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Corydon couple heads to Africa as missionaries

Corydon couple heads to Africa as missionaries
Corydon couple heads to Africa as missionaries
Charles and Elizabeth Swarens look at a map of Africa. The couple will fly to Maputo, Mozambique, in southeast Africa next month, where they will serve two years as missionaries. (Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor)

New Year’s Day will find Charles and Elizabeth Swarens leaving Corydon for a two-year adventure that will take them to southeast Africa.
‘I think it’s a wonderful calling,’ said Charles. ‘I’m thrilled.’
The Swarens will serve two years as missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They initially were being sent to South America, specifically Brazil, a country they visited for six weeks one time, but plans changed.
‘It never occurred to me that we’d go to Africa,’ said Charles, 56, who was reared in Crandall and graduated from New Albany High School in 1967. ‘I thought, if not South America, possibly the United States.’
Then they received the letter officially announcing their acceptance into the missionary program. They will spend the next two years in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. The port city has a population of about two million.
The couple, who met in Bloomington in 1967 when both were students at Indiana University, then married in March of 1992, have traveled abroad several times, but this will be their first trip to Africa.
‘It should be very interesting,’ said Charles.
Elizabeth, 57, a 1966 Corydon Central High grad, said they first considered signing on to do mission work at least three years ago. But a couple of car crashes put them behind schedule in meeting the Church of Jesus Christ’s requirement that missionaries be debt-free before entering the program.
‘That’s hard to achieve,’ Elizabeth said.
But the Swarens were strong in their conviction that this was what they wanted to do.
‘Our whole lives have been a preparation for this,’ said Elizabeth, a Corydon attorney who is taking a two-year sabbatical. ‘We want to do these type of things while we’re young enough to do them.
‘I expect we’ll come home (in two years), stay for three to six months, then go (somewhere) again,’ she said.
The couple think they were selected to go to Africa for several reasons, including their age, health, and some knowledge of the Portuguese language, which is most common where they are going.
Since receiving their acceptance letter Oct. 25, the Swarens have been getting required vaccinations against such things as typhoid, hepatitis A and B, influenza, yellow fever and meningitis. They will spend a week in Provo, Utah, before heading to Maputo.
Mozambique, which is twice the size of California, is one of the poorest countries in Africa and a large percentage of the 19 million people are infected with HIV, which can lead to AIDS.
Once they arrive in Africa, the Swarens will receive a vaccination against rabies.
‘They told us we should presume all animals (in Africa) are rabid, as there are no (vaccinations) there,’ Charles said.
Elizabeth said they also have been tidying up their legal affairs, renewing their driver’s licenses, which were due to expire next year, taking care of their income taxes and requesting to vote in next year’s elections by absentee ballot. They also found someone to live in their house while they are gone.
Also remaining on the ‘To do’ list is packing needed clothing.
Charles said they have been instructed by the temple mission headquarters to travel light.
‘They don’t want us to buy new clothes,’ Elizabeth added.
While in Maputo, the Swarens will live in a furnished apartment. Not only does it have electricity, their home away from home has an air conditioner. Charles, who enjoys cooking, will take charge of the kitchen there.
Their missionary duties will include spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and working in the mission office, where they will supervise young men and women.
‘The work is religious as well as humanitarian,’ Elizabeth said.
They could assist medical teams that have already vaccinated 93,000 children in Mozambique against polio.
Whatever they do, their work week will continue at least 40 hours. ‘It could be more,’ Elizabeth said.
The Swarens said they will miss their family and friends. Charles added he’ll also miss Hayswood Theatre in Corydon, where he currently is playing the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in the production of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ His wife teased him that Charles will probably open his own theatre while in Africa.
‘I’m not expecting to see any luxury there,’ Charles said. ‘I understand the seriousness of the conditions there.’
‘I think we’re going to learn a lot there,’ Elizabeth said. ‘The Lord will take care of us.’