Like many of the 2017 Ridgefield High graduates, Calvin Keller left his lifelong home in Ridgefield last fall to attend a four-year university. But rather than returning to Brigham Young University later this summer to attend his sophomore year, Calvin will join over 67,000 young men and women worldwide who are serving two-year missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
Earlier this year, Calvin submitted his online application to LDS Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City. Applicants must be active in their faith and be willing to serve anywhere they are assigned around the globe.
“It’s completely exciting and nerve wracking, all at the same time,” said Keller. “My friends and family all guessed where I might serve, but none of them thought of the Philippines! I knew that this is where God wanted me to serve.”
Calvin comes from an extended family that is rich in missionary experience. His older brother McCall, also an RHS graduate, served his two-year mission in Montreal several years earlier, while his father served his mission in Japan in the late 80s.
For decades, young Mormon Church missionaries have dedicated two full years of their lives to teach others about Jesus Christ and to serve local communities around the world. Traditionally dressed in white shirts, ties, and name badges, missionaries work in companionships and are assigned to one of the 421 geographic missions around the world. For two years, Calvin will dedicate himself fully to his mission service and will place a hold on things like college, sports, dating, smartphones, movies, and other forms of entertainment. As part of his commitment to service, Calvin will not return home or receive visits from family or friends during his two years of service.
Serving local communities and people in need is nothing new for Calvin. As a junior at RHS, Calvin personally organized and directed the Prospector Run, a local 5K fun-run that raised awareness of local special needs programs in the Ridgefield area. He also joined hundreds of fellow church volunteers in the Rockaways following Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to clear out flooded homes and apartments for multiple weekends. Serving in the Philippines will be an entirely different experience as he will need to quickly learn the culture and the local language (Tagalog).
“After studying French for seven years, I thought that I might be asked to serve a mission in France,” Keller shared. “I was aware of the Filipino people, but I had never even heard of the Tagalog language and now I hope to be fluent within a year.”
Just over a week ago, Calvin shared farewell remarks to over 300 people, including members of his congregation, neighbors, family, and friends at an LDS chapel in Newtown. In his remarks, he shared: “All my life I have anticipated the day when I would leave the world behind and serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was blessed with a life centered on Jesus Christ and this has brought great happiness and peace. I can’t wait to share these teachings with the wonderful people of the Philippines.”
Calvin will spend his first six weeks in Provo, Utah, at the church’s missionary training center where he will take part in a fully immersive language and scripture study program. From there, he will fly directly the Quezon City where he will serve for the next two years.