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Mormons on mission in Lehigh

June 15, 2012
By MEL TOADVINE (mtoadvine@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Don't ask the four young Mormon men who are in Lehigh Acres on a mission for their church if Mitt Romney, a fellow Mormon, might win the presidential election in November.

The four men say they were assigned to this area, Lehigh Acres and some surrounding areas, and they have not had any time to see TV or listen to the radio news and besides, they don't talk politics when they are on assigned missions for the church.

Two of the men, who are called "elders" are 19 and two are 20. They did not know each other when assigned to do their mission in Lehigh, but have become good friends and are enjoying Lehigh and meeting the people here.

Article Photos

MEL TOADVINE
These four young elders or missionaries of the Mormon Church took a morning last week to paint outside furniture at the Fountain Crest retirement community. The four are Troy Perry, Cody Titmus, Haydn Waite, and Paris Elliott.

The four are: Troy Perry, 19, of Bountiful, Utah, who has been in Lehigh for six months; Cody Titmus, 20, of Orem, Utah; Haydn Waite, 19, from Logandale, Nevada; and Paris Elliott 20 from New York City.

Many times when you see young Mormon missionaries in town, they are dressed with white shirts and ties and often on bicycles. But these young men have a car in addition to their bikes.

In past years, young elders assigned to Lehigh only rode bikes to get around, but the weather is so hot that a car has been assigned in recent years. And besides, because of the vast area of Lehigh, a car is a must to get around.

One day last week, the four young men were at Fountain Crest, the retirement community on Taylor Lane Extended. They were not wearing white shirts and ties, but regular clothes because they were painting outside furniture for the residents of the retirement complex.

The staff at Fountain Crest brought them cold drinks and lunch while they were out in the hot sun with brushes and cans of paint.

Usually, young Mormon missionaries spend two years as volunteers that are assigned to different communities around the country.

"It's a voluntary thing that we do as elders after school. Most young Mormons participate in the program," said Troy Perry, who has been in Lehigh the longest so far, six months.

The young men live in a duplex provided by the Mormon Church in Lehigh, which is located on the corner of Richmond Ave. and E. Third Street.

"Our mission is to bring people to Christ and to help wherever we can," Perry said.

Tom Palumbo, a retiree living at Fountain Crest says they are his "super stars."

"They are great young men and willing to do whatever they can to help people," he said.

"Two years ago, I asked Theresa Perkins, the director at the Lehigh Senior Citizen Center, about asking for help at Fountain Crest from the Mormon missionaries. Theresa is a member of the church and she was happy to help and was able to get the church to refer two young men here to help the residents and to minister to them, too," said Palumbo, who has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies.

The young men work under the leadership of a mission from Tampa to Southwest Florida.

While in Lehigh, they said they are active in the Mormon Church and often visit with those who have not attended recently. They also have invited many to the church and several have become members of the church through baptism.

Paris Elliott, the 20-year-old from New York, said he has taken a religious leave of absence from the U.S. Marine Corps. When his time is up, he will return to the military, and possibly be sent to Afghanistan.

Perry said he has personally brought nine or 10 local residents to the church where they now have become members. It's the same with Waite who has brought two members into the Englewood Mormon Church. Titmus and Elliott spend much of their time ministering to the Haitian and Creole community in the area and Titmus has brought six members into the church community.

While in the area, they meet and talk to people on the streets and often visit with people in their homes to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them.

When they are not doing missionary work as such, you might find them doing other things for the local people.

"We are painting today for Fountain Crest. These are great people here and we are happy to help out," said Troy Perry.

The others said they have done such things as cut lawns and one said he even helped someone wall paper a room in their home.

"The people here in Lehigh are very friendly," Paris Elliott said.

While on their missions, the young men are prohibited from dating.

"We are here to protect our members by ministering to them and to talk to others about our religion," Elliott said.

The young men said they have discovered there are a lot of misconceptions about the Mormon religion.

"Some people ask us how many parents we have and such other things that are not true," one of them said, laughing. "We tell them about our church and let them know our mission is to lead people to Christ," said one of the men.

They said they realize that many of the people in the area are going through some hard times and that, they say, makes them sad.

If you see them they travel in twos they hope you will stop them just to meet and talk.

"It is a great learning experience as a missionary," one of them said.

And friendships are built by the many young men that often last for years. Most of the time, the young missionaries do not know the others who have also been assigned to a certain area.

"All I can tell you about them is that they are great young men, ready to help others all the time," said Tom Palumbo, the gentleman at Fountain Crest who calls the young men his "super stars."

 
 

 

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