Adapting to life in DeSoto County involves far more than substituting “footballs” for soccer balls, Michael Liddle has discovered. Liddle, a native of Doncaster, England, has spent the last month adjusting to the cultural, culinary, political and economic environment of the United States, the country that will be his home for the next two years. Liddle arrived in Provo, UT for training as he began serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, and was then was sent to Florida. Liddle will serve for two years at his own expense, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of the Tampa Mission, of which the Arcadia Branch is a part.
Bryson Davies is Liddle’s companion while they serve in Arcadia, and they will teach in Spanish, a newly acquired language for both (one they admittedly are still working to master). Crosscountry running, exercising and staying fit were important to Davies in high school in Pleasant Grove, UT, and the discipline he learned then is helping him now. “When you ‘hit the wall,’ you have to reach in to find that motivation – that ‘go-to thing’ to help you through difficult times. But it’s just momentary. My go-to thing now is Jesus Christ and His Atonement.”
Arriving a few weeks earlier in Arcadia, Devon Kenyon and Layne McKenna serve members and non-members alike, giving service and teaching the gospel in English. Kenyon comes from Washington state, the eldest of eight children. He worked in a motorcycle dealership before following a mission. He said it wasn’t easy to leave that life for two years, but it became clear to him that serving a mission was what he needed to do. Now he doesn’t regret that decision at all, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. He calls Arcadia his favorite area of the five in which he has served, but don’t tell anyone he said so.
A soft-spoken yet powerful and dedicated McKenna is from Farmington, UT, where LDS meetinghouses are in every neighborhood with several Stake Centers in every town. He finds Arcadia and the Tampa Mission far less “compact.” He is the youngest of six kids, and he watched his brothers serve missions before him. He saw the changes in them when they returned, how they had matured and had life experiences. He knew that serving a mission when the time was right would be the right thing for him, too.
The decision to drop everything is not easy for any young man or woman in the Church. Yet more young people are deciding to do so. Since last year’s announcement that women can serve missions at age 19 and men at 18, unprecedented numbers of young people continue to fill out missionary applications. Women comprise more than half of the applicants.