Today was Fast Sunday. Our ward has a tradition that every Fast Day whoever is conducting reads excerpts from the letters home of our missionaries who are out serving. We have two, both Spanish speaking, one in Mexico and the other in Honduras (or some place like that; I forget). As the bishop read the letter from our second elder, the young man told us about a missionary he had met who was out from Nicaragua. Our elder had overheard as this Nicaraguan missionary tried to call home, and his family wouldn’t take the call; they had disowned him when he joined the church (one year before leaving for his mission). It was a reminder that some people make much greater sacrifices than the temporary discomforts we experience when we serve far from home. This story sort of put me in a missionary mood.
Anyway, when we went to sing I picked up a hymnal and a note dropped out. It read:
We are so excited to be serving here with you in the Schaumburg 2nd Ward! Please give us a call if we can do anything for you.
This was followed by their names and phone number. I then realized that we had a new set of missionaries in the ward, and they had taken the time to slip these notes in the hymnals throughout the chapel.
I thought that was really a pretty cool idea. Indeed, as I thought about it it occurred to me that they could have taken this basic idea even further. Head shots of them would help members to learn who they are and their names. (There is a Fed-Ex Kinkos in their area where this could easily be done). Maybe a brief introduction of each of them. Instead of a generic offer to serve, they could list specific ideas for how they could help the members or their neighbors. And maybe put them in the programs rather than counting on them to fall out of the hymnals.
Thinking about this made me think about creativity in missionary work. Often such a thing is in too short a supply. We go knock doors because, really, what else is there to do? Being creative takes forethought, planning, effort, and it’s easier to just stumble out the door and keep doing the same thing you did the day before.
One thing we did on my mission was go to visit hospitals. Our ministerial certificates gave us access to the database of patients by religious preference, and we would go to visit those who were listed as LDS. We gave lots of blessings, comforted those who were in need of comfort, and inevitably had conversations with people and families there to visit those in the adjoining beds. This probably worked in part because it was in Colorado with its relatively high LDS population, but there are a lot of areas where something like this could be profitably done.
I remember when I was a freshman at BYU, the missionaries who were assigned to campus had created a live discussion display in one of the windows to the bookstore. The two elders were actually in there giving a discussion as thousands of students streamed by. It was a very creative idea, and I knew one of those elders (he had been in my student ward the previous semester). He had a background in theater, and he had applied his creative skills and talents in a very effective way. The Universe ran a story about this, and they reached all sorts of kids they never would have found in any other way.
Speaking of theater, when I read that book called something like A Call to Serve, which was about the mission presidentcy of Thomas Rogers and his wife in St. Petersburg, there was a great picture in there of Tom directing a play, wearing a beret and scarf. This was something he was good at, and it was a way to apply his talents to further the work in that part of the kingdom, a way that brought natural defense mechanisms down.
So what are some of the things you did on your missions that required a little bit of creativity? What worked and what flamed out? Is there anything you would have done differently if you had it all to do over again?