Elder David and Sister Margene Lake felt strongly prompted to serve a mission as they listened to the October 2013 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The couple had always had a desire to serve, but they never thought it would be possible because of their family’s unique circumstances.
The Lakes are the parents of six children. Two of their daughters still live at home with them. Sister Gena Lake, age 34, has cerebral palsy. Sister JoEllen Lake, age 26, was born with cytomegalovirus and uses a wheelchair.
Despite their doubts, the Lakes began researching different types of missions as soon as the conference session ended. Within weeks, they had received a call to be service missionaries in Salt Lake City — and the couple would not be going alone.
The Lakes learned about non-traditional mission opportunities that would allow their family to serve together.
“What’s amazing is how much they (the church) will accommodate you,” Margene Lake said. “Many people want to serve but don’t know how. We’re no different than anybody else. ... It’s just that we love Heavenly Father and want to serve him.”
Recent visitors to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City may have seen all four of the Lakes happily serving together on the fifth floor. The family has received attention for their unique situation, but David and Margene Lake aren’t interested in the spotlight.
They attribute much of the joy their family has felt to the special spirit and smiles that radiate from Gena and JoEllen Lake — a happiness that other people have felt and expressed gratitude for. Employees of and visitors to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building often stop by specifically to visit with the Lake daughters.
“When we retired, we just wanted to do something as a family,” David Lake said. “We kind of changed our vision and decided to quit, to stop thinking in the traditional sense and kind of open it up to one (mission) closer by where we didn’t have to relocate. It’s just been a big blessing to us.”
This may be the Lake family’s first mission together, but Gena Lake is no stranger to missionary service. Prior to this call to serve at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, she had essentially been serving as a missionary for the LDS Church for 12 years.
She spent two years serving full time and 10 years as a volunteer missionary, helping transport severely disabled youths to and from a special seminary class in Salt Lake County. She was excited to receive her new mission call, and she said her current mission is her favorite because the people are nice.
JoEllen Lake sits behind the FamilySearch desk with David and Margene Lake, helping with daily tasks like delivering the mail.
The Lakes, who live about an hour north of Salt Lake in the small town of Oakley, Summit County, commute downtown two days a week for their missionary service. They said the most hectic part of their mission is in the morning before they leave their house, when they are trying to get everyone ready and out the door.
Once they have left their house, the Lakes said, a very special peace fills their car.
“It’s like a spirit descends on us, on our vehicle,” Margene Lake said.
This tangible feeling of security reflects the overall sense of tranquility the Lakes have felt since they began their missionary service six months ago.
“That’s the thing we want people to know: our whole family is so happy,” Margene Lake said. “It’s been such a blessing. We want people to know how blessed you are if you’ll just serve.”
Obedience to the prompting to serve a mission has brought numerous blessings to the Lake family. Among these blessings is the chance to learn new skills. The Lakes also have time to do things they didn’t have time for before.
David Lake, who was not previously familiar with the world of family history, described how he was able to review the LDS Church’s training manuals and become immersed in FamilySearch’s methods. Margene Lake, who has spent her life attending to the needs of her children, is now able to keep a detailed journal about her family and their experiences.
“If it’s right, Heavenly Father will tell you,” David Lake said. “You don’t have to wait for the big, visible calling. We had to get out of the way, and we have to sometimes figure it out. We can’t build muscles if God is always lifting our weights.”