James and Sara Perry are serving in the Virginia Richmond Mission as President and Mission Mom.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.

I’m not sure if Aristotle left out love on purpose or if he included it in “passion”. I have learned it’s difficult to love someone you haven’t served, or in other words, you learn to love those whom you serve. Love causes or motivates one to action. John said of Jesus, “we love Him because He first loved us”. (1 John 4:19)

Missionaries love those whom they serve and this “cause” motivates them to action and builds within them a desire to serve others without first knowing them.

Missionary service is hard work! Some out there have a misperception that Mormon missionaries have a message to deliver and do not listen or are oblivious to another point of view or philosophy, this is fallacy. Every day they rise early, pray, study scripture, some study a foreign language and then they head out for the day in search of someone who will listen to their message of restoration and hope or find an individual who simply needs service. They meet people from all walks of life who share their diverse philosophies and religious beliefs with these earnest missionaries. The resulting effect is dramatic as the missionaries knowledge of the world grows and expands in this daily laboratory of human nature and behavior.

Though their goal is to find new converts, they understand this will be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, yet they press forward. What motivates them to do so day after day, week after week and month after month? Most will tell you it’s their love for the people they serve. Many will quickly add they are enjoying the journey of who they are “becoming” in the process of serving others. Their faith in Christ increases during a mission. Prayers become more poignant and focused, scripture study becomes more meaningful and self-less service matures even the most self centered individuals. They study Christ-like attributes and try to follow His example of love and service.

Missionaries learn to lift the heavy hands that hang down and they encourage the hopeless and overwhelmed in society. They learn for themselves something a Book of Mormon prophet tried to teach his people. He said, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow human beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

We have worked with hundreds of missionaries over the past two and half years and continue to marvel as they leave family, friends and the comforts of home, to serve others. We are impressed how they learn to love people from a diversity of social, economic and religious backgrounds.

Our missionaries come to us from many different countries around the globe, many from very humble circumstances. Some even come from the land known as Utah.

Several of our children have served missions. They learned the language, customs and culture of the respective countries in which they were called to labor. This increased their love for the people and increased their motivation to act. It created within them a desire to help wherever and whenever they could find opportunity. Richard loves all things Brazilian from his service in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Joseph loves the people, language and beauty of Norway and Courtney is now a lifelong Hoosier fan from her time in Indiana.

This type of service is replicated all over the world and changes individuals, which changes society; for the better, in my opinion.

I often think what our world would look like 20 years from now if all our young adults served missions for their churches or signed up for the Peace Corp or Americorps for a year or two. We would raise a generation more tolerant, more compassionate and more understanding of others.

We too have been changed by our service in Virginia these past two and a half years. We have learned our capacity to love has increased dramatically. We have met people here from all over the world with diverse cultures, circumstance and backgrounds. I’m convinced there is no limit to ones capacity to love others if we will first serve them.

Mission news: We are well served. I have a new first counselor since our last update, Ron Bennion. He served as a mission president in Guatemala and brings wonderful insights and experience to the team. Frank Ramsey is still serving as my second counselor. He turned seventy this past year but still practices medicine in the emergency room of a local hospital. He is kind, gracious and has spent a lifetime serving the physical and spiritual needs of others. I never take for granted having a doctor on board.

I have had several more assistants helping me as well; Elders Rogers, Farr and Dransfield have served well are returned home. Now serving are two more capable assistants in a long line of remarkable assistants, Elders Nuemeyer and Swanson.

Sara’s sister Diana and her husband Ralph joined us as a senior mission couple. They are serving in an inner city branch in Richmond. Our new office secretary is Sister Reeves whom we recruited from Seattle, she is amazing and replaced Sister Riendeau. Sister Romney has replaced Sister Langford as the supply and referral secretary. She is fun and plays the piano for us in the office to lighten the load. The Lebarron’s were replaced by Elder and Sister Tolman on finance and vehicles. They have the responsibility to pay the bills and keep 91 vehicles road worthy. Elder Medsker is serving a church service mission as our office manager. His assignment includes housing which is a constant challenge. He too, is a transplant from Seattle’s Capitol Hill area.

We have visited almost every branch, ward and stake (some several times) since our arrival here back in July 2010. I think it’s safe to say I know Virginia and the Outer banks of North Carolina almost as well as the locals.

