15 August 2007
Nýjustu Trúboðshjónin (The Newest Missionary Couple)
The current senior missionary couple: When I first arrived in Iceland in 1984 to start my mission there was an American man and woman there serving as a senior couple. Iceland most always has had only one senior couple at a time, on occasion two. The couple who were there when I arrived were Byron and Melva Geslison. They had been the original couple to come and start the missionary work in Iceland in 1975. Byron had Icelandic heritage and lived in Spanish Fork, Utah where the original Icelandic immigrants settle after immigrating with other LDS converts. They came for their second of three missions in mid 1983, about 15 or 16 months before I arrived. We called him President Geslison, even though he wasn't really a president. Our mission president was in Denmark but we rarely saw him so Elder Geslison was president to us. Since early 1975 there have been a total of 21 senior couples come and serve in Iceland as missionaries, a few having served two missions there. Byron & Melva were the only senior couple to serve three missions there. Arthur & Amanda Hansen from Utah and Amos R. & Helen Jackson from Utah both served two stints there.
Today, the 21st couple to serve as an LDS senior missionary couple in Iceland are Lee & Marti Wohlgemuth from Utah. The senior couples no longer get two months of language training in the MTC, but instead maybe get a week or so and then head to the island. That is okay though. The senior couples most often find that so many of the Icelanders speak English that their time is likely better spent in Iceland getting to know the people and helping them than spending a full two months in the MTC. I have been in regular contact with the Wohlgemuths and know that they are working hard, perhaps too hard. I can tell they love the Icelanders though and hope to help many of them come closer to God.
In the thirty-two years that the missionary work has been going on since 1975 there have been a few hundred baptisms. Last year (2006) the eight missionaries at the time had a record breaking year. I hope they continue to have great years like that. Some of the individuals and families who have been baptized have moved out of the capital city, Reykjavík, onto farms and into villages around the island. Some are not able to have much contact with the main branches of the Church in Reykjavík. To help diminish the consequences of this distance many feel from the Church, the Wohlgemuths went on a ferðalag (trip) around the island to visit many of the far-flung members. This picture is of Marta María Friðþjófsdóttir and her daughter Ásta María Ásgeirsdóttir. They live on a farm in Litluhlíð which is about 20 miles south of Varmahlíð. I know that doesn't help much, even for missionaries, since few if any of us ever passed through that area for any reason. The Wohlgemuths visited about 13 or so individuals or families on their trip and had sacrament meetings with some. Others they gave out new Church materials and books in Icelandic so they could feel somewhat connected to the main body of the Church. They saw some beautiful parts of the island at a beautiful time of year. As I think back through my life, I can think of more than 30 separate senior couples who have had at least some positive impact on my life. They do a service in the field that the younger missionaries can not. Ég, sem einstaklingur, er þakkláltur fyrir þjónustu hverrar hjóna sem hafa þjónað þar (I, for one, am thankful for the service of each of the couples who have served there). I think all of us who are LDS should not just think about serving after we retire, but make plans now so that we are ready financially and spiritually. Imagine what could be done by the young RM's who go back after retirement with all their language abilities coming back to them....