“Being Someone’s Missionary,” Ensign, Sept. 1996, 16
A while back, my husband and I returned from one of the greatest adventures of our lives—serving as full-time missionaries in the England London Mission. One week we were driving our familiar car along familiar roads, and the next week we were riding the “tube” (subway), clutching maps, memorizing stops, and searching for unfamiliar streets.
While the newness of our surroundings was certainly exciting, even more marvelous were the people we met and the experiences we had. I had often heard members talk memorably about the missionaries who had brought them the gospel or had helped strengthen their testimonies. But I had never imagined how it would feel to actually serve in this role. Now I know.
Initially we were assigned to the Britannia Ward, a young single adult ward that met in the famous Hyde Park chapel in the heart of London. One of our assignments was to fellowship unmarried members who had not been attending church. Since the ward covered all of London, so did we. We found members from all over the world who were living in London for work or study. We invited them to our little flat and listened to them and loved them.
What wonderful missionary opportunities we had! We were drawn to one young lady in particular, however. Russell, a member of the bishopric, was dating Rebecca and invited her to attend church with him. She came to most meetings and activities. Both she and Russell took us under their wings, teaching us about their country and its customs. We invited them to dinner several times and eventually felt prompted to invite Rebecca to come alone once a week.
During those weekly dinner appointments, we talked about the gospel. We tried to answer Rebecca’s questions, and we bore our testimonies to her. Rebecca attended an open house for the London Temple before it was rededicated, and she felt the Spirit strongly while there. Yet she was still hesitant to get baptized.
One night we attended a fireside for single members where Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy spoke. During his remarks, Elder Jensen counseled those in attendance to ask themselves if the person they were dating brought them closer to Heavenly Father. We were sitting next to Rebecca, and she turned to my husband. “If Russell ever asks himself that question, he’ll stop seeing me,” she said.
“What can you do about that, Rebecca?” he whispered back.
That was a turning point. Although Rebecca had prayed for direction before, she began doing so with more intensity, greater sincerity. She also fasted for guidance. The next time we saw her, she immediately started crying as she told us that Heavenly Father had answered her prayers; she’d decided to be baptized.
Rebecca’s parents and grandmother attended her baptism, as did as many people from the single adult ward who could squeeze into the room. Newly baptized, Rebecca bore her testimony to the crowd. With tears streaming down her face, she thanked everyone, especially Russell, for their examples. She said that although she had known for a long time that the gospel was true, she had not wanted to be baptized until she was certain she could be the best member of the Church she could possibly be. That was what had been holding her back, and now with Heavenly Father’s assurance she knew she could do her best. Last November Russell and Rebecca were sealed in the London Temple.
Shortly after Rebecca’s baptism, my husband and I were assigned to the Lea Valley Ward, which met in a 100-year-old school building. Many members of that ward were from Africa, and they taught us much about faith, humility, and dedication. Again, our main assignment was to visit those who were less active. There were many we loved dearly, but we will always remember Adebayo Oganmokum.
We first met Ade when we visited his wife, Grace. He answered the door and invited us in, pointing out a huge painting of himself in his native ceremonial robes. What a handsome and charismatic man he was! We learned that he was a ruler over 5,000 people in Nigeria. An engineer, Ade had received his education in London and was dividing his time between that city and his homeland. The last time he had been in Nigeria, Grace and one of his sons joined the Church. He seemed very pleased about this, and my husband invited him to hear the missionary discussions. Ade responded positively!
During the first discussion, we talked about prayer. Ade lowered his head. “I can’t pray,” he admitted. “I don’t know how. Every morning and night my wife kneels by our bed and prays, and I hide my head under the covers like a little boy because I have never learned how to pray.”
It was such a joy to teach Ade the restored gospel of Jesus Christ because he was so excited about each principle. He knew they were true. “I brought electricity to my people,” he said, referring to a civil engineering project he had completed in his homeland. “But now I will be able to bring them the gospel of Jesus Christ!”
For the last six months of our mission, my husband and I were assigned to a beautiful village on the North Sea called Clacton on Sea. Three years earlier the branch there had been closed. The nearest ward was in Colchester, a 55-minute drive from Clacton. Most Church members in Clacton didn’t own cars, so there were only a few families who could attend church.
Our assignment was to find out if there were enough members in Clacton to justify organizing another branch. We visited one sister with four children who managed to attend church in Colchester regularly. We were eager to meet her husband, and we liked Steve the minute we met him. He was warm and fun, a caring husband and father. Although he had been less active for eight years, he graciously accepted our offer to prepare a family home evening for his family the next Monday.
That week we made caramel corn and planned a fun game to play with the children. But most of all, we prayed for inspiration. We wanted to know how to touch Steve’s heart.
During the evening’s activities, we shared a story about a friend of ours who had not attended church for at least 10 years. He was surprised when the mission president called him to be a branch president. When our friend said he was not worthy, the mission president replied, “I know that. I didn’t choose you. The Lord did. Can you become worthy?”
Our friend accepted the challenge and became the new branch president. Of course, his whole life changed; he and his family had never known such joy.
As we concluded this story, my husband said in jest, “Something like that could happen to you, Steve, when they organize this new branch!”
“Don’t even say that!” Steve responded quickly.
We knew Steve had felt the Spirit while we told the story, but we didn’t know until much later what had really happened. Eventually a new branch was created in Clacton, and Steve was called to be a counselor in the branch presidency! He then told us that while we talked that night, he’d felt this opportunity would be his.
Just before our mission ended, Steve thanked us for what we had done. “My mouth cannot even express the joy that I feel,” he said. “I am a new person, and I shall always be thankful to you two. But let me warn you. Someday my wife and I will go on a mission, and maybe we’ll visit someone in your family line who isn’t active. We’ll knock on their door and say, ‘We want to have a family home evening with you that will change your life forever!’”
There is nothing that can compare to sharing the gospel with someone, carrying the mantle of full-time missionary service, and experiencing the promptings from our Heavenly Father as you serve him by serving his children.
Deciding to serve a full-time mission had been a hard decision for us. We left behind loved ones, including my widowed mother. We left the comfort of our home and the ease of a familiar life. But the Lord is so kind! He asks us to make sacrifices for him, and then he repays us with more joy than we can contain.
We are now serving our second mission. We were thrilled to be called back to London, this time to the England London South Mission. Once again we will know the sweetness and joy of being someone’s missionary.