Monday, March 17, 2014

September 26, 2013: President and Sister Degn

Grandpa Baer found this article in the Hearald Journal
Called to serve
Wellsville couple presides over Brazil MTC
   Editor’s note: Ralph and Mary Ann Degn of Wellsville are serving in the Missionary Training Center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Ralph is the center’s president. They were called to the MTC in 2012. This is their account of living in the MTC.  

  It is a remarkable experience living in an MTC, with 200-300 young people at a time. Approximately 2,500 missionaries pass through here each year. Sleep is a rare commodity and privacy is absolutely nonexistent. We always have plenty of lost newcomers and rolling suitcases down our hall, at all hours of the night. Living in Wellsville as we do, we sometimes have gone all evening without a passing car. In our home town the only noises in the morning at 4 a.m., are roosters, ducks and goats. Now we wake to the sounds of “Called to Serve” and “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning” emanating from the showers. Many times Ralph and I have found ourselves sitting out on the front steps late at night and wondering aloud what the “kids” are doing in the house. It is a strange and absolutely wonderful adventure!   

 When we arrived in January of last year, we had five Spanish speaking missionaries who had been called to serve in Brazil. Now the numbers are swelling, and we have every country in Latin America represented here, as well as United States, England, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Africa, Japan, and, of course, Brazil. We celebrate the independence days of the different countries, and our row of flags of countries represented here continues to grow. There is a real camaraderie as the missionaries are learning with each other how to serve the Lord. 

The greatest thrill we have is seeing the changes, on a day-today basis, in the lives of these young missionaries. The process goes something like this: The missionary comes in tired from a long journey, but excited for the first day. Then the shock of not being able to say anything, coupled with homesickness, a strange new culture, and a person called a companion tailing their every move causes a major nose dive. We used to worry about them, but we are now realizing that it is a process they all need to go through. They have to come face to face with the fact that they cannot do this by themselves, and then they learn how to turn to the Lord. That is the moment that the growth begins. That is the moment that a missionary begins to “become” a missionary. By the time they leave they are a changed individual. I want to stand up and shout, “Look and listen to this one. He will change your life!”   

As in all the other MTCs, the missionaries here in Brazil were sitting together listening to conference in October when the announcement of the age change was made by President Monson. As the elders heard the news there was a hum of excitement that consumed the audience. Then came the announcement for the sisters! Oh, my! It was indescribable! The sisters literally leaped from their seats and started squealing. Right now in the Brazil MTC, we have about 50 percent sisters, and the excitement level here has risen proportionally. These beautiful young sisters are arriving with unbridled enthusiasm! I will add that the elders are enjoying it as well … and will leave it at that.   

 I imagine that other MTCs have had the numbers mushroom much faster than we have. We receive huge numbers of missionary names each week who are expected to pass through here, but that is all we see of many of them. The current delays with the visas into Brazil have added a challenge to the missions here and to the MTC, but we are confident that it will soon be remedied, and our beautiful building will be filled to capacity. The people of Brazil are urgently waiting to receive the gospel, whether they know it or not.   

 The accelerated six week training program has our heads spinning, but the miracles continue to manifest themselves. Ralph and I are in our seventh year as a missionary couple in Brazil, and many of the American missionaries are leaving the MTC speaking circles around me. They have an urgency about them to get moving and start making things happen. From the first day they are trying to just speak Portuguese. At times, it gets really quiet, and anyone watching them communicate would think they only know sign language, but it is working.    

We are reminded how wonderful Cache Valley is as we have welcomed some amazing young people from our home stomping ground. You are preparing them well. We can all be proud of the way we are being represented. Please extend our best wishes to them all.   

Well, there you have it. We are far from home, but we are never alone. We are loving this glorious opportunity to serve in the missionary effort. We send our love to you and wishes for a wonderful conference weekend.    

— By President and   Sister Ralph Degn   

 Ralph Degn is the founder of Fireworks West Internationale, which provided fireworks for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Disneyland and several Superbowl half-time shows. He also served as mayor of River Heights city for four years and was the Pickleville Playhouse pianist at Bear Lake for about 30 years. Mary Ann was the LDS Department Manager for the Book Table in Logan and a contributor to the store’s blog. She and her husband have eight children and numerous grandchildren.


  1. Hey do you have the Degn's number? They are old friends of mine and I'm just trying to get back in touch. My husband and I were ones serving right before them in Brazil.

  2. How can I get in touch with them? I'm from Campina Grande, Brazil and their son was a missionary here. Please, if you have his contact, can you give it to me? I really want to talk to Anthony Deng again