Missionary work

Some of you may have read the incredibly inspiring stories at Bookslinger’s Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon blog. Every time I see his name commenting on a post in the Bloggernacle, I get humbled a bit. I usually hand out only three or four Books of Mormon a year, and here he is placing them every week. So, I have started carrying some Books of Mormon in my briefcase looking for opportunities as I travel. One such opportunity came up last week when I was in New York.

I’m in New York several times a month for work. Most of the people I work with are not interested in religion, so there are no prospects there. It seems the only real prospects I meet are taxi drivers, who come from almost every country on the planet.

Last week, my taxi driver was a nice guy named Paul from the Ivory Coast. I asked him if he spoke French, and he said he had been in the U.S. for more than a decade and he preferred English. I asked him if he would like a book in English, and he smiled very enthusiastically and said, “yes.” I asked him if he had heard of the Mormons, and he said, “yes, the missionaries in white shirts.” He had never met a missionary, just seen them on the streets. So, I gave him a Book of Mormon, and gave him the address of the Lincoln center chapel and temple, and told him that church was at 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. on Sundays.

He was truly appreciative. He told me several times he would go to church and he would read the book. I told him to ask God if it was true, and he said he was Catholic but that he would ask God. He told me he would definitely see me at church (I live in Miami and only go to church in Manhattan occasionally, but I didn’t have time to tell him this with traffic honking in the background).

I’m left to ponder why it seems so difficult sometimes to do missionary work. Yes, there is rejection, but then there are successes like my friend Paul here.

So, Bookslinger, you have inspired at least one person. I have Books of Mormon in five languages and will do my best to hand out one a week. Anybody else up for the Bookslinger challenge? Any other missionary stories to share?

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

17 thoughts on “Missionary work

  1. What an AWESOME idea! That was the first time I had ever been to bookslinger’s website- I was impressed and touched.

  2. Is it just me, or is “booksligner” purposely “stalking: uneducated immigrants for a BoM placement? Sorry for the cyncism, but it seems like booksligner is working hard at beefing up his “numbers” for a weekly call-in to the zone leaders, and less interested in the genuine exchange of religious ideas with people.

  3. Bookslinger can defend himself if he chooses to, but I would like to point out that he is not a full-time missionary, so he’s probably not calling any zone leaders. He’s simply a member trying to do his best. If you read through his blog, there are also plenty of genuine exchanges of religious ideas. I would file the comment #2 in the folder called “extreme Bloggernacle cynicism.”

  4. I applaud Bookslinger’s efforts to “flood the earth” with the Book of Mormon, and see no ulterior motive other than a desire to share that book with thousands.

    I, for one, was inspired by the idea.

  5. Bookslinger is an inspiration. I’m imagining how the gospel would spread if everyone was as dedicated as he.

    Re #2,

    I don’t recall Bookslinger ever refering to anyone as uneducated. Are we stererotyping imigrants????

  6. In light of Geoff’s suggestion to share, I want to share the following.

    I remember one time in particular, I was saying my evening prayers when I was a graduate student at Oxford. I had the distinct impression that I needed to write my testimony and contact information in a Book of Mormon, and donate it to the Exeter College library (Oxford is made up of colleges, and I was a member of Exeter- where Tolkien spent his career). When I took a trip out to Salt Lake City that spring, I purchased a nice, leather-bound copy of the Book of Mormon, and when I returned to Oxford, I approached the head librarian for the Exeter College library about putting one on the shelf. She agreed, and for all I know it is still there. I do not know why I felt that impression (I had never done anything like it before, nor had I ever even heard such a thing suggested), but I do hope that it has touched or will touch someone else’s life the way it has touched mine.

    I definitely need to get more in touch and share the Book of Mormon more often. I used to do a much better job as a student.

  7. Geoff, thanks for the plug!

    I think wakarusa was just using a simile about calling in to zone-leaders.

    But about numbers, the prophet said “flood” not “sprinkle.” Numbers per se are not bad. It was focusing on numbers to the detriment of other gospel principles that got missionary “baptizing systems” the bad rap. But if all other correct principles are in play, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “more.”

    What should we say to the Lord when presented with a golden opportunity for a book placement? I don’t think “Sorry, I’ve given out my quota for the week” would be proper.

