Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, is about as rural as it gets. Of the 707 residents living in Horseshoe Bend, nine are serving as full-time missionaries for the Church. These nine missionaries include Sister JoAnna Walker, and Elders Calvin Marshall, Taylor Jenkins, Brandon Long and Nicholas Greiner, as well as two sets of brothers: Elders Jacob and Jared Black and Elders Derek and Dillon Flake.
Even more notable is that these nine young people hail not from a large ward, but rather, from a small branch of just 75 active members. Though small in numbers, this rural branch provides its youth with a weekly missionary preparation class taught by a former mission president which provides instruction that further supplements missionary training provided by the Emmett Idaho Stake's monthly youth missionary preparation meeting and its annual Aaronic Priesthood Camp. Martin Walker, president of the Emmett Idaho Stake, notes, "Serving a mission places a young person on a course that will affect generations … as a stake we do everything we can to prepare young people for mission service."
As a result of these efforts, 12 percent of the active branch membership serves as full-time missionaries. Additionally, two other youth in the Horseshoe Bend Branch are anxious to join their fellow missionaries and are quickly approaching their goal of being called to full-time missionary service. Their addition to the ranks will result in nearly 15 percent of the Horseshoe Bend Branch's active membership participating in full-time missionary service.
Ironically, these rural Idaho youth have been called to serve missions in the largely metropolitan areas of San Antonio, Texas; Philadelphia, Pa., Los Angeles, Calif.; Washington D.C.; Ogden, Utah; Tucson, Ariz.; San Diego, Calif.; and Dallas, Texas, as well as Guam. While some teach the gospel in their native English, others are teaching in Korean and Spanish.
"It is very rewarding for our small congregation to read about the growth of our young missionaries in their letters to the branch," commented Rob Greiner, president of the Horseshoe Bend Branch. A sampling of recent correspondence gives evidence of this growth.
Before she decided to serve a mission, Sister JoAnna Walker (California Riverside Mission) wrote: "My sister had just passed away after a four-year battle with cancer [and] I was at a stage in my life where I felt very, very alone. So … what does my mission mean to me? EVERYTHING! I will always have a best friend (Christ) to be there with me."
Elder Derek Flake (California San Fernando Mission) wrote: "Being a missionary has changed my life in ways I hadn't really imagined … an experience like this could only be from God."
Elder Nicholas Greiner (Washington D.C. North Mission) added: "My mission has not only allowed me to feel the love of the Savior, but it has allowed me to feel, at least a little, how He feels about each and every one of us."
Elder Jared Black (Arizona Tucson Mission) wrote: "As I teach and talk to people, I find myself relying on the Savior … already I have been experiencing miracles."
Elder Dillon Flake (Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission) wrote: "Serving a mission is the single best decision I've ever made and most worthwhile thing I've ever done with my life."