While their peers are heading off to college, four friends from Buena High School in Sierra Vista will be scattering across the globe to serve as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have made the choice to place education and other life goals on hold to serve their fellowmen. “This is something I’ve always looked forward to doing,” Porter Bramwell said, “I will be serving among the Amish people, and I am excited.” “This is something I’ve always looked forward to doing,” Porter Bramwell said, “I am excited.”
While Bramwell works in Pennsylvania, Brooklyn Whitney is serving in Santa Ana, California, concentrating on sharing the gospel through Facebook to Spanish-speaking people. Britt Ellsworth has to learn Spanish in Guatemala City before he begins his work in that country. And Ammon Sieler will be serving in the Marshall Islands, speaking Marshallese. None of them knew where they would be going until they received their letters from the Presidency of the Church. This is the scenario for the over 83,000 missionaries now serving throughout the world.Going on a mission is a little different than going off to college.Going on a mission is a little different than going off to college. The young men will serve for two years and Whitney for 18 months without returning home. They will communicate by mail and/or email with their families every week, but are only allowed to make phone calls on Mother’s Day and Christmas unless there are special circumstance. They are given into the care of mission presidents and their wives, who oversee all missionary activities in their assigned areas.
All of the friends received their assignments with faith. Brooklyn Whitney was originally asked to serve in Argentina, but health issues caused a revision of her plans. “At first,” said her mother Alesha, “she was very disappointed. But she sat down at the piano that night and played ‘I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go’ (Hymns 270). She has been in California for two weeks now [as of this interview] and loves it.”
“I had no idea where this country was before my mission call,” said Ammon Sieler with enthusiasm. The Marshall Islands are in the Pacific, “halfway between Hawaii and the Philippines.”
Britt Ellsworth will spend his time in the Retalhuleu Guatemala Mission. His dad said, “The town [Retalhuleu] is in the Pacific coastal region of Guatemala and has a strong Aztec influence. He will work with many of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala.” Ellsworth is anxious to be out teaching the people after being in the language training center in Guatemala City. “They are still feeding us American food. I want some Guatemalan food,” he told his parents.
Porter Bramwell is enthusiastic about going to the Pittsburg Pennsylvania Mission. “When I opened the envelope announcing my mission call, I felt the surety that this was where I was supposed to serve. I started to cry.”
Why do they want to serve in this way? Ammon Sieler explained, “I have wanted to serve a mission since I was a little boy. I am named after one of the greatest missionaries there is,” referring to Ammon in the Book of Mormon. And Whitney has always loved teaching and serving those around her, so a mission fit her character completely. “I have wanted to serve a mission since I was a little boy,” Ammon Sieler explained.
All of the young adults are high achievers, participating in extracurricular activities and taking heavier course loads than the average student. “I took honors classes and tried taking many different types of courses including Spanish, sports medicine and criminal justice,” Sieler said. Ellsworth earned a full scholarship to NAU, which he will use after his mission. He took many advanced placement classes. “I graduated with honors,” he said.
The boys are Eagle Scouts, and Whitney earned the Church’s equivalent of that award for young women. Sieler was on the varsity track team, and Bramwell led a secret life as Buena High mascot, “Bucky.”
They have also had the examples of their families to teach them community service. Britt Ellsworth, for example, is the son of Martin Ellsworth, the recently retired principal of Valley View Elementary school in Palominas, and his mother Holly teaches special education classes. Bramwell’s mom (Kym) is an RN at the local hospital. The fathers of Whitney (Scott), Sieler (Curtis) and Bramwell (Scott) are all retired military.
“My parents taught me to do my best and apply myself,” Ellsworth said. He did this by arising early every morning and catching the bus to the high school for early band practice. He played the clarinet. Bramwell also played in the band: the trumpet. “And I play the guitar and sang in the high school choirs,” he said.
The four attended church and youth meetings regularly as well as participating in Seminary, a four-year course of scripture study for high school students. “Seminary was a great thing for me,” Sieler said. “I had a great teacher who really loved his class. I can’t imagine getting a young man ready for a mission without seminary.”
“What I like the best about my calling is that all of my friends and I are going at the same time,” Sieler also remarked. That of course means that the boys will all come home about the same time, although Whitney will arrive ahead of them. No doubt they will stay in touch during their missions, sharing their experiences and bolstering one another, just as they have always done. Then they will rejoin their peers in pursuit of careers and family, armed with the experiences that many returned missionaries refer to as the best years of their lives.