Sarah (Washington Tacoma Mission)
–Paraphrased from Sarah’s mission interview–
The Tacoma Washington Mission is the top northwest corner of Washington. There are a lot of Spanish speakers. There is Cambodian speakers as well. We used to visit the temple once a year. The members are really strong and want to be involved. We did a lot of monthly socials with the members and investigators and new converts. We had missionary firesides too where the missionaries would sing or bare testimony of the Savior. It was amazing and beautiful. There are church tours as well. The missionaries would give tours of the church buildings to anyone that wanted to come in and look at it. They get to see it and feel the Spirit that’s there.
Brittany (Washington Tacoma Mission)
–Paraphrased from Brittany’s mission interview–
Living in Washington
Everyone in Washington has a dog and when you knock on doors, the dog always barks at you. You don’t always know what kind of dog is gonna be behind the door. I never got attacked by a dog though. There are a lot of different cultures in Washington. I met people from Korea, Japan, Hawaii, and Samoa. You find a lot of different cultures and lot of different foods. I ate a lot of different things. I served in the capital in Olympia. There is a school there called Evergreen. Some very different people go there. It’s hard to explain. There are a lot of hippies I guess downtown there. There are streets full of shops. There are a lot of homeless people too. A guy named Wild Bill just played music all over town. There are a lot of Catholics, but there are a lot of other religions as well. There are a lot of members in Washington and the wards are like Utah wards. I served in one area with an island that had a branch with maybe 30 to 40 members. They meet in a tiny building and are so humble.
The Washington Tacoma mission is the best mission in the world. We are very much family and our mission president made sure we knew that. One thing we do as a mission is we go to this rope course in Belfair. You have to climb a ten foot wall and do a trust fall and that kind of thing that helps to make us more unified as missionaries. Member work is very important in Washington. There was a week when the president wanted to get 500 lessons with members present and we got 696 lessons with members present. The members love it and are there to help you. The languages that the missionaries speak are Cambodian, Spanish, and then English. There are only like three Cambodians sisters right now. There is a temple close to Seattle maybe an hour and a half away from most of the mission and we got to go once a year or you can go if you have new members doing baptisms for the dead. We still got to go to the temple quite a bit.
Elizabeth (Washington Tacoma Mission)
–Paraphrased from Elizabeth’s mission interview–
I was there for a very long time. If you’ve seen COPS, that’s where that’s filmed. There are a lot of military people. It’s close to the joint air force army base. The Church is pretty strong in Washington despite being in a more atheistic part of the country. There are eight missions in Washington alone. The demographics are completely different. I was in Parkland for five transfers. I would describe it as sketchy. There is a lot of drugs and those kind of problems. There are a lot of homeless. It was one of my favorite areas at the same time because I found people genuinely searching for hope. When people are happy and established, they don’t see right away why the gospel is so necessary. Everyone that I talked to needed it badly and it would change people’s lives around completely. Parkland is kind of like an inner city place. There are tons of apartment complexes and tons of people to talk to. All my crazy stories come from Parkland. My dad sent us a giant thing of pepper spray. We got chased by dogs. I knew most of the homeless people by name.
Bainbridge Island, WA
It’s this big island across from Seattle. It’s amazing. The ward members completely changed my view of how a ward could function. It’s like the opposite of my first area in Parkland. Bainbridge is this safe bubble of rich hippies. You’re right across from Seattle and it started off as a small farmy island, but people kept flocking to it because it’s a great place to raise kids. It’s cute and adorable and clean and nice. It is super organized. The ward had great goals. Being a missionary there was a lot easier because of that. So much of the missionary work was focused on creating eternal families or helping people that didn’t have fully active members of their family. It was like dominoes. People would help other people. Bainbridge was super special. It felt like this respite where even though the work was still hard, it felt like a growing time. The sisters that serve there feel nurtured. You get ample opportunities to grow. I want to go back. It was springtime too so the weather just got more and more beautiful every day. People get a lot happier when it’s not dark all of the time. People were so kind and polite. Know you’re in to meet some super nice people if you go to Bainbridge. We were a little confused when no one was cussing us out or setting their dogs on us. Only one time someone swore at us. It was just so different. I feel like in every mission you’ll have these ends of the spectrum for areas. Most people commuted into Seattle for work. There are a lot of cyclists on the island. There are a lot of vegans. A lot of people that I would have never met in Parkland. The island felt really big, especially on days when we couldn’t use our car because it was in the shop. Bainbridge is super hilly. They have these bike races that are known for their hills. Try biking in a skirt. It was one of my favorite places. Looking across the sound at Seattle was just super gorgeous. I loved being on the water. You can’t go on boats though.