    As far as exchanges of religious ideas, most of my encounters don’t have the time for that. Most encounters take place with cashiers, waitresses, clerks, fellow customers at stores, in the check-out line, taxi drivers, so there’s really only a few seconds to make a presentation.

    But I admit that I need to be better about perceiving when the other person does want to continue the encounter for a deeper discussion. One of my goals is to be the least intrusive or least disruptive as possible in their work or shopping activity, and to not delay other customers.

    As you discovered, most people are truly appreciative. And in cases of riding a taxi, or the waitress or the store’s cashier is idle, they honestly do want to chit-chat.

    The 2nd generation, ie. the children of immigrants, can usually speak it, but often don’t have the ability to read the parents’ native language. The Bible or Book of Mormon (or Gospel Fundamentals in about 30 more languages) can then become “The Brass Plates” for that language for that family.

    Even if none of these people join the church (but I think some will), I’ve done a service in terms of ESL (English as Second Language) learning, and helping to keep their home-language alive.

    As far as the “stalking” charge goes, well, I do sometimes intentionally seek out Chinese restaurants to eat, but none of them have refused my business. And I sometimes intentionally go to gas stations, convenience stores, and ethnic grocery stores to buy a newspaper or some soda pop, or groceries. But is that so bad? Literally 100% of the time, they willing take my money for the newspaper/pop/groceries, and 95% of the time they are appreciative of the BoM or Gospel Fundamentals or Bible.

    Even more important, there have been so many “divine coincidences” that I have to believe the Lord has had a hand in setting some up and that he therefore wants me to continue. I picked up an Igbo Bible from the Post Office and there was an Igbo man next in line to me. I picked up a Yoruba Bible at the Post Office one time, and there was a Yoruba lady in the outer lobby. I picked up my Chinese Liahona, and there was a Chinese man. I picked up my Tagalog Liahona, and there was a Filipino who speaks Tagalog, and who’s related to a family to whom I had already gave books and DVDs. I walked past an outdoor table at Starbucks and heard two men from Africa talking about the Bible. I said to one that I have Bibles in my car. He said he would like to read the Bible in Arabic. Yup, I had an Arabic/English bilingual New Testament in the car.

    At some point it stops being coincidence, ya know?

    And even more important than the last point, about 10 to 15% of these encounters are where I am actually prompted or “tugged” to go somewhere or talk to a certain person. You know those “driving directions” stories in the Ensign? Where the person was told by the Spirit to slow down, or change lanes, or take a different route? Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes it’s a spiritual “tug” to a location within view. Sometimes there’s a “Roma Downey/Touched By an Angel” spot-light on a place or a person, as if the Lord is using a divine spot-light as a laser-pointer. (And for those who are cynical, yes, I do see that “spiritual spot-light” with my “spiritual eyes.” 🙂 Sometimes it’s a prompting to alter my itinerary. Sometimes it’s literally “turn here, now go there” and boom, I find a place I’ve never been to before, and there’s a person there who is receptive to the material.

    I figure it’s like this: The Lord knows where everyone is at any given time. He knows who is ready to have a seed planted. And if I have some seeds in my car, and am willing to give them out, then why can’t the Lord implant in my bosom a hankerin’ fer Chinese food? And is not the Lord capable of arranging things behind the scenes so that the Yoruba lady and the shipment with the Yoruba Bible and I (or the Igbo man and the shipment with the Igbo Bible and I) arrive at the Post Office at the same time? And if a man from Zimbabwe who speaks Shona (and whose wife speaks Zulu) is going to be at the Kroger grocery store, and I have Shona and Zulu Books of Mormon in my car, would that be sufficient reason for the Lord to give me a spiritual prompting to go shop at Kroger at the same time he’ll be there?

    Here are the concepts for anyone who wants to try it:
    1. Believe the Lord can do it.
    2. Prepare by having material with you or in your car.
    3. Pray for opportunities.
    4. Seek out opportunities. Take the first step.
    Make an investment like the parable of the talents.
    5. Recognize and react to opportunties.
    6. Open your mouth.

    And like the parable of the talents, if you do good with what you already have, the Lord will give you more opportunities.

