenever they want.

-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1402; sschilling@tricityherald.com