Tony and Mary Aiono didn’t know what to expect when they left their home in Apia, Samoa, and uprooted to Papua New Guinea for 18 months.
However, the blessings of serving a mission have been worth it, they said.
For many years, the Aionos considered serving a mission but it was hard for Tony and Mary to leave family commitments behind—and their health was also a concern.
But they both felt inspired after hearing beloved former prophet Thomas S. Monson suggest: “To those of you who are not yet to the season of life when you might serve a couples’ mission, I urge you to prepare now for the day when you and your spouse might do so.”
“As your circumstances allow, as you are eligible for retirement, and as your health permits, make yourselves available to leave home and give full-time missionary service.”
The couple worked hard to prepare to serve, including making sure they were physically and mentally strong to meet medical requirements.
The Aionos are still serving and though their days are filled with hard work and sacrifice, many blessings have come their way.
Church service opportunities for their son-in-law and their first grandchild being accepted into university are additional blessings, they say, that have come into their lives.
The Aionos encourage other senior LDS couples who desire to be a disciple of the Lord to “prepare spiritually and physically. A strong faith and testimony of Jesus Christ and his Atonement will be a great instrument to help you as you serve.”
Tongan couple Loueni and Nunia Huni are preparing to serve their second mission.
“If you want to stay close to the Lord, do His work and go on a mission.'
The Hunis served a mission in Tonga in 2015-2017.
While serving, Loueni was acknowledged for his many years of sacrifice and service, providing fish—to the poor and needy—that he caught with his spear-gun each night while deep-sea swimming.
For the past 20 years Loueni has been going out alone beyond the reef to spearfish, among the sharks, on behalf of his neighbours.
Loueni still swims and fishes beyond the reef and distributes his catch to the poor. He treats his own actions as a simple matter of fact, saying, “This is my life. This is what I do. I serve God, and He will take care of me.”
Fijian couple Elder and Sister Tagidugu are “pioneers” in the Church. “We are the fifth Fijian senior missionary couple to serve in Fiji, but we need many more couples who will give their time and talents to the Lord,” said Alipate.
The Tagidugu’s are now nearing the end of their 18-month mission and are extending for another 18 months, adding up to three uninterrupted years of service as a missionary couple.
Alipate and Anaisi Tagidugu from the village of Davetalevu in Korovou, accepted an invitation to serve a mission after the mission president approached the couple and asked if they would serve a “member and leader support” (MLS) mission.
The couple would become mentors, teachers and friends to the members and neighbours they served.
The couple has experienced health issues in the past and Alipate had to have a quintuple bypass (open heart surgery) in 2004, but they feel their health issues have stabilised as they have served in their calling. From their point of view, “If you do the Lord’s work first, He will take care of you.'
Their advice to younger couples who are thinking about a senior couple's mission, 'Start preparing now - mentally, physically and financially.'
The LDS Church has just launched seniormissionary.lds.org to better connect potential senior missionaries with volunteer opportunities that better suit their lifestyle.
“Senior missionaries are absolutely critical to our work, and we have thousands of them serving. But we only have about half of what we need,” explained Elder Brent H. Nielson, Executive Director of the Missionary Department.
Church members can use the website to create a wish list of service opportunities and find which available positions work for them. Candidates can also choose how long they wish to serve and list any special accommodations they may need.
“What we’re trying to do is to allow a couple, in their very own home, to sit down at their own computer,” said Elder Nielson. “They can see at a glance all the opportunities all around the world — and technology has just opened up to us the ability to do that — and then to match their abilities with the needs that we have.”
The Church has sent out 317 senior couples from throughout the South Pacific in the last six years. Many of them have served or are serving in the Pacific region.