The people are friendly, the weather is good and the beauty of this place will be indelibly impressed in our hearts and mind.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rekindling the Inner Spirit

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit". Albert Schweitzer

As I write another mission update I realize we have had 100% turnover of our missionary compliment since our arrival in June of 2010. Hundreds have come and gone - how we miss them! Their replacements however, rekindle my inner spirit with their enthusiasm and determination to make a contribution during their tenure in the Virginia, Richmond mission.

The pace is relentless. Challenges are constant. The drama of living and breathing and co-existing continues to plague individuals and families, yet the blessings of the work and the goodness of many kind human beings overshadows the hardships and difficulties.

I’m grateful for the goodness of my fellow sojourners who make time to leave convenience and comfort to serve others. They rekindle my inner spirit. Additionally, we have met many good and caring people from a diversity of backgrounds and philosophies who are determined to build a better society; they too rekindle my inner spirit.

I love to witness the growth that comes from the conversion of selfishness to selflessness. I am not naïve to the reality that selfishness, cynicism and fear are on the rise but everyday we meet people who are the antidotes to the rising skepticism in society. These good people feed the hungry, clothe the naked and bring spiritual and emotional succor and relief to the suffering. They rekindle my inner spirit.

Injustice is a constant in every society and just when one group finds resolution and restitution for inequities, another emerges from the periphery in need of help. The sound of the injustice trump sounds louder and louder with every passing day.

Injustice and inequity are the hard realities in this life. Why some are born into the difficult circumstances of poverty, oppression, sickness (mental and physical), and abuse, will be debated by philosophers, theologians, politicians and lawyers long after I leave this mortal existence. Nevertheless, another reality is that no one gets a free pass from trials and tribulation.

I do know that all have equal access to Christ’s atoning sacrifice and as we accept His invitation into Discipleship we will find peace and perspective in our mortal journey. Proverbs 29:18 reminds us, “Where there is no vision the people perish”. Without vision and perspective, hope diminishes, allowing the not so, dynamic duo, of cynicism and sarcasm, to enter into our hearts. When this happens, selflessness gradually turns to selfishness and skepticism and distrust of others takes root.

Missionary work brings out the peacemaker in each of us. The voice of the peacemaker may appear to be getting drowned out by the escalating angry voices of the masses, but be assured; they are there and are making a difference. They don’t make the nightly news but they are ever present in society, quietly loving, comforting and encouraging while trying to bring aid to the temporal and spiritual needs of others.

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”. Peacemakers understand “A soft answer turneth away wrath but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Peacemakers understand forgiveness liberates individuals from the bondage of anger, resentment and oppression. Peacemakers may not start out as peacemakers but learn a great principle in the process of serving others; you learn to love those whom you serve.

Missionary work turns most individuals into peacemakers as they learn to serve others with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds from their own. This education is invaluable because they learn to love others for whom they are, independent of their political or philosophical differences. This is one of the reasons missionary work is so vitally important in the peacemaking process. The work of the peacemaker is still generally accomplished one person at a time. Missionaries are in the business to rekindle the inner spirit. The miracle of it all is that they rekindled their own inner spirit while doing the same for others.

Welcome to my personal, introspective, written therapy session. I hope as you read and observe you will discover I’m still an eternal optimist; I believe there are more peacemakers out there than angry people.

Now to the not so cerebral: Sara and family are well. Sara is doing well trying to help administer to the sick and afflicted, missionary compliment. She is also working to eradicate bed bugs in the Northeast. She also manages to find time for her many creative endeavors; too many to name in this blog edition. Suffice it to say she is busy and therefore, happy.

Christena, Tyler and family are working hard and are light years ahead of where I was as a parent. Their four children are doing well. Julia, their youngest, recently broke her leg but seems to be recovering quickly.

Esther received her Masters degree in “Counseling Psychology” this past weekend and we watched her walk thanks to a streaming internet connection set up by a stake president while attending his stake conference. She is working her internship at Sound Mental Health in Redmond, WA and is still teaching a church institute class in Seattle once a week.

Courtney graduated and has almost completed her teaching certificate and will be in Washington DC in the fall to begin an internship teaching art in inner city schools.

Richard is working hard on his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He is also working on his black belt in combat Hop Kee Do. We didn’t see this one coming; he was planning to be a music major.

Joseph has six months left on his two year mission to Norway and is currently on the west coast of Norway in beautiful Alesund. Google it, it’s breathtaking. He is learning his third dialect.

