Church mission takes six youths to exotic locales

March 15, 2011

By Sarah Gerdes

While some were celebrating Valentine’s Day with loved ones — trading chocolate, giving gifts and going out to dinner — six young men and women from the Issaquah area were planning to leave the country to serve local communities.

Anthony Kubeja

In February, more than a half-dozen Issaquah teenagers will leave the country, not to go on an exotic, post-graduation trip, but to serve their church for two years.

Service before studies

When it came time to decide whether to attend college, Anthony Kubeja chose to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A standout athlete at Liberty High School, he excelled in three sports while also playing four instruments in band. As many of his peers went to college, he filed papers for a mission.

“I changed my life seven years ago, when I took upon me the name of Christ,” he said. “This is what he wants me to do, to serve others.”

Last month, Kubeja boarded a flight to Brazil, where he will remain for two years.

White shirts and ties

It’s easy to pick out the Mormon missionaries, riding bikes in the rain, usually clad in dark overcoats, the glimpse of a white shirt and dark tie poking out from within. What most don’t know is that young Mormons, typically 19 for men and 21 for women, are volunteers — young adults who want to serve in any capacity.

“A lot of times people think they teach the gospel,” said Robert Johnson, president of the Bellevue South Stake. “All the missionaries are engaged in humanitarian aid,” such as they did in Chile during the recent earthquake, where they served food banks, cleared out debris, built homes and provided relief work for months and months.

“Their ‘mission’ is to really go out and bless mankind,” Johnson said, “and that’s what they are trained to do.”

A rigorous sacrifice

Missionaries set aside several thousand dollars to pay for a mission before having an interview with the stake president. He forwards the paperwork to Salt Lake City, where one of the 12 apostles of the church personally assigns a location for the missionary. This “calling” identifies when and where a missionary will be sent, and when received by a family, it is welcomed with the excitement rivaling a letter of acceptance to a college.

The next stop is to spend several months at a Missionary Training Center, in Provo, Utah, or in any of the 13 centers that function for Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. There, missionaries study scriptures, learn languages and listen to the visiting general authorities of the church. A missionary is assigned a companion, who they work, study and engage in recreational activities with, such as playing basketball.

“A companion accelerates intellectual and spiritual development,” Johnson explained.

The notion of a companion seems odd until Johnson explains it is based in New Testament doctrine.

“Paul always had a companion when he went out, to share the experiences and the burden while in the mission field,” Johnson said.

Changing lives

Presently, 335 missions are located throughout the world. Men serve two years while women serve 18 months. Kubeja was called to a two-year mission in Brazil, a country that has 38 missions (or zones).

According to Johnson, the amount missionaries grow over their counterparts who stay home is profound.

“They have an appreciation for humanity and an appreciation for the blessings enjoyed in the United States and in our lives,” he said. “These young people don’t just change the life of the individual. They are changing generations.”

“It’s what I was meant to do,” said Kubeja, the smile on his face wide and bright. “I can’t wait.

Kubeja is not alone in his choice. Also recently called to serve LDS missions were:

Kamryn Bailey from will serve in Brazil Belo Horizonte Mission, which started Feb. 16; David Potts will serve the Brazil Londrina Mission, starting March 23; James Luke Nelson will serve the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission, starting March 30; William Davidson will serve the Arizona Mesa Mission, starting April 27; and Andrew Sypher Ward will serve the Brazil Sao Paulo East Mission, starting June 1.

Sarah Gerdes is a freelance writer for The Press. Comment at

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