Almost sixteen years ago, I was called to serve as a full time missionary in the Oregon Eugene Mission. I remember the night I had my final interview with my stake president, because it was election night the night Bill Clinton was elected. Memorable, isn ?t it? Hard to believe it ?s been sixteen years!
I considered myself a bold missionary. I was never afraid to approach anyone about the Gospel. I knocked on doors for ten hours a week or more, and taught many discussions each week. It was easy for me to share my testimony and my feelings with strangers, and I sure had some amazing experiences doing it.
Then, I came home ? and became a big chicken.
When we were missionaries, we always challenged members to:
- Pray for the missionaries serving in their ward by name.
- Pray for the missionaries serving from their ward by name.
- Pray that they would have a personal missionary experience.
And you know, many, many people did have missionary experiences! Our greatest finding tool was member referrals, and those were the investigators who were usually the most prepared to listen to the gospel message and accept baptism. Member missionaries were our greatest blessing!
So while I do have a testimony of member missionary work, I also have a huge fear of doing it myself now that I am in the real ? world. Not that I wouldn ?t talk to someone about it if they approached me, but I have a hard time being the one to make the approach. I always hear people say, Why would you be afraid to offer something so wonderful to someone you care about? ? and they are absolutely right! I shouldn ?t be afraid! But yet, I am.
This became suddenly, embarrassingly, apparent one Sunday last year. I was room mom in my kindergartner ?s class, and one of the other moms had become a friend. We spoke whenever we saw each other at the school, and she often volunteered to help. Our children even played together a few times. Then one Sunday, I walked into church and guess who was sitting there with the missionaries? I felt so embarrassed that I had not been the one to make the introduction to the gospel to this family! Instead, the missionaries had tracted into them! In fact, I don ?t believe she even knew I was LDS up to that point.
I tried to redeem myself by immediately going up to talk to her and sitting with the family at church. I also invited them into my home to listen to the next discussion and have family home evening with us. Yet, it doesn ?t negate the fact that this woman was obviously open to learning about the church and I had not followed those promptings and invited her myself.
This family did not end up joining the church. I still wonder sometimes if it might have been different if the approach had been from me rather than from the missionaries. I ?ll never know, but I do regret it.
Last week at gymnastics class, I ran into another friend who I had not seen in awhile. I kept having this prompting to talk to her about the church, but every time I tried, I clammed up and chatted about something else. I did try to open the door by telling her that we went to Utah over the summer to see family, hoping that she might ask if I were Mormon (which is usually the first question out of everyone ?s mouth!) but she never asked, and I never offered.
Today again was gymnastics, again we chatted, again I am kicking myself for keeping my mouth shut! I ?ve really been sitting here thinking tonight why I am such a big chicken! I think it ?s because I know how I would feel if approached by a friend about their religion. It wouldn ?t make me think any less of them, in fact I’d be honored that they thought enough about me to share. But it might change the relationship somewhat, and that makes me uncomfortable.
This article will hopefully spark some conversation about how to share the gospel in a way that doesn ?t seem overbearing. I ?m sure there are many out there who do a much better job at it than I do! I am great at befriending investigators and helping through the learning process, but the actual invitation is what I struggle with. What have you done to be a good member missionary?