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Members Make the Difference

As a missionary in Chile, I learned that investigators’ conversion is greatly helped by the involvement of ward members. My companions and I found out quickly that ward members were essential in reactivation and in keeping recent converts active.

In one area, we had been working with a family for many months. They had once been very strong in the Church but had fallen away from activity. The family didn’t feel as though the ward members cared whether or not they attended Church or other activities. As missionaries, we struggled to get the members excited about reactivation. They were unwilling to do even simple things like ask the family to sit with them at church, visit them, or invite them to activities.

In another area, however, the ward members seemed as excited about missionary work as the missionaries. The members were so involved and were always willing to help us find and keep investigators. After the members met our investigators, they practically took over. They invited the investigators or less-active members to every activity and offered to pick them up for church. Many times investigators would tell us how welcome they felt and how they didn’t feel like just another number because the members took such a personal interest in them.

I learned how important it is that bonds of fellowship in the gospel be formed between ward members. As missionaries, we come and go. But the association with ward members lasts much longer.

[illustration] Illustration by Paul Mann

The Name on the Tag

I don’t remember many details about my baptism. Much of what was said is a blur to me. But I will never forget my thoughts afterwards. “Be careful what you do—you are a representative of Jesus Christ.” At the time, that meant to me that I shouldn’t sin, but recently it has taken on a whole new meaning.

Receiving my mission call to the Philippines Cebu Mission was a momentous occasion in my life. I had been preparing for quite some time, and I was ready to serve. Entering the missionary training center was a great experience. It struck me that the first thing that they do there is give you a name tag. But this is no ordinary name tag—it has two names. One is the missionary’s name and the other is the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Putting on that name tag was the start of a new understanding for me of what it really meant to be a representative of Jesus Christ.

Recently I had an experience that made me reflect on that understanding again. My companion and I had been working nonstop the entire day. We had just finished teaching a new investigator and started making our way back home. Along the way, a group of kids came over to talk to us. They gathered around my companion as he began doing some tricks for them while I stood back and watched. Then I noticed a young boy not watching but staring at me. He walked up to me and looked at my name tag. He took his pointer finger and dragged it along each word. He mumbled until he got to one part: “Jesus Christ!” His jaw dropped and he slowly looked up at me.

I can’t describe how I felt at that moment. I looked into the eyes of this young boy and thought to myself, “Was I representing Jesus Christ well?” I felt I had been. How grateful I am that I could stand there and say I had been doing my best to show others the light of Christ.

This experience has stuck with me throughout my mission, and every day I try my hardest to remember who I represent. I know that as members of the Church, we must strive in our everyday lives to represent Jesus Christ. I think King Benjamin said it best in Mosiah 5:8: “There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ.”

Three Little Notes

One evening while serving as full-time missionaries in Nigeria, my companion and I made plans to visit some of our former investigators. We were filled with the Spirit as we walked down the street. We sang some hymns softly, and I said a prayer in my heart that the Lord would help touch the hearts of these people so they could continue investigating the Church.

Our first attempt was very discouraging, and we wanted to quit. But we summoned our courage and stopped at the home of a family who had been investigating the Church. Unfortunately, nobody was at the house. A neighbor told us that the family was away traveling, and no one knew how long they would be gone. All we could do was stick a note on their door, telling them how much we loved and cared for their family.

A few days later we stopped by the house again and found our note still stuck to the door. We put up another and went on our way. Some days later we found our notes were still there, so we put up another, making three in all. Over the next few weeks we passed the house frequently. We left no more notes, but we prayed for the family.

Some weeks later, to our astonishment, this family attended church. They told us how they wept for joy when they saw our notes at the very time they needed them most. They said our little notes are among their most cherished possessions.

From that experience I learned that with one success, a thousand failures are forgotten and that hearts can be changed by our acts of love and kindness.

[photo] Photograph by Welden Andersen