Jessica McCubbins, Brooke Squires, and Morgan Vorwaller have a lot in common. They’re all Stansbury High graduates. They’re all the oldest children in their families. They all enjoy running and participated on the Stansbury cross-country and track teams in high school. And now, they’re all preparing to serve as missionaries in Rancagua, Chile.
There are currently 406 proselyting missions in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so the odds of three friends and former teammates going to the same mission are slim. Two of the future missionaries, McCubbins and Squires, even leave on the same date, Oct. 22, 2014.
Vorwaller, the first of the three to receive her call, was thrilled.
“I remember my first thought was that I couldn’t pronounce Rancagua,” she said. “But it was awesome.”
Morgan will leave on July 30 for the Mexico City Missionary Training Center.
Squires drove home from college to open her mission call surrounded by family and friends. She wasn’t aware at first that she and Vorwaller were assigned to the same mission, but she had other reasons for excitement.
“I knew that’s where David Archuleta had served,” Squires remembered. In between sessions of the most recent LDS General Conference in April, a feature about Archuleta’s return was broadcast. Squires watched, but she had no idea she was viewing footage of her future mission.
McCubbins, who was the last to receive her call, recognized her mission immediately as the same one Vorwaller and Squires were called to.
“I looked at my friend Tanner and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, you’ll never believe where I’m going,’” she said. “I got goose bumps.”
Since the mission is Spanish-speaking, all three girls are grateful to have some background in the language: Jessica has two years of junior high Spanish under her belt and Morgan took three years in high school. Brooke, however, is the most prepared in that area. She’s taken five years of Spanish, including two semesters at BYU. She describes herself as classroom fluent, but still sometimes has trouble understanding the rapid-fire conversation of native speakers.
The three have spent the last year preparing in different ways.
Vorwaller, 19, is the daughter of David and Amy Vorwaller of Erda. The three-sport athlete graduated from high school in 2013 and worked at an Alaskan fishery over the summer, an experience that she says helped her become more independent. Later, Vorwaller decided to attend Southern Utah University after being offered a walk-on position on the cross-country and track teams.
“I’ve been having a great time with them — improving and learning and just making great memories in Cedar City.” Vorwaller said, adding she appreciated she was able to travel throughout the United States as part of an NCAA team.
After her mission, Vorwaller plans to return to SUU to complete her degree in Exercise Science and continue running for the T-Birds. She wants to have a career in physical therapy.
McCubbins, 18, is the daughter of Lance and Denise McCubbins of Tooele. She graduated from Stansbury High in May, where her senior year included participating on the Seminary Council, the Sterling Scholar award for Vocal Performance and serving as show choir president. She began running again for the first time since her freshman year and continues to work out with the cross-country team post-graduation.
“Since I graduated, I’ve noticed that I’m much more dedicated to bettering myself,” she said. “A mission has really made me figure out my flaws and how to fix them.”
To prepare for her mission, McCubbins has practiced the piano so she can accompany the hymns in church meetings. McCubbins was accepted to BYU earlier this year, but she deferred enrollment until her return in 2016. She plans to major in mechanical engineering. Long-term, McCubbins has planned what she hopes to do after she turns 25.
“Once I turn 25 I plan on being graduated from college — at least four years — and if I’m not married by then, I have plans for getting a motorcycle and a Dalmatian,” she said. “I also want to keep running and be a marathoner.”
Squires, 18, is the daughter of Darren and Gina Squires of Stansbury Park. She graduated from high school in 2013 and spent a month in the Netherlands visiting a friend during the summer. When she came back, she started at BYU and now works as an intern at Overstock.com.
Upon her return, Squires wants to return to BYU and the workforce.
“I want to do an internship in either Pennsylvania or Europe, but that one might be a stretch.” Brooke plans to major in business.
Before their paths separated, Morgan, Brooke, and Jessica knew each other well through interactions in classes and cross-country. Morgan and Brooke ran Varsity together in 2012. They all feel that running has impacted their lives for the better.
“Stansbury has such a good program that you just fall in love with running and it becomes a part of your life that you don’t want to get rid of,” Vorwaller said.
“Cross country changed me,” said Brooke. “I learned so many lessons in cross-country that have changed my perspective, because with running, every day is going to be hard. Even the easy days are still hard. Running has taught me how to do hard things continually.”
