When Norwell residents Bob and Joan Chatfield signed up to do missionary work, they had no idea where they’d end up, but they predicted their destination would likely be somewhere in the United States.

When Norwell residents Bob and Joan Chatfield signed up to do missionary work, they had no idea where they’d end up, but they predicted their destination would likely be somewhere in the United States.

When a letter arrived a few days before Thanksgiving, though, the Chatfield’s learned they would be spending the next 18 months of their lives in a country they had to pull out a world map to locate — Albania.

“The church has missions all over the world,” said Joan, 67, of her church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “We just put that we’d go anywhere. We thought we’d probably be in the United States so we were kind of surprised."

Albania is across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, and borders the nations of Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro. Joan said Albania is about the size of Maryland. The Chatfield’s have packed six suitcases and they’re scheduled to leave for their mission on Jan. 6. When they arrive, they will be greeted by other members of the Mormon faith who are also there doing mission work. They will help Bob and Joan adjust to life in Albania and learn the languages – Albanian and Greek.

The couple has spent two years preparing for this adventure, during which time they’ve sold their Norwell home, sold their insurance business in Braintree — Agents Insurance — gave away the majority of their belongings.

“We’ve been very blessed in our lives and just feel we should give something back while we’re able to and well,” Joan said. Bob said the couple’s goal is to do whatever the Lord wants them to do.

The couple, members of the Hingham ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,signed up to be missionaries at a conference in Utah and felt it was God’s will that one of the two sessions they were able to get into focused on senior couples doing missionary work.

“The speaker spoke directly to older couples, encouraging them to go on missions,” said Bob, 69, of the conference the couple attended two years ago. “My wife was elbowing me in the ribs.”

It was the first time the couple attended the biannual conference in person. In the past, they had watched it on TV. When they got home, they knew they had to tell their family quickly.

“Our immediate thought was if we don’t tell somebody, we may not do it,” Bob said with a laugh. “That night, we gathered the family.”

Joan said it’s difficult to explain why she and her husband want to go, but added that it’s because they want to serve the Lord the best way they can.

Bob said he’s received some interesting reactions from people when he’s told them about the upcoming mission trip. “The most common retort was ‘you’ve got to be kidding’,” he said. Some customers at his work told him “you’ve got to be out of your cotton picking mind’.” But despite these initial reactions and concerns, Bob said everyone has been really supportive of them.

The interview process for one to do go on such a mission is extensive and not everyone gets to go. After the interviews, church leaders decided the Chatfield’s were cut out for the job. Since then, they have been through health and dental screenings.

Bob and Joan have spent the last few weeks moving between their daughters’ homes in Norwell and Rockland, and they’re ready to go.

Participating on a mission trip is something the couple has always had in the back of their minds. From friends to family members, they know many people who have gone on missions.

“It’s something we’ve been subconsciously thinking about for many years,” Bob said. Though packing up shop was a lot harder and more time consuming than they had initially thought. Bob said he and his wife needed the two years to complete everything, because they kept thinking of more and more things they had to do. In order to keep track of it all, they kept a checklist on hand.

Their home was sold on Aug. 12 of this year, after just four weeks on the market. “That was a real sacrifice,” Bob said. “Because we put a lot of sweat into it, did a lot of work on the house.” They also had to time the sale right.

Bob also sold his business after 43 years of working in the field.

Though they’ll undergo training before they leave — the couple will have learned some basics of the Albanian language— and though Bob has held a leadership role (patriarch) in the local church, there will be a lot of unknowns for the couple during their stay.

“We’re very naïve,” Bob said. “There’s a lot we can imagine or suppose and we’re going to see lifestyles we never thought existed.”

The Chatfield’s have been doing research on their assignment, but said that there is limited information available on Albania, even through searches on the Internet. Joan said there are about 85,000 people in the country. Bob and Joan will live in a furnished apartment and be responsible for paying their own rent and bills, though the church will cover their airfare.

That area of the country, Bob added, is a growing part of the world and at the moment Albania is doing quite well.

They can’t wait to get to know the people. Their work may include anything from building a new church, to finding people who are interested in learning about Jesus Christ, to teaching the gospel, studying scripture service projects or talking to inactive church members. They can work up to 16-hour days.

They will be required to dress in professional attire everyday, which for Joan will include wearing a skirt or dress everyday. Besides clothing, the couple plans to bring family photos with them.

“I have every expectation that the rewards are going to exceed the sacrifice,” Bob said.

Bob and Joan converted to the Mormon faith shortly after they were married. It was 1962 and Bob was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army. One day, a missionary came to their door and asked them to listen to what he had to say. The Chatfield’s asked if he would come back in a week and he did.

Six weeks later on Feb. 16, 1963, after many meetings, the Chatfield’s joined the Mormon Church. Joan said their faith, and involvement in the church has answered all the questions they had. Bob found the faith to be thought provoking as well as inspirational.

When Bob’s parents, who were Congregationalists, found out their son and his wife had converted to the Mormon faith, they were concerned, Bob said, and went to speak to the minister of their church. To this day, Bob is thankful to him for what he said to his parents. “One thing he said,” Bob recalled, “is that he never heard anything bad about Mormons.”