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Longtime Tallahassee residents Mary and Printess “Maylon” McCreless are preparing to serve a mission on Cyprus, an island republic in the Mediterranean and part of the Adriatic South Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Members of the Tallahassee 6th Ward, the McCrelesses will leave October 29th for two weeks in the Provo, Utah, Missionary Training Center (MTC), before beginning their year in Cyprus.
Two aspects of their calling are especially interesting: the unusual way it came about and the fact that Maylon McCreless has family ties to that part of the world—his grandfather was a Greek immigrant to the U.S.
One day recently, as the couple served in the Orlando temple, they chatted with a woman who happened to mention that her son was on a mission in Greece. Shortly after, she sent the McCrelesses an email in which her son’s mission president made an urgent plea for help.
“He said they really needed leadership on Cyprus for four small Church branches,” Mary recalled, “and he asked for senior couples to volunteer.”
Mary and Printess McCreless
The McCrelesses had planned to stay in the States for their mission, but the request touched their hearts.
“I always said if you’re serving the Lord, he’ll take care of you,” Mary noted. “We had always wanted to serve a mission and to go where the Lord needed us. We talked to the mission president, knew we were supposed to go there, and he submitted our names to Salt Lake so the leaders could make the final decision.”
Mary said she and Maylon then had to wonder if unseen forces were at work concerning this mission location.
“Here Maylon’s grandfather came from Greece!” she said, adding that with a laugh that it would have been just like his wife to pull heavenly strings. “We thought, ‘Is Grandma behind this?’”
If Maylon’s grandmother was a determined soul, so was his grandfather. He came to the United States from Greece when he was only 10 years old and finally obtained his U.S. citizenship when in his 70s.
“He settled in northern Alabama,” Maylon said, “and from the time he was a teenager, everyone called him Big John. He owned a café and grocery and was known as the big Greek cook.”
His grandfather’s store had an intriguing beginning as a “little log shack with a dirt floor,” Maylon explained. “The way it started, Grandma went into town one day, and when she came back, Granddad and a friend had put up the shack. Granddad built the store up from there.”
About 20 years ago, Maylon and his brother took their mother and sister to visit Greece, where they were able to meet members of their extended family. From Cyprus today, it is about a 5-hour, $50 plane ride to Greece, and the McCrelesses hope to make the trip while in that part of the world.
Though independent since 1960, Cyprus was formerly a British colony, and English is spoken there—a fact the couple learned with relief.
“They are English speaking in Cyprus, though Greek is the officially spoken language,” Mary said. “We’ll try to learn some Greek. It’s not a requirement, but our mission president, President Burdon, said it would be helpful.”
Burdon and his wife are based in Albania and preside over an extensive territory covering mainly Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, and Cyprus. The McCrelesses are excited at the prospect of spending their entire year in Cyprus.
“The whole spiritual message behind our call,” Mary said, “is that we were ‘settled in’ and thought we were going somewhere in the U.S. or Canada. Driving our own car. But the Lord had his hand in it, no question. And we’ll be flexible—senior missionaries can go sightseeing or take a nap. We could even go back home if we needed to. I want people to know this, because it might make a difference to someone who would like to serve a mission.”
Maylon said the pair feel wonderful about their new adventure, that they are going where they are supposed to go, to do what they are meant to do. “We always wanted to serve a mission—always dreamed about serving the Lord and other people in this way,” he said. “We’re ecstatic about it and can’t wait to get there.”