McCubbins, Squires and Vorwaller expressed admiration for Stansbury’s cross-country and track coach, Steve Allen.
“I want to find something that I love as much as he loves the team,” McCubbins said, adding she found many of the principles she learned through running will help her on a full-time mission.
McCubbins said the cross-country theme for the upcoming year, “Be Invested,” relates to her mission.
“This is not something where you can go 95 percent of the way, because on the mission, you’re doing salvation work,” she said. “You need to be 100 percent committed to teaching the people and loving the people.”
Squires agreed, naming consistency as an important asset for both cross-country and missionary work.
The decision to leave friends and family behind for 18 months was slightly different for each of the girls. The age change at the October 2012 LDS General Conference that allowed young women to serve missions at 19 instead of 21 factored heavily into Jessica’s choice.
“I knew I wanted to go on a mission when I was eight,” McCubbins said. “In junior high, someone told me that girls couldn’t go until they were 21 and I thought, ‘I’m never going to make it that far, some guy’s going to snatch me up.’ So at that point, I didn’t see it as a possibility,” she said.
That changed in October 2012: McCubbins was watching with her mother, but she wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary.
“I looked over at my mom, and she was crying, and at that point I knew I had decided that I was going,” McCubbins said.
In Vorwaller’s case, the decision was influenced by a lot of small moments. While running track at SUU, she often thought about potentially serving a mission.
“I wrote down the reasons why I would want to go and why I wouldn’t want to go, and the reasons for going were the right reasons,” She said. “It was because I wanted to share the gospel and help other people come unto Christ. When I looked at the reasons for not going, they were just fears.”
For Squires, the desire to serve a mission was a bit of a surprise.
“When I was 9 or 10, I decided I wanted to serve a mission. But then when I realized I’d have to wait until I was 21, there were a lot of other things I wanted to do, so I decided it probably wasn’t going to be for me,” she said. “Even when the age change happened, I was excited for it because all of my friends would be able to go. I never felt like I should.”
Squires was registered to spend her fall semester in Spain, where she planned to complete the few remaining classes required to minor in Spanish. Then, in a February church meeting, Squires said she suddenly knew she needed to go on a mission.
“I was always worried about missions because I knew that I liked to see other places in the world, but I didn’t want that to be my focus,” she said. “I had to be doing it for the right reasons. Then I realized that I’d be okay with going to Idaho or anywhere else I could think of. That’s when I knew that my intentions were in the right spot.”
As the mission approaches, the girls expressed excitement and some fear about what lies ahead.
“I am ready for the work ,” Vorwaller said adding she thinks some of her fears are discouragement and feeling inadequate. “I’m excited for the challenge and being surrounded by a bunch of people who speak Spanish. I know it’s not going to be sunshine and rainbows, but I’m excited to deal with the hard parts and learn from them. I’m glad that I’ll have a companion who’s going through the same things.”
Brooke is looking forward to seeing how her message will change lives. Because of living in primarily LDS communities in Stansbury Park and at BYU, she said she hasn’t been able to see very much religious conversion. She’s also ready for the opportunity to practice her Spanish.
“I’m afraid of having a frustrating companion because you’re with them 24/7,” she said. “I don’t want to be the one that has to motivate them to get moving all the time.”
Squires said she also fears illness in a country that won’t always have the kind of medical resources she’s used to.
McCubbins is excited to use her vocal talents on her mission. A family friend who served a mission in Santiago told her sister missionaries would sing hymns in the street and passersby would stop and become interested in their message. To prepare, she has been studying the words to her favorite hymns in Spanish. Like Squires and Vorwaller, McCubbins wants to be able to affect others for good — assisting in the conversion and subsequent baptism services of one of her best friends earlier this year solidified that desire.
“The love that I have for him made me want to do even more in Chile,” she said. “I consider him my first missionary baptism.”
McCubbins said her greatest fear was a bit unexpected.
“I’m deathly afraid of being attracted to the guys in Chile and not being able to focus. The missionaries, the investigators, any of them,” she said, adding her biggest challenge will be overcoming her natural wants and instincts.
Whether these three amigas will interact much on their missions remains to be seen. Because sister missionaries tend to be less common than male missionaries, there’s a good likelihood at least two of the girls will be in a companionship at some point. Even if they aren’t, Tooele County will have three wonderful representatives in Rancagua this fall.