At an age when most recent high school graduates are busy deciding which job to take or which college to attend, two Taneytown residents are prepared to spend two years as missionaries for their church.
Kyle Stephenson, 19, of Tuscarora Trail and Shauna Bere, 20, of Carnival Drive have decided to join the missionary program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mr. Stephenson left Monday for a missionary training program in Provo, Utah -- where he will stay for two months until he heads to Rosario, Argentina. Ms. Bere will leave next Monday for a two-year stint in Utah.
The two are among several Carroll County residents participating in the Mormon program. More than 48,000 Mormon missionaries work worldwide, church officials said.
"They're expected to be out there, they need to be out there, to spread the word," said Roberta White, the public communications officer for the Mormon congregation in Westminster. "They're sort of raised with the expectation that they will go on a mission."
She said that, like all missionaries in the program, Ms. Bere and Mr. Stephenson will support themselves with money from their savings, from family and from the church's general missionary funds.
The missionary program has its roots in the earliest days of the church, Ms. White said. Joseph Smith, who founded the church in the 1830s, believed in the importance of spreading good works and "the truth" to people all over the world, Ms. White said.
"I'm really proud of him," said Cindy Stephenson, Kyle's mother. "I don't think this is something a lot of youths today would choose to do, to be willing to sacrifice two years of schooling and sports."
Mr. Stephenson was a standout athlete at Francis Scott Key High School before he graduated in June. Like his older brother, Rick -- who was a missionary in Costa Rica -- he will live among villagers in meager accommodations.
"It really strengthens them," Ms. Stephenson said. "When they come back, they have a grasp of what's going on in the world. We are a bit spoiled here."
Ms. Bere will leave Monday for Provo, where she will be trained for an 18-month stint as a tour guide at the Salt Lake Temple Visitors Center in Salt Lake City, where the church has its headquarters.
A graduate of Lansdowne High School in Baltimore County, Ms. Bere spent a year at Ricks College, a Mormon junior college in Idaho,
She says she "enjoys the slower-paced West" because the people there are "so kind and friendly."
This mission will be Ms. Bere's second. When she was 15, she participated in a minimission that prepared her for the Utah assignment.
Ms. Bere is the daughter of Michele and Wayne Bere.
Ms. White said the missionary program is one way the Mormon church tries to attract new members. The church, she said, has grown from about 7.3 million in 1989 to more than 8.6 million.
Three Mormon congregations are in Carroll: the 250-member Hampstead ward, the 300-member Westminster ward and the 200-member congregation in Mount Airy.