“A Day in the Life of a Missionary,” New Era, June 2000, 60
Your assignment is to follow missionaries on a typical day to find out what it is missionaries do. So you check the address once more and find you’re on the right street. You pass a pile of tree branches and a discarded computer printer. Next to that is a stone pedestal, with a bowling ball sitting majestically on top. Interesting, you think.
As you continue walking, you see what must be the elders’ apartment. It’s not easy to find as it is tucked behind a wall and beneath several large citrus trees.
When you step inside, the first thing you notice is how clean the apartment is. However, luxury isn’t the first word that leaps to mind. The living room is a little light on furniture, and since Elder Brown and Elder Paventy have already claimed the small couch, Elder Burton and Elder Smith get the floor. The hard floor.
It’s seven in the morning, and the four missionaries in the California Anaheim Mission are reading from a study guide and doing some role-playing while preparing for a day of proselyting.
Meanwhile, 40 miles to the north, in the California San Bernardino Mission, Elder Graham is sitting at his desk studying, while his companion, Elder Majeran, is at the kitchen table reading. Their apartment used to be a garage but has been converted to an apartment. At least any oil spills from the structure’s previous tenant are now covered by carpeting.
Ah, the life of a missionary.
Even though it’s safe to say both apartments won’t be included in a home and garden magazine, it really doesn’t matter. The missionaries are trying to keep costs down, and they mainly need a place to sleep and study anyway. For the rest of the day, they’re doing what they were called to do.
Two days, two missions, two companionships. This is what happened.
Elder Tim Paventy and Elder Brian Burton have been missionaries for 17 months. Their missions are winding down, but they’re not. After going over their schedule, they’re out the door by 9:30.
Like many of the missionaries in this mission, they drive cars. So Elder Burton loads up the trunk with copies of the Book of Mormon and Lamb of God videos. Elder Paventy hops in the passenger side, and off they go. The first visit is to a less-active member and his nonmember wife.
As the two missionaries walk through an apartment complex, they see a repairman. His name is Gene, and he has a sewed-on badge on his shirt to prove it. Elder Paventy stops him and asks him if they can talk for a minute. Gene waves them off, saying he’s too busy.
“We tried,” Elder Paventy says.
A few minutes later the missionaries are visiting the part-member family from Colombia. The husband was baptized there before moving to the United States. He explains his Sunday job has kept him from becoming active again, and he’s pleased his wife has agreed to talk to the elders. She is very interested in what they have to say and has lots of questions. Elder Burton, who speaks Spanish, explains things and reads scriptures with her. “When I read the Book of Mormon, I feel the same way I do when I read the Bible,” she says. Elder Burton smiles.
It’s a very productive meeting, and another appointment is scheduled.
“She is really good,” Elder Burton says as he walks toward the car. He understands as a missionary you live for moments like that.
The elders are both enthusiastic because they know their next appointment is with an investigator who is committed to baptism. As they walk to their meeting, a woman approaches the missionaries. She tells them she attended church a few times when she lived in Arizona and would like to know where the nearest chapel is. They write down her address and phone number and tell her they’ll make sure the missionaries assigned to her area stop by for a visit.
As the elders approach the home of their scheduled appointment, Elder Burton says, “I think we should sing here. It will be a good time to do it, and I know she’ll feel the Spirit.”
On a recent tour of this mission, Elder Richard H. Winkel of the Seventy challenged the missionaries to sometimes sing to their investigators. “Elder Winkel promised us our investigators will feel the Spirit. We don’t sound great when we sing, but the Lord blesses the people listening and allows the Spirit to come through. We really like doing it, and it has caught on in our mission,” Elder Burton says.
Elders Burton and Paventy are greeted warmly by the investigator, a middle-aged woman whose daughter joined the Church in Hawaii. The mother saw how her daughter changed and wanted to know why. The daughter called the mission home and requested the missionaries visit her mother. A few weeks earlier they did, and here they are for another discussion.
Before they leave, the missionaries do ask if they can finish with a song. They sing “Love Is Spoken Here.” No, they’re not the world’s best singers. But they’re right. You can feel the Spirit.