Eliza is keeping very busy this summer with a wilderness trek, girl’s camp, horseback riding and a trip with Emma to the Northwest at the end of July. Eliza is now playing the Ukulele in addition to the piano.

Emma has started a blog and is babysitting to earn spending money for her trip to Washington State. She is also horseback riding and is taller than Eliza for those who have not seen her in a couple of years. She has picked up the guitar in addition to the piano.

I’m doing well. I’m the non-fiction person in the family. Every family must have one to balance all the color and fiction, or is it the other way around.

I have two new assistants, Elders Rogers and Farr. They carry a heavy load and I’m grateful for their support. Sara and I have covered most of the geography of the mission now. We have been to beautiful Franklin, WV in the Shenandoah mountain range, through the inner city of Richmond and down through Newport News, and Virginia beach and to the beautiful sandy beaches of the outer banks of North Carolina.

I’m down one counselor and hope to rectify that shortly. Rodolfo (Tino) Hamblin was recently called into the recently reorganized Newport News stake presidency. He is sorely missed but will do great things.

We have had a big increase in our senior missionary compliment. We now enjoy the services of 34 senior missionaries that bring wisdom, hard work and support to five areas: office support, medical support, military relations, church education and member and leadership support. They are all remarkable in experience and dedication. Sara’s sister Diana and her husband Ralph will be joining us at the end of July. They will serve here as senior missionaries serving in downtown Richmond replacing the Meredith’s, who were recently called to preside over the California, San Francisco/Oakland Mission beginning next week.

It’s hot and muggy again but I don’t mind it at all, Virginia is beautiful at anytime of the year. Thanks to family and friends for your love, kindness and support. You have truly rekindled my inner spirit.



Monday, November 7, 2011

A year in updates!

(Perryville, PA)

Dear family and friends:

The old folks are often heard to say, time goes by too quickly. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since we updated our blog. Yikes! Where does the time go? Wait, the old folks say that too? I guess I’m one of them now. I certainly feel it in my bones. :)

There is too much to cover in one sitting but I’ll try to give you a synopsis of events. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 missionaries have completed their missions and have gone home since we’ve been here, while an equal number of missionaries have replaced the outgoing missionaries assigned to the Virginia, Richmond mission.

Earth wind and Fire:
This past year has been remarkable in many ways. We experienced many natural disasters beginning with a large number of tornadoes during the month of April. Virginia and North Carolina were hard hit and many lives were impacted.

August brought a rare earthquake to Virginia. The epicenter was in Mineral Springs, Virginia, not too far from here. The west coast had fun poking us over the size of the small (5.6) quake but the damage was real and the surprise was how quickly the phone systems failed with a heavy overload on the system. Sara and I were in a zone conference with about 45 missionaries when it hit. I was in the middle of a passionate sermon when it hit. One wise cracking elder stated, “President Perry, I have never been so moved with your words as I have been today”.

Hurricane Irene came in on the heals of the earthquake. We had more time to prepare but it wasn’t free of trials and tribulation. We evacuated 85 missionaries from the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the tidewater areas of Virginia and brought them into the greater Richmond area for their safety. The damage was primarily a loss of power and downed trees everywhere. Some missionaries were without power for two weeks. We spent two weeks in clean up mode which brought plenty of service projects our way. The church provided generators to small clinics and some elderly people who are dependant on electricity to power oxygen tanks etc. Additionally, food, water and chain saws were provided to assist in the clean up.

Ok, you may ask, “what about fire? You mentioned fire”. In Suffolk, Virginia (borders North Carolina) 6,300 acres of the (not making this up) Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, has been burning for months. Many had hoped hurricane Irene would finally put it out, but alas, it’s still burning and the smoke and haze has been problematic for many with respiratory issues.

The good news for the mission is we are now a welled oiled machine when it comes to emergency preparedness! The funny part of this is that several missionaries upon their arrival in the mission field, shared feelings of disappointment when reading their assignment to Virginia and expressed a desire for a high adventure mission. They will have many tales to tell their grandchildren and I’m confident the stories will get better with time…

Mission life brings daily miracles that are often accompanied by the associated challenges. We are privileged to work with 200 young men, women and senior missionaries that have consecrated their time to the service of the Savior and their fellow man. This kind of sacrifice brings great spiritual and emotional growth into the lives of the young missionaries whose contemporaries are generally focused inward at this age; this contrast is significant. Sacrifice increases a missionary’s capacity to love their fellow man. The principle is you learn to love whom you serve.

