All missionaries in The Church of Latter-day Saints serve with a companion. Couple missionaries serve together, while the young elders and sisters serve with companions they haven't met.
The same is true for single adult missionaries who go as senior missionaries to help spread the Gospel. Sister Ruth Naylor is one of the single senior missionaries who left her Kaysville home to serve in the Africa Southeast Area office.
She is currently serving in Africa, where she has been since September 2012. In an email she explained how an area is different from a regular mission.
"I am in the Africa Southeast Area serving as a senior missionary. Being in an area is vastly different than being in a mission. Our area includes Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Kenya, Uganda, and all countries south, including Madagascar. Thus, serving in an area is much broader than a mission. The Johannesburg Temple is directly next to us and working in the FHC (Family History Center) provides me the opportunity to help patrons with their genealogy and consequently their temple work."
She learned there are just a few single seniors who serve missions.
"Those who do have strong testimonies of Jesus Christ and a passion to serve," she said.
As with young missionaries, single senior missionaries do not know their companion ahead of time. But unlike the younger missionaries, the senior missionaries do not change companions during their mission. And with all missionaries there is an adjustment period.
Sister Naylor's companion is Sister Taylor, from England. They work together, live in the same apartment, shop together and go sight-seeing together.
Sister Naylor and Sister Taylor attend a tiny branch of the church. A branch has a much smaller congregation, but is similar to a ward. They have gotten to know the church members as well as the patrons who visit the FHC through the Church Patron Assisted Program.
"Their testimonies are strong. Their spirits are inspirational. Their struggles and sacrifices are beyond belief, but their desire to attend the temple, be sealed as families, and to place names in their genealogical records is astounding. They have to work very hard to obtain information because there are no written records, and so they must meet with their elders and glean anything possible," Sister Naylor explained.
Sister Naylor has a great love for both the people and the country.
"I have grown to love all the African people and learn of their cultures, their sacrifices, and their struggles just to live on a day-to-day basis. To know them is to love them," she said in an email.
She has enjoyed visiting various parts of Africa. And has found a few surprises while there.
"I never envisioned it to be so beautiful, so picturesque, so unique in its landscape that sometimes it appears like southern Utah and at other times a lovely heath in England. It is as diverse as its people," she wrote.
"The initial surprise I had in Johannesburg was experiencing the rolling thunder. I had read the words in various pieces of literature but never experienced the constant and consistent rolling. My next surprise was attending the little branch in Tsakane, hearing the Xhosa language with all its tongue clicking. I am unable to make the sounds, but to listen to the people speak is mesmerizing," said Sister Naylor.
At times she and her companion open their home to patrons who travel long distances to visit the temple and FHC. Recently the patron housing was full, so they invited two ladies to stay with them and they took them to dinner. One of the women had never eaten out. She was used to pap (the corn meal that is rolled into balls and eaten with fingers) and a bit of meat for all three meals. So when she had the opportunity to eat out, she chose a salad because she wanted something green. The poor cannot afford fruit and vegetables and so they basically eat pap with a form of gravy or various dips to place the ball of mealy meal into before eating, Sister Naylor explained in her weekly email.
"We gave them the fruit salad from our refrigerator to eat on the way home, a four-hour trip," Sister Naylor wrote. And sometimes they invite senior missionary couples to enjoy a meal with them in their home.