Perpetual Education Fund, or PEF, a program that provides motivated people over the age of 18 with a small loan to be used for education and training, which should in turn prepare them for future employment opportunities in their own communities. The money for the PEF comes from donations from LDS church members.
The program is modeled after a similar program used by the Mormon pioneers, the Perpetual Emigration Fund, which helped impoverished converts to the church move to Utah. Once established in their new homes, the recipients were expected to repay the money so that the funds could be used for future emigrants.
|Limited funds were available, and one of the ways the Mormon pioneers saved money |
was by traveling with handcarts rather than by wagons pulled by oxen or horses.
Shelley and Russ have loved being part of the pool of "senior" missionaries for the church. There are currently over 88,000 Mormon missionaries serving around the world, and 5,000 of those are seniors. All missionaries, young ones and "mature" ones, go through some training in a Mission Training Center at the beginning of their mission. In Russ and Shelley's MTC group there were senior couples going to Uganda, Montreal, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, New Delhi, Omaha, Armenia, Cambodia, Iceland, Mexico, Nicaragua, Auckland, and China. Wow!
Unlike the young 18- to 26-year-old missionaries that the LDS Church is known for, senior missionaries have a little more flexibility. Russ said, "There is always plenty of time to have fun activities with over 24 couples that are serving in the Africa West Area office and the two missions based in Accra." Lucky for us, they were also able to have some fun with us on a trip along the Ghana coast, a trip we could not have taken on our own and without their knowledge of the Ghanaian world.
Senior missionaries can also choose their length of service--Russ and Shelley committed to 18 months in Ghana, and they'll be returning to the United States in January. Their mission just happened to coincide perfectly with our trip to Africa. While not exactly close to Kenya and Tanzania, Ghana was more or less on the way home, which made stopping there "convenient." I know you'll be shocked to learn that Bob and I were the only family members to drop in on them during their entire mission.
Russ and Shelley live not far from the Accra airport in a gated and very well-maintained complex owned by the church.
Senior missionaries stay in this nice church-owned apartment building:
Two other important structures are part of the compound. One is an LDS meetinghouse/office building, which is where Russ and Shelley conduct their self-reliance workshops and attend church:
. . . and the other is a beautiful LDS Temple, one of 143 that are currently operating worldwide.
Most Mormon Temples (all but eight) are topped by an Angel Moroni, an important figure from the LDS scripture, The Book of Mormon. This one has a pretty humorous story that Russ included in one of his emails.
"The temple is closed for two weeks. Four of our volunteers are contracted to help with cleaning projects on the grounds. They told us that the large flat area of the temple roof is carpeted and the rumor about a second Angel Moroni laying unseen on the roof is true. (I have four witnesses.) The local story is that for some reason, a second, larger Angel Moroni was brought to the temple to replace the original. They were having trouble getting the first Moroni off his post when the sun broke through the clouds and radiated off him and a rainbow circled his head. (Several people have told me they have a picture of this phenomenon.) This was obviously a sign to them that he was to stay in his place, so the second angel was just laid on his side on the roof out of sight."
I guess you just can't argue with a rainbow halo, can you?