Missionary work is integral to the LDS Church. It has missions all over the world. As already mentioned, the Church encourages young men to go on a mission, and while young women may also serve missions they are not expected to do so. Retired couples are strongly encouraged to serve missions if they are able. All prospective missionaries who choose to serve make application through their local area president and bishop, who consult with the General Authorities who then assign the applicant to a mission. In 2018 there were more than 70,000 Mormon missionaries in over 100 countries. Young missionaries are mostly focused on teaching and preaching LDS doctrine but they also engage in humanitarian work. Senior couples engage in a wider variety of humanitarian, educational, and leadership missions. LDS Missions respond to local need; for example they helped in Houston, Texas, after Hurricane Irma. This extends the welfare ethic of the Church. There are over 2,400 humanitarian missionaries in Welfare Services worldwide, with 150 countries reached, and disaster assistance provided in North Korea, Africa, Europe, South America, and Afghanistan. The aim is to solve poverty at its source with the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF), established in 2001. This helps to fund the higher education aspirations of needy Mormons, and is inspired by the 19th-century Perpetual Emigration Fund that funded immigration and resettlement of converts to Utah. The contemporary PEF provides low-cost educational loans aimed at returned missionaries in underdeveloped nations. The first two years saw 6,000 beneficiaries receiving 100 million US dollars. The overall vision of missionary work is to spread the Gospel to everyone, which is seen as the truth that embodies love of God and humanity, and which they are called to witness to everyone. This emphasis on proselytising, alongside the high birth rate, has made the LDS Church one of the fastest growing religions in America, and its fifth largest Christian denomination. It is also growing rapidly in Latin America and Africa. Since 2000, there are more LDS members speaking Spanish than English. According to its official website, in 2018 the Church counted 15.8 million baptised members worldwide.