Mormon missionaries Gavin Yeip and Eli Dymock have come to Mercer Island to serve.
They can easily be recognized, wearing crisp white shirts, suits, ties and name badges, as they walk the streets of the Island together.
Yeip, 20, and Dymock, 19, hail from North Ogden and Paradise, Utah, respectively. They are among an estimated 200 Mormon missionaries serving in the Seattle area.
The average age of young men and women who serve is 19-25, with the majority between 19 and 21.
They are not paid for what they do — they must save up money to pay for their mission. Their families provide much of the support.
Both young men plan to attend Utah State University after completing their two-year mission. When asked if they miss Utah, Yeip said, “It depends on the day.”
“A little bit,” Dymock said.
“The rain can kind of take a toll on you after awhile. The mountains is what I miss the most,” said Yeip.
“The mountains and the snow,” Dymock added. “But it’s really green here.”
The Reporter sat down with both Mormon elders, who have resided on the Island for several months.
What do you as Mormon missionaries hope to accomplish? Why do you come here?
Our purpose is to help people overcome trials. The hard part, things about life, and through the gospel and the atonement of Jesus Christ, to find the joy in life that everybody wants to find.
Why Mercer Island, especially since there is a strong faith community here already?
It works a little bit differently — we are called to the Seattle mission, which is just like King County, and we are assigned to a specific area for a particular time. There are always missionaries on Mercer Island.
Have you been to other places on a mission — how are you assigned to a place?
We always serve two years. You’re assigned to just one mission, [for us] to Seattle.
When you’re called on a mission, you’re called to a specific area … you stay within the larger area, but move around inside of it.
Will you go overseas?
Not for these two years. Later on in life there will be an opportunity to serve again.
How does a rotation work — who determines where you go, and what about housing? Where do you live?
The church basically rents an apartment [here] and the missionaries cycle in and out. The church will always be there, but the missionaries are different. We have what we call a mission president — he lives on the Island as well. He serves for three years and directs where the missionaries go. Senior couples come and help him; we have housing coordinators, vehicle coordinators, and stuff like that, and they’re considered missionaries, too.
Can you describe a typical week; how much doorbelling do you do, what are your other activities, how many church services do you attend?
We just go to one church meeting on Sunday at the building on the Island. Basically, from 10 in the morning to about 9 at night, we’re out visiting people or knocking on doors or just talking to people on the streets. We have a few different meetings throughout the week just for missionaries for training.
On Monday, we clean and shop for food. Monday is our preparation day for the week. Besides that, it’s pretty typical, going out and working certain hours. How long do we proselyte for? Nine hours we’re usually trying to knock on doors, contact people on the streets, and teach lessons, Tuesday through Sunday. We go to work after church in the morning [Sunday].
What are people’s reactions when you come to the door? How are you received?
My experience has been that most people are really nice on the Island. When they answer the door, they usually thank us for what we do, but they’re not interested in learning about the gospel that we share. They’re pretty nice — we don’t get very many slammed doors or rude people very often. People are nice; they’re just not really interested.
Can you tell a funny story about one visit?
There’s a lot. I think the funniest for us is when people are members of the church already, but maybe don’t go, and you can tell they’re members … and then they’re like, “I’m actually a member already.” It’s kind of funny to see both sides of it. It always makes me laugh.
It’s also funny, overall you see how different people are, but how similar people are … everybody has their different way. Some people talk with their hands, some people just crack the door open a little bit.
Dogs barking always scare you — and getting chased by dogs.
You experience a lot of different things.
How often are you invited into someone’s home? Do you get offered cookies, meals — can you tell a story about one of those times?
On the Island you get offered food pretty often. Outside the Island, from where I’ve been, it’s not often. People like to talk to us outside; they don’t invite us in very often; maybe just once a week.
We do set up appointments. We’ll call people we’ve contacted before.
How are you willing to help with chores or service activities? Can you give an example of what you will do or what you have done so far?
We always offer service. We do a lot of yard work. We typically ask at every door if there’s anything we can do to help. Mostly, it’s take out the trash or clean up the yard. Mostly, it’s just trying to do as much service as we can.
Do people have misconceptions about Mormons and Mormonism that you hope to dispel? And what about the perspective that Mormonism is a cult?
We don’t argue with people, we really just try to share our message and let people decide for themselves.
In the process of talking with people, I think just naturally a lot of myths are dispelled. It’s not really our purpose to dispel myths — it’s to teach and invite people to find out for themselves.
How did Mitt Romney’s candidacy for president affect you as Mormons? Did it raise awareness about your faith?
I think people recognized us more. We normally don’t get into political conversations with people, but it helped us come into a new spotlight. I think people are more open now. It opened up more opportunities for us to answer questions.