He is French and served his mission in Spain: “I wish I could attend the reunion in Salt Lake,” he said.
At Conference time, nearly all mission reunions are planned in Utah. The tradition dates back to the time when also nearly all missionaries came from Utah or surrounding States. But things have changed. Thousands of missionaries are called from other countries, serve in their own or other foreign countries, and most will never have the chance to visit Utah. Nowadays even many American missionaries have never been close to the Wasatch Front.
Reunions are private initiatives by former mission presidents or one or two returned missionaries who care to stimulate the get-together. Deseret News provides the channel for the notices. Most reunions follow the same pattern and convey the same tone. The short announcements for the upcoming reunions give an idea:
Friends, memories, treats and video pictures from the mission. Casual dress. / Enjoy a Brazilian meal and dessert potluck, slide show presentation and more. / Video and socializing with refreshments. / Remembering good times, good companions, good areas and good people. Sandwiches – bring side dish to share. / President will say a few words. / No formal program is planned at this time! Please bring finger foods, veggie/meat trays, empanadas, etc. Drinks will be provided. / Let’s get together and celebrate the year of the dragon. Chinese dinner, visiting, program; $4 per person.
Here and there, but rarely, a different approach:
Dress is missionary attire. / Speaker: Carol Cornwall Madsen. / Guest speaker: Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy. / Presentation on the life, conversion, and service of Norbert Helmut Maas of Mannheim. / 4 p.m. session at the Logan Utah Temple. 6:30 p.m. meet at the Lundstrom Park Chapel (Sunday dress please). 7 p.m. devotional meeting. 8:30 p.m. visiting and refreshments.
A rare one is elsewhere, and in June:
Japan Nagoya. 6/12 Tokyo temple annex; 6/16 Nagoya Chapel at mission home.
And one is nowhere and worldwide:
Virtual reunion: Please Post your update on Facebook page, Ecuador Quito Mission Virtual Reunion.
The intention of this post is certainly not to take the fun part out of reunions. But it seems some questions can be raised.
- How representative are reunions for all those who served in a certain mission?
- How can reunions truly include all those that cannot attend but would like to?
- What do reunions reveal as to the further (Church) life of returned missionaries?
- What could reunions do for those returned missionaries who turned away from the Church?
- The program: besides the fun, what could other dimensions be and how to implement them?
- To what extent could a reunion contribute to cultural understanding beyond a display of wooden shoes, a Pisa leaning tower, or an alpaca poncho and beyond the consumption of empanadas, Apfelstrüdel, or tikerikakku?
- What is the main content of pictures, video & slide presentations? Could they be improved or diversified?
- To what extent should a reunion also give pause to the consequences of former missionary work: What happened to each of those you taught and baptized? What have you done to keep contact?
- What has been the best part of reunions for you? Or the best reunion ever?
Your comments on this topic will be appreciated.