There's a song the children sing at church:
I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I know who I am.
I know God's plan.
I'll follow him in Faith.
I believe in the Savior Jesus Christ.
I'll honor his name.
I'll do what is right; I'll follow His Light.
His truth I will proclaim!
I love that it is a series of simple declarations; nothing complicated. It perfectly encapsulates how I feel about my faith.
Yesterday I got the chance to live those simple declarations in a public way. I was invited by the female Missionaries serving in my congregation to spend the day with them in what is called a "Social Media Split." These missionaries (we call them Sisters) are young women, aged from 19 to about 26. They are doing here what my daughter is doing in Brazil. Quite simply, they are trying to put the things declared in that song into action. It means a great deal to me to honor my children's missionary service by following their example in my own life. So I went out. And thus, here I am, a Mormon blogger who doesn't really blog directly about my Mormonism doing just that. It's the day to share.
Note: A "Split" is when a local member of our church goes out with one or both of a companionship of missionaries. It's a true split when two members each pair up with one of the missionaries and "split" the companionship into two companionships, but the name has come to refer to any member accompanying the Elders or Sisters on a teaching or service appointment or to do contacting. A Social Media Split is when a member goes on a split and then shares it on social media. Today was planned by the mission as a day-long event to encourage large-scale member involvement in missionary work and public sharing of those efforts.
Around noon this pair of bright and enthusiastic young women came to my house and we began our day together. They call me Sister Nuss and I call them Sister Beck and Sister Jones. This rather archaic custom that survives in my church is very tender to me and I wouldn't give it up in favor of modernity for anything. We really do believe we are one big human family, with God as our Father, and for me, calling each other by these familial titles invites trust and cooperation.
The weather was gorgeous with blue skies and plenty of remaining Autumn color in the trees. A slight chill was offset by the warm sun and my careful dressing, missionary style, in layers. The Sisters had some planned appointments, as well as some ideas for homes to drop by just to see if anyone needed anything. Appointments are preferred, but flexibility is always the watchword since plans change and appointments fall through. Whether planned or not, these visits might be with those investigating the church, members on the rolls but not attending regularly, or fully-active members. The purpose is chiefly to uplift and remind those we visit that their Heavenly Father cares about them, and might be done through teaching, performing service, or simply listening. All teaching and service happen by invitation only, without insistence on the missionaries' part. There is meant to be a feeling imparted of respect and honor whenever they stand at someone's door.
This kind of schedule is typical of many of a missionary's days, and I was excited from the get-go to experience a little bit of what my children have done while serving their missions.
At the first 3 stops, either no one was home or no one was available to talk to us, so we moved on. It's tempting to call a beginning like this a disappointment, but in the bigger picture, it's really not. This is a work about individuals, and these people won't be forgotten about.
After that was a planned appointment. Often missionaries will continue to teach and fellowship recently-converted members of the church for as long as these individuals need some extra support to understand the doctrine and culture of a new religion. This was one of those visits. I spent the appointment playing with the younger children in the home, and the missionaries taught about the Sacrament (communion). This recent convert has great faith and was quick to tell how being a member of the LDS church increased her understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For our next stop, the Sisters had arranged ahead of time to do some service at the home of another member of the congregation (we call it a ward). She was running late, but called to let us know, so we had time to grab a scone from a local bakery and go back to the Sisters' car to get their work clothes. Though the missionaries do most of their daily work in dressy professional attire, they usually keep some casual clothes in the car in case someone needs help with anything from housework to yardwork to car maintenance. They constantly offer to help and they really mean it when they offer. We found her at home when we arrived and after a few minutes of pleasant catching up, we received our assignment. We installed some weather proofing plastic on some drafty windows in her kids' rooms. We also replaced a screen that had fallen out of one of the windows. This friend was truly grateful and her son was able to capture in a photo the joy we felt at being with her and being useful.
I dropped the Sisters off for their dinner appointment (the members of the ward provide dinner most nights for the missionaries), and I went home to have my own dinner and reflect on the day so far. I was having the time of my life. Singular focus always brings clarity and peace to me. Even though my body and mind were somewhat tired, I felt refreshed and excited for the rest of the evening.
Around 6:30 pm, in the now-cold darkness of late Autumn, we met up again. Some plans had changed, and Sister Beck suggested we pray to know where to go. She acted as voice and asked Heavenly Father to help us know who needed us that night. We sat a few minutes in silence after the prayer, each of us meditating on the names we were considering. Impressions came, suggestions were made and we drove into the night.
As often happens, things did not go exactly according to that plan. At the first home, no answer. This was a drop-by visit anyway, so there's always a reasonable chance that the door won't open. However, our minds and hearts were flexible and quickly, we thought of some other member families in the area we could meet with. We went to one of the possibles and were warmly welcomed inside, introduced to family members and supplied with generous portions of peach cobbler, complete with a whipped-cream garnish worthy of a fancy restaurant. Peach cobbler never tasted so perfectly delicious. People really do feel the spiritual and emotional uplift that these missionaries bring, and the first action of those thus edified is to share. Food is easy to share, so the missionaries receive an almost constant stream of groceries, treats and meals from those they visit. It's a lovely thing, because these gifts of goodies are a sweet, heartfelt offering, and lift the missionaries in return.
The next two visits proved to me again that God is actually real and in the heavens. Both individuals we talked with spoke of feeling a need for our visit. Both spoke of our coming to their home as evidence of Heavenly Father's love. We felt led to these homes, and I believe we were led so that these children of God could feel noticed and cared for.
The last stop of the night yielded more good feelings as we simply listened enjoyed the hospitality in the home. Our host and I talked easily about shared interests and we left with hugs all around.
We went back to my house where their car waited, and I said goodnight to Sister Jones and Sister Beck for the night.
On the one hand, it might seem like a rather routine day. No one asked to be baptized, nor were there any deep doctrinal discussions. The messages we shared were not profound. None of the three of us, Sister Beck, Sister Jones nor myself, are professional speakers, pastors or teachers. Why does what we did today matter? Why is the work of these remarkable young people all around the world so important?
It matters because the purpose of missionary work by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to invite all to experience the Love of God in their lives. Everyone needs it, and I believe everyone wants it, even if they don't call it by that name. Missionaries actively share that love and invite all they come in contact with to participate. Sometimes those invitations are as simple as praying in one's own home. Sometimes the invitation is to come and see what church is all about. Sometimes it is an invitation to convert and be baptized. Not everyone is interested in this message, but the only way to get the message to the ones that are interested is to invite everyone. And so we do. We do it out of love, out of a desire to improve lives, and out of a desire to share what we have that brings happiness to us. That's all.
I loved this day with the missionaries. I loved having the chance to show my faith and go a little outside my comfort zone. Spending time with the Sisters had every evidence of other good and true endeavors I've been involved with: I felt energized and filled with light; I experienced clarity in my thinking and peace in my heart.
I hope that wherever you are and whatever you believe, you will find a way to uplift someone. I hope that you will find a way to increase unity in the important communities to which you belong, whatever they are. Whatever helps you feel light and hope and peace, share that with others. I promise you that you'll feel all the things I felt this weekend, and more.