Celebration couple to head church mission in Hungary


Justin and Lori Rucker and their four children leave home for Hungary July 1 

  • Justin and Lori Rucker
    Justin and Lori Rucker

A Celebration couple, Justin C. and Lori Rucker, will put their lives on hold for three years starting July 1 to serve as president of the Hungary Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

They will direct the church’s missionary efforts and act as surrogate parents to approximately 150 missionaries – mostly young men and young women between the ages of 18 and 25 - currently serving in the east European countries of Hungary and Romania. 

“How did we get this beautiful blessing?  We have always tried to do what God has asked us to do,” Justin said.  

The Rucker’s will live in Budapest, Hungary where the mission headquarters are located. 

“We know we weren’t called for who we are or what we have done, but for what we will do. So many miracles are waiting, and we get to be part of them,” Lori said. 

The Hungary Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints opened in 1990 as the country emerged from a 40-year period without religious freedom. Today there are about 5,000 members of The Church in Hungary and 4,000 in Romania.  

For Justin, it will be a return to the location of a two-year mission he served in 1992 as a 19-year old. He is 46 now. Justin came to love the Hungarian people and looks forward to seeing people he taught 28 years ago.  This time he will bring his wife, Lori, and their four children: Abby, age 19, a college student at Brigham Young University, Idaho; Hudson, age 17, soon to be a senior at Celebration High School; Kate, age 14, an incoming freshman at Celebration High School; and Mary, age 10, about to start Middle School at Celebration’s K-8 School.  Except for Abby, who is planning to serve a church mission of her own, the children will attend an international school in Hungary.

The Rucker family has lived in Celebration since 2004.  Justin is a freelance artist and has worked as an agent for commercial artists. 

Lori teaches vocal lessons part-time and is known for her volunteer work with the Celebration K-8 School talent show. 

For the past 16 years, they have been active members of the Kissimmee Ward, a congregation of The Church.  Justin served as the bishop of the Kissimmee Ward and currently serves as a counselor to the president of the Hunters Creek Stake, which comprises several wards in the south Orange County and Osceola County area.  Lori directs music, leads youth and children’s programs, and previously taught Sunday school and seminary, which is an early morning religion class for high school students. Missionary work is not new to her either, in 1997 she served a full-time Church mission for 18 months in Kentucky and Ohio before her marriage to Justin.

The assignment to serve came from The Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, in November of 2019. It was a surprise to them, but one the Rucker’s were excited to accept.   

Since receiving their assignment, they have rented their house furnished to another family, moved their family of six into a temporary apartment and whittled their possessions down to a few suitcases. The couple have been working online with personal language tutors to learn Hungarian and Romanian, two quite different languages.  Both agree the languages are hard to learn. Their children are also learning to speak Hungarian.

When asked about the effect of the Covid-19 virus on missionary work, Lori said, “It’s remarkable how the work is going forward and is increasing in effectiveness with the use of technology.” 

Justin added, “You can always see the hand of God in beautiful things; in terrible things you see his hand in the response to what has happened.  We are here for a test, in physical, spiritual and mental ways, and how we return to God will be determined by our response.”