We have enjoyed many visa waiters in addition to our compliment of missionaries. These are assigned temporarily to our mission while they wait for their visas to come through. Most of them are assigned to serve in Brazil.

I have now had many assistants come and go, including Elders Fraga, Doxey, Fairclough, and Rickson (who is serving out his last 6 weeks helping a lucky missionary). Elders Cook and Wheelock are currently serving in this capacity and doing an excellent job.

On a personal note Sara and I spent a few days with our children (except for Joseph who is serving an LDS mission in Norway) and grandchildren touring Washington DC this past summer. It was very fun.

Sara and I attended a mission president’s seminar in Palmyra, New York a couple of weeks ago. What a treat to be in the cradle of the restoration for instruction and reflection. The drive up was beautiful. We drove up through Maryland and Pennsylvania into upstate NY. We took some time and visited historic Gettysburg along the way.

Our children are faring well. Richard is working at Target and plans to attend VCU in the winter. He continues to take martial arts classes and plans on staying here after we leave. Eliza is still singing with her school choir and travels a bit. She has her drivers permit and is driving. Emma is still making and decorating cakes and has been listening to Christmas music since the middle of October. Both girls are taking piano lessons and continue as well, with their martial arts classes. Joseph loves his mission and the people of Norway and sends lots of pictures of beautiful fjords and rolling green hills. Christena, Tyler and their four children are busy with work, school, and church. Tyler did hit a milestone this past month when he turned “40”. Esther is getting ready to begin her internship working towards her master’s degree in clinical psychology and is burning the candle at both ends with work, school and teaching an institute of religion class. Courtney is working hard to finish up her Visual Arts major and teaching certificate. She is determined to teach in inner city schools and has her eye on Washington D.C.

Virginia is calm and beautiful again with the cool air of fall and the brilliant change of colors that is occurring from the Shenandoah mountain ranges to the beaches in Nags Head. One must make a point of visiting Virginia in the spring or fall, it’s truly breathtaking.

We feel very blessed and privileged to be involved in a work that brings hope to others in an increasingly cynical world. We are blessed to have the opportunity to shepherd so many impressive missionaries. I continue to marvel at the genius of imperfect people helping other imperfect people come closer to Christ, knowing both will be edified in the process. Discipleship may begin with a single event but requires an understanding that the process is a life long journey.

We send our love to each of you and are thankful for your love and prayers.

President Perry

(Palmyra Temple)

(Gettysburg, PA)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Here are some pictures from Virginia.

First is an adorable couple of owl cupcakes made by Emma.

Next we have dinner at the mission home with President and a couple of the Elders.

Trip to Monticello during Esther's visit. Here's Eliza and Emma.

In the spirit of Halloween, Esther and Joseph stayed up late to prank the family. Visions of gruesome proportions were found in the spice cupboard and the kitchen fridge.

It's amazing what a cheap batch of googly eyes, ketchup and red food coloring can do to condiments.

More adorable cupcakes from Emma!

Sister Missionaries enjoying dinner at the mission home.

Sister Perry and the other sister missionaries.

President Perry and some missionaries.

Learning to hula apparently.



And more scrumptious cupcakes by Emma! Way to go girl!

Friday, December 24, 2010

I Was Looking at My Hands the Other Day

I was looking at my hands the other day. They looked vaguely unfamiliar. I couldn’t put my finger (a little pun for you) on it for a while. Then suddenly it occurred to me. They’re clean. No purple under my fingernails from canning a hundred quarts of grape juice. No cuticles stained brown from working in the garden or canning peaches. No paint residue. No wounds from saws and sanders. The nails have grown out, my calluses are gone – my hands look normal. How weird.

Life is a little weird here too. We have been dealing with problems that are hard to nail down. Some of our missionaries suffer from mental health issues. It is interesting that a mission can bring those things to the surface. In a strange way I think it may be one of the blessings of serving a mission.

