In Preach My Gospel missionaries of the Church are instructed to go “in the power of the ordination wherewith you have been ordained, proclaiming glad tidings of great joy, even the everlasting gospel.” (D&C 79:1). As a mission president I see evidence of this power as missionaries in the Washington, D.C. South Mission share with me their experiences in finding new investigators. Experiences like those that follow occur regularly all around the world and provide a glimpse into the special life of a missionary. They are shared here so that others may see the power in the calling of a missionary and the role that prayer and faith have in the finding process. These stories take place in the Washington DC metro area, in northern Virginia.
Elder Porter had been on his mission only two weeks when Elder King, his senior companion, asked him to select an area to tract. He offered a prayer, studied the map, and then selected a neighborhood. On the way to the neighborhood they became lost and pulled over to the curb. They decided to knock on the door in front on them. Raul opened the door and indicated he had been expecting them. The 21 year-old explained that he had been praying for God to send messengers to teach him the true Gospel. Raul was baptized within two weeks.
Elders Garlick and Henrie were looking for people to help after a severe snow storm. They relate the following: “As we were driving around, we felt prompted to stop and assist a Filipino lady, Lita, shovel her walks covered with deep snow. As we spoke with her, we discovered that fifteen minutes before we had stopped to assist, she had been praying for help in her life and had asked how she could feel God’s love for her. We taught her the Gospel and she prayed and came to know the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.” Lita was baptized last month.
Elders Bell and Sackett prayed for guidance before selecting a street to tract in the Mt. Vernon area. A woman from India, Sunitah, answered one of the doors and the elders were soon able to meet her husband and children. The entire family was recently baptized. Sunitah recounted that the morning the elders first knocked on her door she had been praying. She was a strong Catholic and usually said memorized prayers. However, she said that on this occasion “I felt like my prayers didn’t mean anything, and so I asked what I should do to make my prayers matter.” Moments after finishing that prayer the missionaries knocked at her door.
Sisters Reid and Ferry were driving home one night in Manassas, and felt a strong urge to stop the car and knock on the nearby doors. At the third door a large man covered in tattoos and wearing ear rings answered the door with hate in his eyes. The sisters wrote, “As we introduced ourselves as representatives of Jesus Christ, he just laughed and said ‘you are wasting your time here. I don’t believe in God.’ Then in very inappropriate language he described to us his feelings about God, religion, and what he prefers to do.” But, he accepted the sisters’ challenge to read the Book of Mormon as medicine for his soul and to find out if God really exists. The sisters continued, “We found out a few days later as we were teaching him that on the day we knocked on his door he was planning on committing suicide. He was planning to take his life because he was depressed over a recent separation and his hatred for life in general. He is now getting baptized on May 10, 2010 and is a different man.”
Elders Thompson and Barnes were tracting last month in a trailer park in the Rock Hill area. After several doors, a man named Blayne let them in and explained with tears in his eyes that he had seen them earlier in the day in the neighborhood and had been praying they would knock on his door. He had recently lost both of his parents and one of his brothers and was recovering from some addictions. He will be baptized in a few days.
It was a warm, humid morning last June when Elders Page and Wilkey boarded a bus in Alexandria. A man sat down next to the elders and asked if he could learn more about the Church. He had previously seen LDS missionaries in his home country of Ghana. After the first lesson, Ashore felt an overwhelming feeling in his heart and he was soon baptized. He then shared the gospel with his friend Maxwell, who was baptized. Three weeks later Maxwell baptized his wife, Vida; all from the bus meeting!
Elder Laughren was riding his bike down the street one evening in McLean when a car honked and he saw a lady waving at him. He approached the car and recognized a woman he had taught a year earlier in a different part of the mission. Her husband had not allowed her to be baptized and they had moved out of state. Recently they had relocated to Virginia and she had been praying to find the missionaries again. She was actually lost when she saw her former missionary pedaling down the street!
Elders Gannaway and Gifford were driving in Springfield last fall when they thought they recognized a former investigator walking along the sidewalk. They stopped and ran across the street. It was not the person they had expected. As they walked slowly back to their car, they saw some young girls running towards them yelling “Elder! Elder!” The girls were from a young family that had been baptized a few weeks earlier in Central America and had just moved to Virginia. The family had prayed that morning to know how to find the local LDS Church and then looked out the window to see the two elders walking by!
Sisters Johnson and Spencer received a referral in Stafford. They knocked on the door and the woman exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting for you!” She explained that she had been praying to find the true church in California, had found the missionaries, and had just started taking the lessons before moving to Virginia. She was soon baptized.
Shan Hia, an 80 year-old Chinese grandmother living near Crystal City was worried about what God’s plans were for her and had offered several prayers heavenward asking how she could help build up God’s kingdom. One night she had a dream that three angels would soon come to her door with a message of truth from God. The following day Sisters Bagley, Kim and Bertucci knocked on her door after being prompted to park their car and get out in front of her home. Shan Hia invited them in only because of her dream the night before. She was recently baptized. She says she will forever refer to the three missionaries as “my three angels”.
After days of not finding any investigators, Elders Lee and Perkins finally decided to fast and pray for heavenly help to find someone interested in their message. After tracting all day near Alexandria and being rejected at every door, they sat down dejectedly on the curb, hot and exhausted. They did not even look up at the man who slowly walked behind them and sat down beside them. DJ looked over at the two missionaries and asked “What makes your church different from the others?” Three weeks later DJ was baptized.
Elders Strong and Keefer helped a nonmember family load their pickup truck to move to a different neighborhood, but they forgot to obtain the family’s name, phone number, or address. All they had was a description of the family’s pickup truck. he Elders spent a couple of fruitless hours driving around various neighborhoods looking for the truck. As it got dark they offered one more prayer and then decided to visit a member’s home nearby. As they pulled into the member’s driveway, they saw the very truck they were looking for sitting in the driveway next door!
Experiences like these are a literal fulfillment of the promise given to Thomas B. Marsh in D&C 31:11: “Go your way withersoever I will, and it shall be given you by the Comforter what you shall do and wither you shall go.” This promise is as true now as it was when it was given through the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1830.
Mark Albright is the President of the Washington DC South Mission