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ldsmissionariesI have the great opportunity to work as a Ward Mission Leader in my Mormon Church congregation.  It is great going out with the missionaries and sharing the gospel with friends and neighbors who may not have a relationship with God.  I have seen some amazing things in the past few months as the Holy Spirit has worked miracles to ignite faith in people as they pray and study the scriptures.

One of the things I look forward to nearly ever day, are the stories that the missionaries tell me of their daily adventures as they meet with people from all walks of life.  My favorite ones are ones that involve members of our congregation as they help people in the community.  The missionaries shared an example of this the other day.

In our neck of the woods (the Seattle area) it tends to rain in waves this time of year.  For example, it will be sunny for 20 minutes then a cloud will roll in and pour rain and it goes on like that throughout the day.

One of the ladies that our missionaries have been teaching decided to walk to the store with her little child while it was sunny and on her way back a cloud rolled in and started pouring rain on her and the young child.  She was very concerned about her child’s health and wondered if she would be able to make it home.

Just then, a van pulled up to her and the door slid open.  A large Samoan man looked at her and said “Get in the Van”!  She said at first it was startling, but she had a good feeling so she got in the van.  There were a few kids in the van along with the gentleman’s wife.  They asked her where she lived and told her they didn’t feel right about having her left out in the rain.  She told them where to go and she arrived safely at home.

The next evening, the missionaries invited her to come to a woman’s activity at the church.  She went and had a great time meeting members of the congregation.  When she entered one of the rooms she looked up and noticed the same lady who had been in the van.  They both did a double take and then got excited and hugged each other and started talking.

I was so impressed with this Samoan family.  Their actions were an example of the pure love of Christ that we preach about when we are out in the community with people.  It is one thing to talk about helping others, but it is another thing to quietly go about doing good as Jesus did without recognition, which is exactly what our Samoan friends did.  This left a greater impression on our friend who is investigating the Mormon Church than any sermon could have done.

When I heard this story, the words of President Hinckley come to mind.  When asked why no Mormon Churches have crosses on their buildings, he stated:

…The lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship. (Ensign, 2005)

I am very grateful for the opportunity I have to work with these great members in our congregation along with the great missionaries and people they teach.  I have witnessed the hand of God working through all of us who give of our time and try to live as Jesus would have us live.  When we do this, miracles happen and lives are changed.

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ldsmissionariesI’ve been very busy working with our full-time Mormon missionaries in our ward the past couple months and have been very impressed with all the work and effort they put in.  It has been a while since I have been this heavily involved in missionary service.  Some days can be very awesome and others can be very trying.

I am reminded of experiences on my mission when I meet or speak with the sister missionaries in our ward (congregation) nearly every day.  There are many, many people out there who have little or no concept of who God is and who Jesus Christ is.  Many people when asked say they are Christian, but when speaking more in depth they rarely pray and have little or no concept of what the Atonement of Jesus Christ is and how it applies to our lives.  I have been re-ignited in my faith as to the importance of this message by actively going out and meeting people in my community and seeing the challenges they face and the struggles they have trying to rely on their own strength rather than Gods.

This week was particularly difficult for us.  We had been working with a great family the past few weeks who had begun to embrace reading scripture together, coming to church, and praying as a family.  The father of the home even made the comment of how different his kids were (in a good way) since coming to church.  However, things changed pretty quickly when his ex-wife heard about her kids going to the Mormon church and meeting with the Mormon missionaries.  Although she hasn’t ever gone to church (according to her kids and ex-husband), she was very passionate that they quit going to the Mormon church and start going to the Catholic church she was raised in.  Needless to say, when the sister missionaries went to visit Rick and his kids and found out about their mother’s concerns and also that the kids and Rick wouldn’t continue on with lessons, we were pretty discouraged.

It was during times like this when I was on my mission that I reflected on the inspiring times in my life so I could stay positive.  With this in mind, I thought I’d share an inspiring story from my Mormon mission in Frankfurt, Germany during the mid ’90s.

Inspiring Mormon Missionary Story

The most inspiring moment on my mission was working with a man named Herr Neuhaus.  Hr. Neuhaus was an older gentleman who had lived a very rough life.  When we came across him, he was very angry at God.  His wife had recently passed away and he was very depressed.  Life for him when we met him was drinking and smoking and staring at the TV.

