For Sisters Kelsey Bacon and Lexy McConaghie, every day begins promptly at 6 a.m. The two companions squeeze in a quick morning workout to wake up, then spend an hour studying scripture as the sun rises.
Then it’s time to get together and plan out their busy day.
The missionaries are in the middle of their 18-month commitment as representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church. For now, Auburn is their adopted home.
“When we reach the age of 19, we can decide whether or not we serve a mission,” Sister Bacon said. “It’s not a mandatory thing at all, just an opportunity.”
Sister Bacon, a 20-year-old from Boulder City, Nevada, left home a year ago and has served in several Georgia cities, including Kennesaw, Peachtree City and Conyers. Over the summer, she moved to Auburn with Sister McConaghie, a 19-year-old from Mesa, Arizona, who had just started her trip.
The missionaries don’t choose where they serve and are almost entirely self-funded. They are directed by a supervisor who arranges housing and makes sure everything goes smoothly. Throughout their trips, missionaries are expected to live a conservative lifestyle, refraining from entertainment like parties, television and social media.
Every four or five months, they may be asked to move on to a new city.
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“We’re called to a certain area. It’s not our choice, but where God wants us to be,” Sister Bacon said.
Both said they’re loving their time in Auburn so far.
“Don’t even get me started. It’s so cute,” Sister Bacon said.
“People are very open and willing to talk about religion and their beliefs and everything, so it’s super cool,” Sister McConaghie added.
Their roles vary each day, but usually involve some combination of outreach, study and teaching. The bedrock of each missionary is the Purpose Statement, which Sister McConaghie recited: “To invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.”
What that translates to for them is to help promote Latter-day Saint Student Organization, the student group for the church, and to speak to people who are interested in the church or who want to deepen their faith.
To some, seeing a female missionary is a novelty. Many people may be more familiar with male missionaries from the church, who are known for their distinctive buttoned-up look and their ubiquitous bicycles. The “Book of Mormon” Broadway play helped popularize the image even more when it debuted in 2011.
But female missionaries are a growing proportion of the church’s missionary corps. The church saw a boost of more than 20,000 missionaries after it dropped the minimum age for female missionaries from 21 to 19, according to church data.
Now, more than 65,000 missionaries are serving across the world, according to the church.
More than a quarter of those missionaries are female, according to a 2015 ABC News report.
Sister McConaghie said some people had been surprised, mostly because they were familiar with “the guys on the bikes.”
Some people would come up to them and say, “I didn’t know there were girl versions!” Sister Bacon said. “Yes, we’re them! We’re honored to be the first ones you meet.”
Neither Sister knows how long they’ll be calling Auburn home, but both say they are happy to be here, whether it’s while hosting a weekly Bible study or counseling a congregation member.
“I just love it,” Sister Bacon said.
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