LDS missionaries, motivated by love for God and people
Mormon missionaries based in Woodburn share some of the experiences from their two-year commitments to their church
With their uniforms and name tags, their rigorous work and study schedules, their two-year, full-time commitments to their church, the missionaries currently based at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Woodburn are not your average 19- and 20-year-olds.
But then again, they are.
I think thats one thing that people seem to forget, but were just normal people, said Elder Bryce Johnson, a 20-year-old Utah native. We dress differently because we believe we represent the lord by dressing nice, but we do normal things. We laugh, we joke around. We have fun when were working.
A common misconception the missionaries said they encounter is that their church requires its members to undertake the mission.
Actually, its voluntary, and not something to be entered into lightly, they said. All four have plans for life, including college and careers.
Its not an easy decision to put your future on hold for two years, said Elder Christopher Walker, a native Texan and the oldest of the four at a grizzled 21. Its not a whimsical thing. We basically see it as our duty. We believe this gospel is true, and we want others to hear about it as well.
Not only is the missionaries work voluntary, they actually have to pay for the privilege. The missionaries said they work side jobs, fundraise and receive support from fellow Mormons to save enough to provide for themselves during the two-year mission.
We pay to be here, Sister Amanda Thelin, 19, said. We want to do this, because we love the lord. We love his gospel, and we love people.
The missionaries operate in pairs, as one unit. There are actually five pairs assigned to Woodburn, three of whom are fluent in Spanish.
They reach out to people in a variety of ways, including, increasingly, through social media and the Internet. After a couple hours in the morning of personal study time, their days are filled with meeting people, either by appointment or just by walking the streets of Woodburn and talking to those they meet.
They knock on doors sometimes, too though they admit that has led to some unpleasant experiences.
Sometimes, you knock on a door and people get mad, Johnson said. Weve even had people yell at us and slam the door in our face.
Weve had a lot of people calling us names, added Sister Danielle Eggleston, also 19. The mission is probably one of the most emotionally and mentally challenging things Ive ever done in my life.
But the positive change they say they have seen in others, transformation they believe is from God, makes it worth it.
You see people able to follow Jesus more fully in their lives, and that changes them, Walker said. Its not anything we can do. Its Gods work.
It even helps with some of the less-than cordial encounters.
You gain this love for people thats unchanging, he said. I think thats been the most surprising thing for me.