Away from home and separated from a lot of the habits that relieve stress – sometimes in healthy ways (i.e. playing the piano or guitar, going to a movie with friends, baking cookies, watching reruns of the Waltons on youtube, going to the gym, playing games with your family or friends, etc.) and sometimes in not so healthy ways (i.e. hours of tv, headphones, computer games, mind-numbing music, surfing the web, etc) missionaries have to dig down deep and find answers and coping mechanisms within themselves. Some missionaries find that stress and anxiety build up and become a problem to manage.

Missions are hard – and wonderful. They are the refiner’s fire and, if we have the right attitude, a party all at once. Most of our missionaries figure out how to climb up on the positive attitude wagon and their whole mission is like two years at a very intensive session of EFY; lots of camaraderie, lots of high-fives, and lots of interaction with the Spirit - with some down-days and opposition thrown in just to make it interesting. But not everyone is the same and some struggle finding their happy place on their mission. I can see that this will be one of our challenges – to help those that struggle and to keep from struggling ourselves.

Love to all of you,
Sara Perry

Christmas 2010 in Richmond, Virginia

This is a weird time of year for missionaries. It is both very hard and exquisitely sweet all at the same time. Everyone's homesick but most continue to be brave, committed and hardworking -- making things happen. Lots of baptisms scheduled for Saturday and it's supposed to snow like crazy here -- and this is a town that stops dead still for snow. Everyone panics. Courtney and Mom and Carol are coming that day. I hope we get them all here safe and sound!

Christena and Julia were here at the beginning of the month. It was such a sweet thing to have them here. The only bad part is that they had to go home – it reminded me of that part in “Mary Poppins” when she gets Uncle Albert to float down from the ceiling by depressing him with the news that it was time to go home. We were just the same – all of the fizz went out of us for a few days. But eventually we rallied and shook off the gloom – because Christmas is coming!!

We have our tree up and the house decorated. I find myself torn between taking care of missionaries and trying to maintain a somewhat normal life for Eliza and Emma. I am going to try and make 1200 German Sour Cream Twists in the next four days. Six for each missionary....they may have to settle for two or three.

Joseph is leaving for the Mission Training Center right after Christmas - he will fly into Salt Lake City on the 27th. One of our old AP's (he was just released a couple of months ago and lives in Draper), is picking him up from the airport - then Courtney is flying in that night. Joseph will have that Monday and Tuesday and then he will go into the MTC on Wed. Several of the missionaries from here, including one of our other assistants, are flying home on the 28th (Tues) and they all want to get together and take him to the MTC on Wed. Several of them will not even be released yet - they will still have on their nametags! Joseph has gotten pretty close to these Elders - he has gone on many exchanges with them because they serve in a singles ward near our house and they have to have a third person alone when they teach young women.

Our work here continues to move forward rapidly. Our testimonies grow as we see miracles, our hearts break when our missionaries have troubles. It's a very up and down world out here. James continues to go at an outrageous pace! He is so good at picking these missionaries up and dusting them off when they get discouraged -- then he sends them back out and amazingly they go right back to work -- they are so committed to the Lord.

We have two mission conferences on the 21st and the 23rd -- they will be our Christmas celebration with all the missionaries. The families in the wards in our mission have all taken part in getting little things together and making stockings for the missionaries - - all 178 or so of them. It was kind of crazy getting it all organized and we still don't know how it will work out -- we will be getting together with the senior missionaries next Monday to put them together-- yikes! We have been getting so many bags of this little gift and that little treat that they have collected -- everyone loves to take care of these Elders and Sisters. We are so grateful for that!

Small World Events: We went to the DC Temple with Joseph last Saturday and met some folks whose daughter is married to Harvey Glick’s son Brandon. Then we met a young man serving in the clothing distribution center who is the son of Leon Wilde who grew up in Second Ward in Seattle. He and I went to school together. We have since been in touch by E-mail – what a nice “coincidence”.

We hope that everyone is having a sweet Christmas this year. We always try to spend time reading about and thinking about our Savior Jesus Christ during this time. His mission and Atonement are the crowning events of all the ages. His gifts of repentance and resurrection reconcile us with our Heavenly Father and give meaning to our existence here. We love Him. We seek to serve Him. We are humbled by His love for all of Heavenly Father’s children. He is the “good news” that our missionaries offer to the world.

Love, Sara and James Perry

PS – Just a little note to tell you how crazy the snow makes everyone here – it’s supposed to snow tomorrow – so they cancelled school!!?? Already -- and it’s not even midnight! And it’s not even snowing!?? The girls are doing a dance in the kitchen.