BONIFAY — They are known for their formal attire, often riding bikes throughout town and sporting backpacks — they are missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and they are far from home.
During their time as missionaries, these young men and women must go far from home and drop their first names, replacing it with “Elder” during the duration of their mission trip.
Elder Sorenson’s hometown is Brighan City, Utah, Elder Atagi came from Ogden, Utah, Elder Egbert hails from West Richard, Wash., and Elder Mafi calls Kapolei, Hawaii, home — and all four young men have come to Bonifay to serve their time as missionaries.
“Our purpose of missionaries is to invite others to Christ and tell people about our church,” said Atagi.
Egbert said they are serving as representatives of their church.
“We’re to serve our fellow man in any way that we can,” said Egbert. “If there’s anything in the community we can do. We do family genealogy, Bible studies, yard work and many other services for free.”
He said if there were difficult times someone is going through they would come out and speak with them.
“We’ll share messages that will strengthen their faith,” said Egbert.
Atagi said that it was a prophet that called them to Bonifay and within the panhandle of Florida there are 280 missions.
“We had to save up $10,000 and serve as a missionary,” said Mafi. “For two years we are far away from our families. We are allowed to contact them only twice a year via phone and we can write to them once a week.”
He said a common misconception is that they get paid to do what they do.
“We walk and visit people to see what is troubling people,” said Mafi. “As servants of God we can help them see how to become more self reliant in God and themselves. That’s why we’re going out on our bikes and walking because there are many ways to share the light, as we are all brothers and sisters in Christianity.”
Egbert said it is this time away from friends, family and all they know is to strengthen their bonds with others and to strengthen their faith.
“The purpose is to strengthen our faith by sharing the joy of the gospel with others and the joy and the peace that it brings,” said Egbert.
Mafi said he has been away for 23 months and has found that no matter where he goes the people astound him.
“I’ve been to many places like Niceville, Navarre and Valdosta, Ga.,” said Mafi. “The people I’ve visited may not have been interested in the gospel but the kindness and generosity they’ve shown by providing food and water has strengthened my testimony. I’ve come to know that there are good caring people out there who are willing to do for others.”
Egbert said that after the two years are up they would be returning home.
“Most of us will start school, get married and start a family,” he said.
For more information contact Egbert and Sorenson at 373-3064 or Atagi and Mafi at 373-3226.