For the Tilleman family, serving God is a way of life and starting this summer the family will be serving God full time on missions around the world.
Many young men from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, ages 19 to 25 are encouraged to serve a mission. Young women over the age of 21 and retired married couples also have the opportunity to serve, though every mission is voluntary. The Tillemans' case is unique because rarely does the majority of a family all serve at once.
"Holly and I planned on serving some type of mission for our church when I retired from my law practice, but the invitation for us to preside over a mission and leave at this point in our lives came as a surprise," said Karl.
Last fall Karl and Holly Tilleman were approached by a leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormon Church, and asked if they would be willing to put their lives on hold for three years to serve a mission. Karl would have to leave his law firm, Steptoe and Johnson; they'd have to leave their home in Ahwatukee Foothills; and they'd be asked to live somewhere completely new and supervise about 100 young people serving missions for the church in whatever area they were sent to.
At the same time, their two sons were preparing to serve a mission of their own. Mike and Dan had been taught all their lives that they would one day have the chance to serve a mission. They planned to accept an assignment, just like their father and older brother had when they were asked to go. The boys each had scholarships to play sports at the University of Calgary in Canada that they'd have to put on hold for two years.
Two Tilleman girls were still close to home. Mary, 18, would be attending Brigham Young University in Idaho, but would return home during school breaks. Sarah, 6, would have to go with her parents, wherever they were asked to go.
"It was interesting for us because at the time this opportunity presented itself, two of our boys were preparing to put their lives on hold for two years to serve missions," Karl said. "We were willing to ‘talk the talk' with our children about their serving missions, and the question for us then became whether we were willing to walk the walk hand-in-hand with them. Looking at it from that perspective made Holly and my decision pretty easy."
The family decided to jump into the unknown together. Each received their assignments in January and will leave this summer. Karl and Holly will be mission presidents in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. For three years they will watch over and teach missionaries in the area and serve the community. Sarah will go with them and Mary will meet them there when she has breaks from school. Dan, 20, will go to Mendoza, Argentina. He will learn to speak Spanish, teach his beliefs and serve the people for two years. Mike, 18, will be going to Asuncion, Paraguay. He will also speak Spanish and serve for two years.
"We love doing this work," Holly said. "We always have. It is wonderful to give our lives over to God's work and be involved in service to the community full time."
The family is preparing by taking missionary preparation classes, getting Visas, shopping and studying. The Tillemans are also packing up their home and preparing to rent it. They're getting ready to give their all to their Lord.
"If you knew the best recipe in the world and it tasted better than anything in this world could ever taste like, wouldn't you want to share that with everyone you came in contact with," Dan said. "That is how I feel about the Savior's message of peace and His plan of happiness."
The Tillemans' oldest son, Karl, and his family will not be serving a full-time mission at this time but they will be able to visit Karl and Holly in Vancouver.
Missionaries are a well-known characteristic of the LDS church. According to lds.org, the church's website, there are 344 missions around the world and more than 51,000 missionaries currently serving full-time missions.
As the Tillemans prepare for their full-time mission they feel it has been a blessing to be a part of the Ahwatukee community.
"We feel that we have been richly favored in knowing so many wonderful people of so many different faiths here in our Ahwatukee-Foothills community and at work," Karl said. "We are pleased to be able to go to Canada and represent not only our church, but also our friends and neighbors of all faiths in our community."
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