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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Can You Name the Smallest and Largest LDS Mission? My "Small World" Experience in Las Vegas

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).

14 comments:

Keryn said...

Kyle Wong?!!!! You have got to be kidding me. First, what a small world--I grew up in the Meadows Stake, and Kyle's dad was my bishop when I was a teenager, and I had a crush on his older brother. My mother lives in the Meadows 1st Ward (but they meet at 9:00, so I didn't answer your bleg a few days ago). Second--how in the world is he old to be HOME from a mission?

Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your experience--it would have been cool to read even if I didn't know the people involved. And it's always nice to hear of a GOOD spiritual experience in Vegas--there are so many good people there. (I get a little irked at people who condemn Vegas as evil after having spent all their time there on the Strip. I mean, what do you expect?)

quandmemem said...

Temple square missionaries usually claim to have the smallest mission geographically

Susan M said...

Great story!

Temple Square is the smallest geographically. Where I live is the second smallest--I think we're in the Long Beach Mission, but I live in Huntington Beach. I just know the missionaries are always telling us that.

His Worship said...

I thought that the Nauvoo Mission (just the restored part of the City of Nauvoo) would be the second smallest geographically. It was cut out of the Illinois Peoria Mission several years ago.

Shaun D. said...

I, with keryn, grew up in the Meadows stake and had Bishop Wong. It is amazing to here about all the great experiences that missionaries have around the world. I am actually visiting my mission area this week, Japan. Things have changed but its amazing the feelings of love and friendship that still exist even over 6 years later. Thank you. I was just told about your blog and will be reading it from here on out. Thanks for representing the Meadows stake as the wonderful place it is!!

Kanakainlv@aol.com said...

Brother Lindsay, you've made my life! As I was the first speaker, I noticed you writing on your note pad in the back of the chapel! To say the least, I was nervous! Then to meet you later, but still not knowing what you wrote about, and a little intimidated to ask, I told myself that I need to be satisfied that you were visiting for a business meeting. After I read your comments, my heart is overflowing! Thank you for your kind words about our ward, stake, and for my son and his dynamic mission president. They are surely deserving! If a father can be "proud" and not sin, then I am! Mahalo nui loa, Richard Wong

Mormanity said...

Bishop Wong, it's so good of you to drop by and offer such kind words. Your're right to be proud of your son! What a fascinating mission experience. I hope he'll write some of his experiences into short stories or essays for others to read.

Thanks for helping me have a great start to my short trip to Las Vegas.

annegb said...

Don't you think it's weird how strong the church is in Vegas? I hate Las Vegas (I can say that, I'm a Nevada girl, born and, well not raised, but survived), but I am impressed by the church there. I've noticed any TV show about Vegas stresses the strength of Mormonism.

Oh, and watch for me in Long Beach. I was baptized there and the missionary who confirmed me told me I'd be back there on a mission. If I live that long.

Homer said...

My wife serve in the Guam Mission. She served on the island of Majuro. She spoke marshallese. The island is only about 1/4 mile wide at its widest spot. Although the island is only 1/4 mile wide, it is 30 miles long. That would be a very interesting place to live.

Anonymous said...

My friend sent me your link after reading your article...I actually served my mission 7 years ago there primarily on Kosrae. What a small world.

LaNila said...

I was left alone with my thoughts and that is always dangerous, but I was seriously thinking of your question, "Can you name the smallest and largest LDS mission?" Over and over again the thoughts were how we are all called to be missionaries, therefore within each of us is the smallest mission and yet to offer our own missionary efforts we find ourselves in the largest mission in the world.

Anonymous said...

This has been interesting to read. I first read the book, Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley and couldn't put it down. Several years later a pilot son was hired by Air Wisconsin to fly as United Express in Chicago. Air Wis, (they usally add a few letters to make it sound like a drink.) They are based in Appleton and he was there often for trainingl. The airline managment loved him and he was well known among the other pilots.
I visted Appleton several times and loved it. Nathan has moved on to Jet Blue in New York, the so called, "Mormon Arline", and he is happy with the culture at JB. I have another son and two brothers who are commercial pilots...kind of an aviation family I guess. I wish the new movie was not R but from what I read there is no way it cuold have anoher rating. Thanks for this site....bob...Missouri

J. Rivera said...

wow, this is weird. i look up "micronesia guam mission" and i stumble across this great article! i actually entered the MTC with Kyle (it feels weird saying his name like that...) and went out to Chuuk with him. He's a great guy, no? unfortunately, i didn't get to serve very long alongside Elder Wong - i was moved off chuuk after a while - but i'm sure whatever Pres. Pulsipher said about him was true!

mahalo,
j. rivera

Nancee said...

Hey! My son and I are going to take a trip to the Morlock Islands. I was wondering if there were any members there. We are looking for a guide to help us get there. If so I was wondering if someone could email me at pquinn@placs.net