A long way from home

At age 19, Elders Scott Nelson and Kent Olsen became two of more than 50,000 Latter Day Saints missionaries who spend every day serving their church and the Lord. Now their mission is in Austin; but don’t blink, or they may be gone.

Matt Peterson/matt.peterson@austindailyherald.com - Elders Scott Nelson, left, and Kent Olsen are the missionaries serving the Latter Day Saints Church in Austin. They will spend every day for two years serving the people of their church and informing others about their denomination.

That’s because the missionaries, who work in pairs, are always moving and serving where the church says they are needed. Sometimes, they may only be in one area for several weeks. When the church relocates them, they have about two days to move.

“Every six weeks, there’s a possibility you might move,” Olsen said. “You may not even know who your future companion is.”

But tackling the task of missionary work for two years — every single day — takes serious consideration. Most missionaries are sent to regions far away from their homes, and they’re always paired with somebody different each time they move. For two years, missionaries work from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, and they live on a fixed income provided by the church. They don’t get to frequently call family and friends or participate in public events, and they delay their college educations.

“As soon as I got to 18, this was something I had to think about,” Nelson said. He grew up in the church in California and was baptized at 8, which is the normal procedure in the LDS. However, he said he didn’t think of the church too much when he got older, and he never thought he’d get deeply involved. However, he noticed how happy his brother was with his involvement in the church.

“He seemed a little more Christ like,” Nelson said.

Nelson, who is from California, and Olsen, from Utah, started their journeys into missionary work in Provo, Utah, at the missionary training center, where many other missionaries pass through. There, they each spent nine weeks learning more about their religion, which says of all the different denominations and interpretations of the bible, only Jesus Christ had the authority to restore the true word of God through the prophet, Joseph Smith. In Provo, the missionaries also learned how to speak Spanish. Even though the time frame was short, it was good for them. They’re happy they jumped on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I was kind of hoping that I could do that,” Nelson said about learning Spanish. “So I was really excited.”

Nelson and Olsen have been spending their two-year durations in the Minneapolis Minnesota Missionary area, which covers eastern Minnesota to Thunder Bay, parts of Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan. They’ll likely be moving again soon, but the hectic lifestyle is something they are now okay with.

“Time is completely different,” Nelson said. “You’re not really worrying about your own personal life.”

The missionaries have dedicated their two-year stint to the church, the members and anyone else who wants to learn about Christ.

“Our main purpose is to invite others to come to Christ,” Olsen said.

He added, “We’re not here to force anyone to believe what we do. We want to share these things with people, ask them to pray and ask God whether or not these things are true.”

After their two years are up, it’s back to normal life for the missionaries. Although they halted college to experience mission life, they want to go back to school. Both said they may even try to obtain master’s degrees in whatever they pursue. But whatever they pursue or wherever they go as missionaries, they’ve put their full trust into the Lord.

“The Lord will tell us where to go,” Olsen said.

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