POCATELLO — Elders Jeppesen and Willson aren’t afraid to be a little different.
The missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear the same black badge, white shirt, tie and slacks that many others do, but they tend to stand out in the Pocatello area where they serve.
Elder Jeppesen, who has dwarfism, stands only 3 feet 8 inches tall “on a good day,” he jokes. And Elder Willson, a 5-foot-10-inch Australian, speaks with an accent.
The memorable missionaries tend to draw attention, but they think that’s a good thing. After all, they’ve both traveled to the area to talk to people about the gospel of Jesus Christ and they believe their unique qualities help them share that message.
“We love being different and (being) able to connect with people because of it,” Jeppesen said.
The elders’ unique characteristics not only make for great conversation starters, but they think they also make them more relatable. Because they’re not the only people around who feel a little different.
That’s actually one of the reasons why Jeppesen wanted to serve a mission. He wanted to reach out to those who feel they have a hard time fitting in.
“Through our message about Jesus Christ, we want everybody to feel like (they can) be included,” Jeppesen said. “Coming from someone who’s different, maybe that means a little bit more.”
Jeppesen says they want to invite people to Jesus Christ and help them understand that they “truly matter and are truly important” in his eyes.
“Christ embraces us all, and we all become refined through him,” he said.
Willson says he learned of Christ’s love for him when he was young, and today, he doesn’t shy away from sharing his love for his Savior with others. That’s what prompted him to travel half way across the world to serve a mission.
“Ultimately, Christ is the message and I’m the messenger,” he said.
The elders are just two of the tens of thousands of men and women currently serving missions for the church. Based on the New Testament pattern of missionary work, they serve in pairs as they teach the gospel and baptize believers in the name of Jesus Christ, according to the church’s website. The men and women — mostly young adults under the age of 25 — are volunteers who self-fund their missions.
Single men, known as elders, typically serve for two years and single women, called sisters, usually serve for 18 months, according to the church’s website.
Willson has been serving for the past 17 months, and he says it’s been a privilege to witness firsthand how the gospel changes people’s lives.
“This message is the single most empowering thing we know. It’s why we wake up every morning with a (missionary) badge on our pocket,” Willson said.
And he’s enjoyed sharing that message at Jeppesen’s side.
The elders have worked together for two and a half months, but their companionship came to an end this week.
Jeppesen, who is from Sandy, Utah, is one of many missionaries having to go home a little earlier than expected due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, Jeppesen says he’s enjoyed serving people in the area over the past 20 months.
“I didn’t know if I’d be able to have a chance to go out on a (full-time) mission due to my health,” he said, adding that he’s happy he did. “I’ve been blessed from what I’ve been given for sure.”
Jeppesen wants to become a writer in the future, but he says he plans to continue sharing the gospel, too.
“I’ll be a missionary for the rest of my life as well,” he said.
In the meantime, Willson says he will continue serving in the Pocatello area with other missionary companions for the foreseeable future.
“If you see us around, say, ‘Hi,’” he said, adding that they have a message about Jesus Christ that they are always willing to share.
For more information, people can contact the elders at 208-840-1053 or visit the “Idaho Pocatello Mission” on Facebook.