I was there in the dead of winter, which is really really dark in the Pacific Northwest. It is kind of a summer home town, so it was pretty deserted in the winter. It was definitely my hardest area, but I loved it. The ward was amazing. The families are so cool. Right before the holidays, I was put into Belfair. It was such an adjustment because I was so used to being in bigger cities. People in the city want to talk. You can always find people that need you and it’s a lot easier to find. In Belfair we had a hard time finding people because they’re holed up in their houses deep in the mountains. It’s so beautiful though. My first mission president would joke that God spent a little more time on Washington. I didn’t see it for the first half of my mission. In Belfair we lived on this arm of the sound jutting out into the water. It was a bigger blessing than I ever realized at the time. Sometimes it’s hard being with a companion that maybe doesn’t understand you. God knew that looking at the sunrises over the water would help me. Tender mercies were a really big thing for me in Belfair. In my first area, I knew everyone. The notes that I had on the ward list were extensive. Going into a new area in the middle of winter was definitely a big shock. These little things like how insanely gorgeous the mission was were really important to me. I really started picking up on it and about how even though a mission isn’t happy and nice all of the time, you can still be happy.
Lacey was my last area. I was kind of shocked because I thought I would stay on the island. It was kind of like my first area because of the amount of people, but there were a lot of transient people from the military bases. You would hear people talk about awesome families, but by the time you get there, they’ve moved on. In Lacey, it was very clear that I was there for the missionaries that were around me in the area. Me and my companions were asked to go on a lot of exchanges with people a lot. I could see so clearly how my mission up to that point was preparation for some of the missionaries that I served around there. Missionary work is not just about people that haven’t heard of the Church. It’s for everyone. That’s something that I saw recur a lot on my mission. You’re there to bring yourself and your companion closer to Christ. You bring your mission president closer to Christ. You bring the ward members closer to Christ. That became one of the biggest lessons that I learned in Lacey. You can’t overlook people because you think the job has been done.
Kelsea (Washington Tacoma Mission)
–Paraphrased from Kelsea’s mission interview–
We’re the west peninsula corner of Washington. There’s more up top too. We’re right on the ocean. There’s a lot of military people there because of the military bases. I served in an army and a navy base area. There are a lot of transient people because of that. We still don’t have iPads. I think we were the last mission in the US without them. We knocked doors from 5 to 7. We took a lot of pride in that. We did it every day no matter how dark or stormy it was. It takes grit and tenacity. We had a stake split right when I was leaving. The Church has been growing a lot. We did baptize quite a bit for a stateside mission. There were a lot of Word of Wisdom issues. A lot of people had disabilities or mental health issues as well. There was a lot of past trauma especially with ex military.
It’s not Elmo or Alma. It’s named after a woman named Elma. It was very country. There were lots of farms and land. There would be long stretches between doors when we were knocking. It was very beautiful. There are trees everywhere. All of the areas are beautiful though. Not too many people live there. It was a small town. People would commute a lot to work. There are a lot of retired people there too. It’s right next to Aberdeen where Kurt Cobain is from so people talk about that. We had a convert there. He had been taking the lessons for ten months when I came in.
Lincoln Tacoma, Washington
It’s the opposite of Elma. It’s the city. People smoke on every corner. There is a lot of Vietnamese food close to our apartment. It was so easy to teach people because there are so many people. There were a couple times that we heard gunshots at night. Sometimes we would keep knocking, but sometimes we would get in the car and go knock somewhere else. I was never scared.
American Lake, Washington
It’s the military based I served at. There was a veteran’s hospital there as well. I loved it. We got to go on post to meet with members. Sometimes they would give us referrals if we worked really hard. It was a very small area though. You can’t proselyte on post and 75% of our area was on post. We got to the point where we had to re-knock doors and I hated that.
We covered two wards. One was just all country roads. It was such a small town with lots of trees and only a few houses. You get really strong legs walking up those long driveway hills. The other ward was more city and there is a navy base nearby. I had a bishop who was in the navy. He was wonderful and very serious and strong. The work was good. It was the members though who blew me away. They were so helpful and so kind.
It’s a great place. Lots of neighborhoods and lot of people. I met Rose, my last convert there. She was incredible. The members were so good at missionary work. If we had someone we were teaching, they were on top of it. They came to lessons and helped get people to church. We had someone that needed to move out of her house and we had members take her in and house her until she found a place to live. That stake was so active in being Christlike, whatever that entailed. If that meant missionary work, or being supportive and kind, they were doing it. Lacey had a mushroom farm, so it smelled like farts the entire time. That was the downside of Lacey.