    All this started when I went to a Chinese restaurant with the intention of giving out a Book of Mormon. Then *BOOM*, the very next day the Lord, without any spriritual promptings, dumped another opportunity in my lap, and opened my eyes to recognize it. Then later that month, I started receiving “directions.”

    The whole thing wasn’t even my own idea. I originally got it in 1985 from my mission president in Guayaquil Ecuador when he assigned my comp and I to go to Chinese restaurants with Chinese Books of Mormon. Little did I know that day in June 2004 what was going to follow. Wow. I stand all amazed.

  8. Wow… and I have yet to muster up the courage to pass out a pass-along card!

  9. I’m a brand new Ward Mission leader (well, it’s the 2nd time I’ve been called to be a WML, the last time was 15 years ago). Given what Elder Ballard said in General Conference about sharing the Gospel, is giving a Book Mormon the most effective way to share the Gospel? In some cases, yes it is. However, I subscribe to the “preach the gospel, use words if necessary approach”. I used to believe that giving out a Book of Mormon is a tangible way for me to know that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, but now I belive there are other just as effective ways of sharing the Gospel, like being a good example, or performing quiet acts of Christian service, or just talking about the life we live as members of this Church. I’m not against giving out a Book of Mormon if that is what the Lord wants, and I believe Bookslinger definitely can teach us a lot about following the promptings of the Spirit.

  10. I wish that I had the courage Bookslinger has to open my mouth. He’s doing what I will be asking my ward members to do, constantly be thinking about opportunities to share the Gospel. To “be not still”. If sharing the Gospel is always on our minds, then we will be more inclined to do so.

  11. Maybe Bookslinger would like to share the full answer to Geoff B’s comment “He’s simply a member trying to do his best.” I won’t go further if Bookslinger doesn’t care to share now what he’s revealed in the past but his story is much more inspiring when you know the rest of it.

  12. Manaen, are you referring to my ex-member status? I tried telling the Lord “Can I do that? I’m technically not a member!” in response to a few promptings early on, and His response was something along the line of “I’m telling you to, aren’t I?” And it was the same “voice” that kept telling me to repent, so I figured I better follow it.

    So technically, I’m not a “member missionary,” I’m an “ex-member missionary.”

    Hey, the Distribution Center at http://www.ldscatalog.com only asks for member number when you buy garments, not books. 🙂 Once the books are in my possession, I can dispose of them as I please, right?

    This week I’m on the road between Indianapolis and South Carolina. Wow! So many restaurants. So many gas stations. Last night I met a guy who spoke Kurdish. No Kurdish Book of Mormon, so I gave him a Kurdish New Testament. He said he spoke Turkish and Arabic, so I gave him Turkish, Arabic and English Books of Mormon.

    Today’s lunch was cool. I went to a Chinese restaurant in Georgia. The waitress turned down the Chinese Book of Mormon, but the cashier accepted a pair in Indonesian and English. Just outside the door, when I left, a guy was speaking Portuguese on his Cell phone, so when he got off the phone, I gave him Portuguese/English copies of the Book of Mormon. I walked around, and found a Vietnamese man and woman sitting outside their nail salon, and gave them a Vietnamese Liahona and Vietnamese Book of Mormon.

    I got “tugged” into the gas station across the street, and the cashier spoke Hausa (Nigeria) so I gave him Hausa/English Gospel Fundamentals, Hausa/English JS Testimony pamphlet, English BofM, and Heavenly Father’s Plan DVD. I drove down the street looking for cheaper gasoline, and got “tugged” into a Walgreen’s. The cashier spoke Hindi and Punjabi. I was out of Hindi BoM’s, so I gave her Punjabi/English Gospel Fundamentals.

  13. “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” Desmond Tutu

  14. Someone else is talking to strangers and giving out copies of the Book of Mormon in Ohio. And someone to whom she gave a Book of Mormon got baptized last month. Read her story here.

    She also comments: “The interesting thing is that he frequents the local Bob Evans restaurant in his home town, where several other priesthood holders go on Saturday morning. They’d sit at the counter and chat with him about this and that; but in the 10 plus years that this had been going on, not one of them ever opened up their mouths to talk to him about the church. He had to inherit a larger territory and wander into a restaurant in Ohio to find a feisty redhead that opened up her mouth.”

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