Hannah King · July 26, 2013
Avery Benesch and Scott Austin already had a lot in common last semester when they both received calls to serve in the Scotland/Ireland Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At the time last spring, both Arizona natives were roommates at Southern Virginia University and teammates on the school’s NCAA Division III baseball team.
Yesterday, they both entered the Church’s England Missionary Training Center to prepare for their two years of full-time missionary service in Scotland and Ireland.
“I’m glad I’m getting to serve with one of my good friends,” said Austin. “What excites me most [about my mission] is the opportunity to help and serve others.”
Benesch expressed similar enthusiasm prior to entering the MTC, saying that he is “really excited for the opportunity to go out and serve the Lord for two years.”
Though Southern Virginia’s student body is small and the chances of students serving in missions together are not high, Benesch and Austin were not the only members of last year’s freshman class of 205 to serve in the same mission.
While serving in the Montana Billings Mission of the Church, Michael Beck was excited to learn recently that he would become a senior companion, responsible to train a new missionary. To add to his excitement, he found out that his new “greenie” companion was Stockton Hiatt, a close friend, fellow Southern Virginia student and member of the university’s football team in 2012.
“I was so shocked Elder Hiatt is my new companion,” Beck wrote home to his family. “What are the odds that I am companions with one of my best friends?”
According to Beck’s mother, Lisa Beck, the two young men grew up 40 minutes away from each other and played football against each other on different high school football teams for four years.
“At Southern Virginia University they became fast friends,” said Lisa Beck. “They have shared interests… they studied, pulled pranks on the other athletes and had a great college experience.”
Lisa Beck said that the “biggest blessing” her son received by attending Southern Virginia was “finding good friends and a positive environment.”
“He found friends who were preparing for missions and it made his preparations easier,” she said. “He enjoyed traveling around the East Coast with the football team and meeting kids from all over the world. The discipline of Study Hall helped him to develop good study habits and reinforced his desire to finish his degree after his mission.”
Michael Beck sent a picture of himself and Hiatt, both wearing their Southern Virginia orientation T-shirts, to his mother, who said that the picture was “priceless.”
“They are working hard,” said Lisa Beck. “It’s my opinion that because they are such good friends, there is no contention and they are more open to following the Spirit. They challenge each other and push each other to be better.”