The elders need to back the car out of a driveway, so Elder Paventy jumps out and directs Elder Burton. “Mission rule,” Elder Paventy explains. “Whenever we’re backing out, one of us has to check for traffic.” Safely on the road, they’re now on their way to the Anaheim Shores condominiums for some tracting. “Let’s go knocking,” Elder Burton says enthusiastically.
Nobody lets them in, but it’s not for lack of trying. “Sometimes that’s just how it is,” Elder Paventy says.
After a quick lunch, the missionaries stop at a nearby park to look at their schedule. As they check their planners, they decide how to spend the rest of the afternoon. “We have the two member visits to do, and we could tract a little more while we’re out,” Elder Burton says. They’re in agreement, and that becomes the plan.
The member visits are short, and more tracting follows. In one apartment complex, the missionaries stop a woman and her daughter and talk to them. The woman explains that she’s familiar with the missionaries and the Church, but tells them she isn’t interested. Elder Paventy tries one more time for an appointment, but she politely refuses.
“Anything you do as a missionary is stepping out of your comfort zone,” Elder Paventy says. “In high school you were looking for your comfort zone. But I’ve found that on my mission I’m looking to get out of my comfort zone. I’m always searching for ways to do something more.” Maybe at one time it would have seemed odd to go up to complete strangers and talk to them about the Church. But not now. “The Lord has really blessed me that way,” he says.
Elder Paventy and Elder Burton are at it again. This time it’s with a man in his 20s. As they walk through a neighborhood they stop to talk to him. They engage him in a conversation for several minutes, but he doesn’t give them his address or phone number.
It’s getting close to dinner. That night they have two more appointments scheduled. But it’s time for you to part ways with these missionaries. You’re off to the California San Bernardino Mission, and there is Los Angeles rush-hour traffic to battle.
Elder Darren Majeran and Elder Josh Graham say a prayer, grab their bike helmets, and head out the door. No car for them. They need to get to Bonnie Brae Street for an appointment with an investigator, but they have a little time before that so they go on two callbacks to people they’d met last week. They pedal down the driveway and onto the street.
There is no answer at either home, so back on the bikes they go. Their investigator on Bonnie Brae likes what he has heard about the Church, but he is having a problem understanding the concept of the priesthood and authority. They’re prepared to try to answer his questions.
The investigator seems happy to see the missionaries. He has read two of the pamphlets the elders left with him on their last visit, and he’s prepared to discuss them. He seems very earnest in his desire to learn. He’s just not sure he can accept what they are teaching.
“I thought it went okay,” Elder Majeran says after the meeting. “It’s just going to take some time.”
Next stop: the corner of Harvard Street and Ramona Avenue. The missionaries lock their bikes to a stop sign and begin going door to door. Elder Majeran and Elder Graham go to 19 houses, but very few people are home, and nobody invites them in.
The missionaries break for lunch and talk about what just happened and what’s ahead. Elder Graham has been a missionary for about seven months, and he’s settled into a daily routine. “I guess the work has been the way I expected it to be. I haven’t done quite as much teaching as I thought we would,” he says. “But when you do, and you see people make changes in their lives and know you’ve been a part of that, it’s great.”
He continues: “If we tracted for a whole day and did nothing else, we’d probably get in maybe two or three doors.”
“We do a lot of talking through screens,” Elder Majeran adds. “But we usually have pretty good success once we get in.”
Today won’t be one of those days, however.
It’s more of the same in the afternoon, although there is something to look forward to tonight. A family committed to receive baptism is scheduled for a sixth discussion, and another family in the ward has invited the missionaries to dinner.
With dinner concluded (“The chicken was really good. Sister Wilson is a great cook,” Elder Graham says), the missionaries end up teaching a discussion to a person referred to them by a member. That is followed by the discussion to the family scheduled to be baptized.
Another day is complete. Elder Majeran is tired but happy. “Not bad. We got a lot done today,” he says. As they change from their proselyting clothes and get ready for bed, they make phone calls to the zone leaders and the ward mission leader.
Your job is done too. You realized after two days that missionary work is still challenging. It takes a lot of hard work and effort, and there are highs and lows. But both companionships remained optimistic and excited about missionary work. All four told you that being missionaries is what they need to be doing.
You shake hands and say good-bye. Your work is done. But theirs isn’t.
After all, tomorrow awaits.