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Missionary Culture Night offers space for students to swap stories and learn about world customs

Three students attending the missionary event sit at a table with mission memorabilia on it.

Peach fruit cups representing Georgia, Arrowroot biscuits from Fiji, and baguettes lining a French flag were just a few of the items displayed underneath the Hale Pavilion on Feb. 26. Students, returned missionaries, and others gathered to participate in an event dubbed “Missionary Culture Night” by the Residential Assistant (RA) Spiritual Committee.

One of the RAs in charge of organizing the event, Sierra Ford, a senior from California majoring in psychology, said they hosted the missionary night because this is a time when people are preparing to serve missions.

“A lot of students will come [to BYU–Hawaii] for a year, and then they’ll go on a mission. This is a time when they’re getting ready for that, so [the goal was] to motivate them, help them to look forward to it and share experiences with others.”

Garrett Jensen, a senior from Oregon majoring in business management, also helped organize the event and agreed it had a lot to do with “mission call season.”

“It’s a way to help people know what to expect and to see another side of their peers. The students and the senior missionaries around here have a lot of cool stories and can essentially help other people prepare for their missions,” explained Jensen.

Members of the RA Spiritual Committee set up four tables of about two or three different returned missionaries at each table with posters, pictures and food representing their respective missions.

Jensen said he hoped to get a different mission from each region of the world. The missions included places such as France, Madagascar, Fiji, Germany, Washington, D.C., the Netherlands, Tonga, and Brazil.

“Being a senior, most of my friends are also RMs, and so I knew people who served in a lot of different places,” said Jensen. “I reached out to them, and we had other members of the committee reach out to other friends. We got some people who were busy, but we actually got a fair amount of ‘Yeses,’ because I think most people do like to talk about their missions.”

People began to wander over as the committee started playing some missionary songs, and students began to eat and talk. Conversation buzzed as students swapped mission stories and shared their excitement and love for their missions.

“I guess I expected more people to be talking about their personal experiences and talking about specific people,” said Tatum Sammons, a junior from Arizona majoring in communications who attended the event. “But it was cool to see that they actually did learn about the country too.”

Sammons served in the Illinois Nauvoo Mission and said she especially enjoyed the table about the Madagascar mission. It included sugar-coated nuts as a common snack in Madagascar, a piece of woodworking of a miniature baobab tree, which Madagascar is famous for, and a Malagasy Book of Mormon.

Hannah Smock, a senior from New York majoring in graphic design, presented on her mission in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “The mission was definitely one of the best experiences to help me not only progress in the gospel, but also progress in so many other skills,” said Smock.

“I didn’t know that it was going to be like that, where I would be talking to so many people as much as I did, or figuring out problems with companions. It’s helped me so much in my relationships now, not only being married, but in class too. The mission helps with everything, and I want everyone to see the crazy and amazing experiences you can have if you decide to serve.”

Ford and Jensen both said they were happy with the turnout despite a few bumps in the road. “It started off a little rough, definitely. We could have been a lot more prepared, but by the end, I think it went pretty well,” said Ford.

“Maybe more decorations would be good or a way to get more people over here, but I feel like as I stepped back and watched it, I [realized] there were a good amount of people. They seemed to be enjoying themselves and learning.”

Jensen added, “This is something that can be improved upon. It can definitely be [expanded]. It would be easier to do indoors where it’s not as windy where we can have more free conversation, but I think this would be a good kind of regular activity since people are always coming back and leaving on missions.”