Both Melanie Forbush and Sydney Bentley want people to know that yes, women do serve as missionaries in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
They do this because they want to, not out of duty or obligation. The motivation comes from the heart, from a deeply felt call to serve others and to share the Gospel of Jesus and the message of their faith.
And to share something else.
That is a word I have not heard or used in a while, but Melanie Forbush used it, and that’s the word I thought of after I spoke with Sydney Bentley.
I interviewed each woman about her calling to serve as sister missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Women missionaries are referred to as “sister,” which conforms to the way members address one another in their church, as either “sister” or “brother.”
Sister missionaries can be assigned to go anywhere in the world. Sister Sydney Bentley is currently in Lake Saint Louis. Bentley has five months remaining of her 18-month mission. Lake Saint Louis is her third location. All are within southern Illinois and Missouri.
Bentley joined the Mormon Church as a young adult and felt called to the mission field while working and attending college in North Plate, NE.
Lake Saint Louis seems an odd place for a pair of Mormon missionaries, I admitted to Bentley. Her current sister missionary companion is Nichole White. Bentley said that the people of Lake Saint Louis have “been very kind, responded well to us and are open and comfortable sharing” about their faith.
I asked her to outline a typical day. She described it as “Up at 6:30 a.m., exercise and breakfast. We study for two hours, and then around 10 a.m. we start seeing people, teaching, sometimes knocking on people’s doors.”
She explained that sometimes the people they visit are those who have “drifted away from the church,” while others are interested in finding out more about the Mormon religion. Later I learned they are home by 9 or 9:30 p.m. and to bed by 10:30 p.m.
I asked Bentley what has surprised her the most in her year as a sister missionary. She answered without pausing.
“I have been surprised to learn two things: how much I can love people and how much the mission is a ‘crash course on life',” she said. “It’s awesome.”
Forbush was born in St. Charles and is a 2007 graduate of Ft. Zumwalt West High School and a participant in the Mormon Church all her life. She is interrupting her studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, to spend 18 months serving in the mission field in Guayaquil, Ecuador in South America. Forbush leaves for her training the end of October. She will spend three weeks in a U.S. training center and then six weeks in a training location in Lima, Peru before going on to Ecuador.
As she grew up, Forbush told me, she saw that those around her who did their very best to follow Jesus Christ and the teachings of the church, especially her dad, were happier people. At age 14, Forbush began the Mormon religious schooling of seminary. It is a class held every day before her regular middle school and high school classes.
Through seminary and her own devotional discipline of prayer and the reading of Scripture, Forbush said she “gained testimony,” which I understood as knowledge and spiritual awareness that what you say you believe you know you believe.
The idea of being a sister missionary came when Forbush was in a Spanish –language semester abroad in Madrid, Spain in the fall of 2009. On Thursdays, the students and program directors gathered together for Bible lessons and devotions carried on in Spanish. Once when Forbush was leading, the female program director said, “Listening to you makes me think of a missionary. It’s in how you carry yourself and in your teaching.”
Her decision to serve her church as a full-time missionary for an 18-month appointment took much thought and prayer. The opportunity to be in service to people of the community where sent, and to be teaching about her faith was compelling for Forbush.
“Developing relationships with the people is vital, and this takes time," she said. "Being immersed in their community, living there among them for awhile is necessary. I really want to learn how to relate to other people and to reach others.”
She smiled throughout our lengthy interview.
“The Lord has given me this calling in my life. I have no concern. I have full faith in the Lord,” she said.
Godspeed to the soon-to-be Sister Forbush and carry on to Sister Bentley. We can use more happiness anywhere.