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Wright Words: Spending the day with the Baltimore Mormon missionaries on #socialmediasplit

Published: Tuesday, June 17 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

When I arrived at the missionaries’ apartment just outside Baltimore at 10 a.m., Burrup and Herzog had been awake since 6:30. Their morning routine, and that of every missionary, includes exercise, personal study, companionship study, teaching practice and, for missionaries speaking in other languages, time to improve their language skills.

After they finishing quizzing each other on weather-related Spanish vocabulary, they prayed at the door — in fluent Spanish — and began their day.

Our first stop was a district meeting with other missionaries serving in and around the city. We rode light rail and then the metro to one of the LDS Church’s chapels downtown. En route, the elders engaged with everyone they could. One man, Ken, shared his experience living years ago in Salt Lake City and meeting with sister missionaries. Burrup and Herzog asked for and were given his email address to schedule a follow-up visit.

As we walked from the metro station to the chapel, I used my iPhone to share my first post of the day. It was a collage of three photos, including their apartment, the metro stop and the train, and an explanation of each. A crucial component of the #socialmediasplit campaign is seeking permission before taking and sharing photos of anyone other than the missionaries. I was pleasantly surprised that throughout the day, not a single person declined the request.

The short district meeting covered teaching tips and was heavy on role playing, or as the mission calls it, “real playing.” I noted that despite most of the missionaries being native English speakers, it was entirely in Spanish. Across the hall, another district meeting was underway with a group that covers another part of the city and meets and teaches in English. In all, there were more than 20 missionaries in the building coordinating their activities, including two senior couples.

As the meeting ended, I shared another post that highlighted the importance of training and coordination in full-time mission service. Each of the posts went to each of my social media accounts and reached different audiences.

After lunch, we walked around Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor and I watched the elders engage with anyone willing to stop and listen. Linwood, an elderly man fishing on the pier, politely declined an invitation for a visit, but spoke of his love of the Bible and for those who preach. A Hispanic man, Roberto, was thrilled the elders stopped to talk to him. He revealed that he’d once attended a Mormon congregation in another city. Now living in Baltimore, the man had been telling his daughters they needed to find a church. Before their discussion ended, Roberto had scheduled a visit with the elders.

“That’s a miracle!” Burrup said as we walked away.

Herzog agreed. “That doesn’t happen often, not like that. We were led to him today.”

Soon we were back on the metro, then, light rail, and the elders spoke to another dozen people and handed out “pass-along cards” as they walked and talked. Some people were more receptive than others, but not a single encounter could be labeled rude or combative. Those who expressed no interest were met with the same smile as those who did. Once again, I shared a photo and commented on their courage and willingness to talk to absolutely everyone they saw.

We returned to their apartment and climbed into their church-supplied Malibu. In nearby Lutherville, Maryland, we sat at the kitchen table of a family who recently returned to the church after years of being less active. The family credits the elders and their “church family” for their return.

As we ate hot, delicious pupusas, the elders spoke with 16-year-old Fernando and shared ideas on how he might help a young man who’s drifted from the LDS Church. They also spoke at length of another friend who’s expressed interest in learning more. “I would love to see him baptized,” Fernando said. “I love baptisms!”

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