Photo Essay: Hundreds of Mormon Volunteers Serve in Ethnically Diverse Inner City Mission

Photo Essay: Hundreds of Mormon Volunteers Serve in Ethnically Diverse Inner City Mission

Photo Essay

In metropolitan Salt Lake City, more than 800 service missionaries join 185 Mormon congregations in the Salt Lake Inner City Mission every week to worship and help others become more self-reliant. The volunteer missionaries live at home but travel to the inner city chapels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to assist those in need.

The inner city missionaries work under the direction of local bishops and other lay leaders for a minimum of eight hours a week. Some of the missionaries serve up to 30 hours a week. They are mostly senior couples and women who are called as service missionaries for a year to 18 months to help refugees such as Virginia, who recently arrived from Burundi. Virginia is selecting clothing for her family, donated by Latter-day Saint congregations in the Sugarhouse area.

Doug and Cheryl Fisher work with Bishop Stephen Naylor to assist Emily Turner and seven other families in the inner city area. Emily moved to Salt Lake City with her two children in 2005 after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

"We're there to help do things that need to be done, and it's great to see people change their lives and better themselves," said Sister Fisher.

Inner city missionaries are not called to proselytize, although they may help full-time missionaries teach if needed. They may be assigned to visit specific families and individuals to provide them with spiritual and temporal support.

Neal and Lynda Burton and their daughter Melanie formed a friendship with the Misago family two years ago when they helped the Misagos' son, Gerard, prepare for a mission. Gerard is currently serving as a missionary for the Church in Alabama.

"We just love them, and we have a bond with them," said Sister Lynda Burton.

Faustine Misago and his family moved to Salt Lake City in 2008. They were previously living in Tanzania after leaving their home country Burundi due to civil unrest.  

As church-service missionaries, the Burtons assist families in the inner city area with transportation, filling out school applications, finding housing, refurbishing computers and more. They also help plan and execute activities and socials. 

"You see a need and you fill it," said Elder Burton.

Each pair of volunteer missionaries is assigned to an inner city congregation and then to several families within the congregation. The mission serves ethnically diverse congregations comprised of languages besides English, such as Spanish, Swahili, Karen, Nepali or Tongan.

Inner city service missionaries Garth and Sherrie Van Roosendaal served in the Crossroads Square Nepali-speaking branch, a small congregation in the Salt Lake South Stake seen here visiting with Bhutanese refugees Sayal and his mother, Lalo.  

Some inner city missionaries become mentors to those seeking employment and may help with training at Church welfare operations such as Deseret Industries or the Humanitarian Center. Those in training might spend part of their day learning English as a second language.

Refugees assigned to Salt Lake City have an opportunity to participate in a salaried work-study program that facilitates learning English and workplace skills. 

Bob and Amy Wylie became Vumiliya Nyirabukara’s mentors after she moved to Salt Lake City from the Congo in March 2015. The Wylies referred Vumiliya for employment at the Church's Humanitarian Center.  

Vumiliya works in the medical department and packs hygiene kits to be sent around the world. She was previously a team lead in the clothing department.  

Claudia Latorre recently moved from Venezuela to Salt Lake City to join family members. Claudia is employed through a business partnership with Welfare Square to learn English.  

Mission leaders say about half of the inner city missionaries decide to extend their missions after finding the experience of serving members and nonmembers so rewarding.

“When you get to know them, you love them that much more,” said Sister Wylie.  

Visit the Church’s Service Missionary  website  to learn about service mission opportunities in your area.

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