I learned on my mission in Germany to be very direct and bold.  That was their style over there.  So when we first met him and he bellowed out that he didn’t have any interest (they all said that initially), I told him that he might not have interest, but God had interest in him.

He replied that “God doesn’t love me…” which gave me a window into his tortured soul.  I immediately felt compassion for him and I feel that by the grace of God I was able to feel for Hr Neuhaus a small amount of love that God has for each of us as sinners.

I engaged him in conversation on why he thought God didn’t love him.  This is when he shared with us his story of his wife dying despite all the prayers he had offered in her behalf that she would live.

That first day, we just listened mainly and I really felt so awful for him.  However, I knew that through the power of the Atonement, he could be made whole again and Jesus could fill him up with love once more.

I testified of this and challenged him to read the Book of Mormon, especially the parts on the Atonement of Christ and faith.  I promised him if he did this that he would feel God’s love once more.

To make a long story short, God was true to His promise to those who show faith in Him.  Not only was Hr Neuhaus healed from his suffering, but he was also healed from his addictions of smoking and drinking.  I felt honored when he asked me if he would baptize him, which I did on May 11, 1997.

This was the only person I baptized while I was on my mission.

When I reflect on this experience, I am once again reminded of the importance of being a witness for Jesus Christ.  I have seen personally and many times have witnessed other people such as Hr Neuhaus who chose to embrace the teachings and gospel of Jesus.  Their lives are renewed and the cares and struggles of this world are swallowed up in hope and deliverance.

Please take a moment and share your favorite missionary experience either as a missionary, or a pastor, or just in your daily walk with God.  I think it would be very beneficial for other readers of this blog.

In a recent article in The National Catholic Weekly magazine, a writer brought up the great marketing the LDS church is doing in New York City.  His article highlights the Mormon.org billboards that are all over as well as on the taxis, etc.  and how great of a missionary tool it is.  Something he wrote about in his article stood out to me about his perspective on the traditional Mormon missionary strategy.  He writes:

The “I’m a Mormon” campaign, showcases video and print portraits of young, diverse and energetic Mormons — and steers clear of images of missionaries in white shirts and black pants or talk of theology —

“Steering clear of images of missionaries in white shirts and black pants…” is the line that stood out to me.

What is the image that most people who aren’t LDS think of when they see the Mormon missionaries knocking on doors like they have done the same way for probably close to 100 years now?  Is that still an effective marketing tool, or should the church shake it up and allow missionaries to wear clothes that match the culture where they are?

 I know from personal experience that I felt much more at ease being a missionary without my white shirt and nametag than when I was wearing it.  I was a Mormon missionary in Germany for two years and I also lived in Switzerland and worked for awhile after my mission as well.  When I was a mormon missionary, people would bar the windows and lock the doors and bring the kids out of the streets the moment we walked into the neighborhood.  The white shirt and black nametag turned them off.

However, when I was dressed in my normal clothes as a “regular” person after my mission, I had many more missionary discussions with people who opened up to me because they perceived that I was a “normal” person. 

On the other hand, the Mormon missionaries have been branded by the white shirt and nametag and for people who are searching for them, they are easy to identify.

What are your thoughts on changing the Mormon missionary strategy and having Mormon missionaries wear “normal” clothes while proselyting?

While reading this month’s Ensign, I came across a great quote by Elder Lance B Wickman of the Seventy.  He states:

[When deciding whom to marry] be careful not to base your judgements merely on..whether someone has served a full-time mission or holds a particular calling in your ward…know someone well enough to learn his or her heart and character firsthand and not just his or her “gospel resume”. (Wickman, Apr 2010 Ensign p.15)

For those not familiar with the LDS faith, this advice is probably a no brainer.  However, somehow it is a part of the LDS culture that girls must marry a return missionary (a young man who has faithfully served the 2 year LDS mission) or else they’re getting a second-rate guy. 

When I was attending Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) I remember girls treating me much differently before my mission than after my mission.  Girls who were serious about hunkering down and “getting hitched” didn’t want anything to do with me before the mission, but afterwards somehow every girl assumed since I was a return missionary that I was on the hunt to get married.  Truth be told, I wasn’t ready (for another 8 years or so, but that’s a different story).

Anyways, I’ve been out of the dating scene for awhile, but I thought it would be interesting to discuss thoughts on having to marry a return missionary.  Is the church getting away from this?  Also, where did this notion originate?

I’m sure there are some of you well more versed in LDS history who can enlighten us!

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