Local couple returns from Philippines
Michel (Shell) and Susan Claybrook, of Wentworth, recently returned from the Philippines Quezon City Mission, where they served 14 months as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
They were part of the more than 67,000 full-time missionaries who are serving missions. Most missionaries are young people under the age of 25, serving in 399 missions throughout the world. Their original assignment was to be 18 months, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak they, like many missionaries throughout the world, returned home early. They served in the Mission Office, where they helped support the efforts of about 175 younger missionaries from all over the world called to serve in the Philippines. About half of the missionaries were Filipino, and the other half were from elsewhere. There are 23 different geographical Missions in the Philippines.
Mr. Claybrook was the mission clerk. Some of his duties were to take care of the mission vehicles, ordered teaching supplies, took care of all incoming and outgoing mail, entering records into the computer, etc. Mrs. Claybrook was the mission secretary and was in charge of all the incoming and outgoing missionaries, calendaring, communication, and correspondence with Missionaries parents and Church leaders, etc.
Prior to their calls to serve, they raised seven children in their home in Wentworth and they are proud grandparents to 25 grandchildren. Mr. Claybrook is retired from the retail and hearing aid industry and Mrs. Claybrook retired from the Monett public schools, where she was a secretary in an elementary office. They both enjoy working on and improving their land and love to share it with family members.
“Why would we go halfway around the world at our own expense and leave the comforts of home and all our kids and grandkids?” the Claybrooks said. “It is because we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it is our time to give back and help the Lord in his ministry. Missionary work has always been important in our family. When you know something to be true and that it will help others in their lives, you want to share that with others. We decided, when we got married, that we would serve missions when our children were all grown. So as soon as we could retire, we knew it was time to go. Putting in our mission papers for an assignment is a huge act of faith as missionaries do not choose where they serve.
“The Lord knows better than we do what we need and where we are needed…..we have total faith in that. When we got our call to serve in the Philippines, we were shocked and a little nervous as we knew nothing about the country or the people. Leaving our family, for what we figured would be a year-and-a-half, was very difficult, and exciting at the same time. As we got fully immersed in the mission work we were doing, we felt more and more comfortable with where we were and enjoyed working with the people and getting to know a new culture. Helping the young missionaries with their work of finding and teaching people was a joy for us.”
The Claybrooks said they felt their calling to bring the Gospel across the world.
“The Lord Jesus Christ is preparing people all over the World to hear and accept his Gospel,” they said. “Someone has to introduce the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all of God’s children. The missionaries help accomplish this with our support. We worked in the mission office, so were able to visit with and get acquainted with everyone that came in, missionaries, members of the church, and total strangers.
“It has been very fulfilling and gratifying work. We came home four months early, very quickly, as did all the missionaries serving in countries that are not theirs because of COVID-19. We are so thankful for the opportunity we had to serve the Lord by serving our fellowmen on the other side of the world. This experience has changed us for life. We saw and experienced things we never even dreamed of and have gained a greater appreciation for what we have here, and for how others can be so happy with so little in life. Happiness is a state of mind that has nothing to do with where one is, physically. Our plan is to serve again someday, wherever the Lord sends us.”
What does the future hold for the Claybrooks?
“Right now, our future is our family,” they said. “Taking care of aging parents, supporting our children, loving and playing with our grandchildren, and serving in the church locally is our plan for the near future. And, hopefully, we will have the chance to serve another mission or two down the road.”
Missionaries work with a companion of the same gender during their mission, with the exception of couples, who work with their spouse. Single men serve missions for two years, single women serve missions for 18 months, and couples serve from 18 months to 3 years. Missionaries receive their assignment from Church headquarters and are sent only to countries where governments allow the Church to operate. Missionaries do not request their area of assignment and do not know beforehand whether they will be required to learn a language.
For more information, people may visit www.churchofjesuschrist.org.