Two Sisters from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are living in Newport as part of their time on the mission field. The two young women, Sister Hawkes and Sister Harris, are part of the Little Rock mission area. The area encompasses Batesville, Mountain and Newport with around 170 young missionaries serving the Arkansas and Tennessee area. The ladies do not tend to use first names, but are referred to as Sister, because the denomination belief that all are children of God. The young ladies were put together as companions to live in Newport to serve others and share the message of their church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often informally known as the LDS Church or Mormon Church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah and has established congregations and built temples worldwide. In 2012, the National Council of Churches ranked the church as the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the United States, with over 6.5 million members reported by the church, as of January 2018. Women of the denomination begin their missions at nineteen years of age, as compared to the men at age eighteen. The decision to serve on the mission field is completely voluntary and the volunteer has to have the health and means to do so.
The Sisters met two months ago when assigned together by the mission president as companions for the Newport area. When asked about their feelings about Newport, both shared that they love the southern hospitality. “It is a real thing,” laughs Sister Hawks. “I love how spiritual everyone is. Everyone is willing to talk about the love for the Savior.” The two are very fond of Newport and have grown close to many residents. They attend community events, volunteer locally and are seen anywhere their service may be needed.
The goals of the mission in to grow individual faith, create a foundation for the future and share the message. “Understanding who we are as children of God and the love that Jesus Christ has for us is so important. And have people grow closer to him,” explains the Sisters. “It has been special to focus every aspect of the day on Christ without distractions. At home, there is school and soccer. When the mission is over, it is an adjustment and transition. We take the experiences to create a solid foundation for the rest of our lives. These years are the most selfish time of our lives and we are using them to focus on others.”
What do they think of Newport? In the seven months of residency, the women have grown to love it. Sister Harris smiles and says, “It is home for me. I love that everyone is community focused. Everyone supports community events and makes it a priority.” Local favorite foods include biscuits and gravy, catfish with hushpuppies and BBQ.