Wright Words: Spending the day with the Baltimore Mormon missionaries on #socialmediasplit
Before leaving, the elders shared tips for Fernando to continue his own preparation to serve a mission upon graduation from high school. As they spoke, I created another collage of several photos and posted them in a single image. Not only was the family willing to have their pictures taken, they were excited for their friends and family to know the elders had stopped by for a visit.
Our next stop was a Latino market to visit a man named Roy. “We go where we need to go,” the elders told me. “We don’t like to bother people at work, but he’s said it’s all right and we’ve been there before.” Between his helping customers, they invited Roy to a soccer game and lobbed friendly trash-talk back and forth. Like the others, Roy was intrigued by my explanation of my experiment with the missionaries and was perfectly happy to have his picture taken and shared online. “How’s my hair?” he joked as I stepped back and took an action shot.
Later, we visited an investigator named Nelson in Pikesville and taught him about Joseph Smith’s First Vision. When Nelson shared that he was unsure how to pray, the elders took turns giving suggestions and invited him to pray with them on the spot. Nervous but willing, the three men knelt at wooden kitchen chairs and Nelson prayed with humbling sincerity.
“Fantastic! Amazing! Beautiful!” the elders praised.
Before leaving, I thanked him for allowing me to share some of our experience online but also assured him the social media campaign did not overshadow the real reason for the visit. I offered my own testimony of the restored gospel, invited him to be baptized and promised to be there when it happened. Neither Nelson nor I needed a hashtag to tell us the Spirit was trending with us both.
Our last stop before returning to their apartment for the night was with a recent convert. While Burrup helped a child with math homework, just a few feet away, Herzog chatted with the mother about the weather and Mexican food. “Can we pray together?” Herzog asked as we prepared to leave.
A few moments later on the sidewalk I noticed the elders practically bouncing with excitement. I asked, “Did I miss something?”
“She’s never wanted to say a prayer before!” Herzog said. “Did you catch that, Elder Burrup?” They discussed the development for much of the drive home.
At 9:30 p.m., we walked back into their living room. “Right on time,” Herzog said. “We have to be home by now at the latest.” Then he turned to his companion before the door was even shut. “Ready to plan for tomorrow?” (See Calderon's post on Storify.com for many of the posts from that day.)
Preparing for my long drive home that night, I sat in my car and shared a final post on my memorable experience with the elders. I marveled at how in a single day we'd performed some service, worked with less-active members, engaged in finding activities, met with other missionaries and coordinated with members. Sitting alone, I contemplated how their enthusiasm, their desire for obedience and their teaching skills proved the bar had truly been raised.
I also took time to thank heaven that the Spirit had been our most important companion of the day, and I enjoyed a few sweet tears that testified our day had been filled with the kind of light that only truth brings.
In the days since my adventure with these impressive and righteous servants of the Lord, I’ve considered how much has changed since my own mission. With cellphones in every pocket and with the Internet and social media available to almost everyone, we’re blessed with so many more ways to share the gospel, to engage in service with other faiths and to fellowship than at any point in history.
So much more, however, remains the same. The study time, the meetings, the correlation and the need for practice is universal. And, of course, the overarching goal will never change: to invite others to learn more and, eventually, to enter the waters of baptism and become converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When and if you choose to spend time with the missionaries and participate in the #socialmediasplit campaign, you might find one other constant from your own mission or that of a loved one. The most important conversion for these missionaries and their 83,000 counterparts around the world probably won’t be that of someone they saw on a train or a pier.
It’s that of the one in the mirror.
Jason Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and "The Wednesday Letters." Learn more at jasonfwright.com, or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/jfwbooks or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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