Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Senior Couple Spotlight: The Kellys

Elder Rodney and Sister Bonnie Kelly
Three months before the sixth year anniversary of being called as a Bishop in Tampa FL, retired Marine Corps Major Rod Kelly was prompted that he and his wife should serve a mission.    Papers went in soon thereafter and just weeks after that release, Elder Rodney and Sister Bonnie Kelly departed for the Missionary Training Center, en route to service as a Military Relations Senior Couple at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL.  They’ll be completing a year of their service in September 2014.

In retrospect, perhaps they could have seen it coming even sooner: as converts in adulthood, they had already sent off two sons and two daughters on missions of their own – sons to Dallas TX and Japan; daughters to Louisiana and Chile.  As a military family, they all had considerable experience with relocations to distant places.  Further, as is most often the case in military units of the Church, opportunities for service abounded.  Elder Kelly served as a Counselor in four bishoprics before his own, as well as having been a Scoutmaster, Young Men’s Counselor, Elders Quorum President, Executive Secretary, five times as a ward clerk: clearly he was no stranger to demanding callings in The Church.   Sister Kelly, enjoyed the same levels and types of callings as well: Young Women’s President and counsellor, Relief Society President and counsellor, nine years as a Gospel Principles teacher  (not to mention those six children).  

Current calling?  Absolutely the best calling in The Church

The lion’s share of Military Relations Missions are to bases where the preponderance of the work is to support enlisted personnel and officers who are involved in training programs, most of which are of such intensity or relatively short duration that they have limited access to home and family.  Military Relations missionaries fill a critical need to help continue young peoples’ connection to The Church as well as to their families. 

The Kelly’s experience is no different, except that the largest populations they serve are basic officer trainees and junior officers, rather than basic trainees as is most often the case in other services and bases around the world.  Having an understanding of the peculiar needs of the military is one of the basic ingredients for success in such a mission, and of course, as retired military, they enjoy unfettered access to military installations that have varying levels of restricted entry. 

However, it has been that special combination of extensive military experience along with “lots of prayerful consideration” that allowed the Kelly’s to develop their own innovative approaches to serving such young men and women.  As one seemingly small – yet powerful - example, the Kelly’s developed another application keyed to social media: daily scripture texts that provided spiritual uplift to young members in challenging training situations.   

Another aspect of this unique service opportunity is the large number – and powerful impact – of returned missionaries among the young officers and officer candidates.  With twice weekly Family Home Evenings – and Saturday night Sacrament Meetings when ROTC cadets are on base during the summer training cycles, there are always others attending who are not yet members of The Church.   The Kelly’s are able – through these meetings as well as Sunday services, to place copies of the Book of Mormon each week with interested investigators attending with their classmates.

Lessons learned – as “Baby Boomers” themselves, the Kelly’s know that there can be a great increase in senior couples proportional to the huge percentage of the population.  Advice?  Prayerfully consider all the options – especially for those with status as retired military couples for these very special assignments – and make application.

And, just to be certain that as much connection with the family at home is maintained, take a page out of the Kelly’s preparation manual: leaving in September meant missing Christmas.  The answer: do all the Christmas shopping early, to include the wrapping and be ready to participate by Skype or Face time regularly, especially for holidays and family events.

And, to reiterate:  “It’s the  BEST calling”  they’ve ever had! 

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