Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Walking in Faith and Meeting People Every Day

Developing Life-Long Skills While Sharing Faith

MIKE MOTZ

OP-ED for the

Sidney Sun-Telegraph

SIDNEY--It started with a random encounter while I was walking through the front door of the Sun-Telegraph office in downtown Sidney. Two young well dressed gentlemen were conversing with the office manager and the other reporter, and it was obvious that they were telling them that they didn't have time for whatever they were selling, and to have a good day. That's when one of the young gentlemen introduced himself to me, stated he was with the local LDS church, and asked if I had some time to talk with them about faith. I told him unfortunately that I did not have any time, as I was just dropping in to grab my camera and head up to the Leyton vs. Potter-Dix game up in Dalton. “Can we stop by again at a later date?” he asked, and I said sure. I'll talk to anybody.

It wasn't always that way for me, as I remember many times not answering the door for the random caller looking to save my soul, or sell me something. Being from New Jersey, we didn't get many LDS members making unannounced visits, usually just Jehovah’s Witnesses or kids selling over-priced candy for a school trip. As I've gotten older, however, I've learned that sometimes you need to talk to people, no matter what the reason for the encounter is, because you never know who they are or what can come from the exchange. Sure, many of you now are saying to yourselves “I never answer the door for solicitors,” or “there oughta be a law against bothering people at home,” and I can't say that I disagree with that sentiment, for the most part. However, being a salesman for the majority of my adult life, I know how difficult it can be to muster the courage to approach an unwilling stranger, and I've become more and more curious about what motivates people to do such a difficult task, and how they handle rejection and all the other difficulties associated with approaching strangers. The two young men came back to the office to see me, and three times in a row I was out of the office. Nevertheless, they persisted.

In the beginning of January, they finally came in when I was in the office. We sat down together, and had a chat about faith, and other positive topics. I grew up Catholic, and have more recently become interested in Baptist theology. The two young men were fine with that, and did not push me at all about their particular faith, and we spoke of things we had in common. After a few minutes I told them I had to get back to work, and they understood. However, I asked them if they could come back so I could interview them, not so much about their particular faith, but about how they found themselves in Sidney, and the challenges of being a missionary. After receiving permission from their higher ups, they agreed to come back and we set an appointment.

On the day of the appointment, the two came to the office, well-dressed and on time. Again, as a salesman, I know the value of appearance and being on time, and the two young men checked the boxes right out of the gate. Elder Bascom was the more extroverted of the two, and tended to lead the conversation while Elder Morehead was tall and quiet, his glasses making him appear to be the more studious of the pair. Elder Bascom is from Pocatello, Idaho, and did some missionary work in Idaho prior to coming out to do his missionary work here in the Panhandle region. Elder Morehead is from Lehigh, Utah, and went to BYU for a year before deciding to do missionary work away from Utah.

Both young men came to missionary work of their own volition; both felt they were called into this work, and it was the best way for them to develop a better relationship with the Lord. Both felt like whether they realized it or not at the time, they had been training for this sort of work since childhood. After receiving instruction on how to go about missionary work, usually at a place like the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, they were ready to go out their missions. Bascom and Morehead did not know each other prior to coming to Sidney, and Morehead has been here for a shorter time than Bascom. Prior to their missions, both spoke of working and saving money for the task they had ahead of them. Although the church provides a vehicle and fuel and a place to stay, many of their expenses they must cover themselves, and they can't be sidetracked with having to earn money while fulfilling their missions.

I asked if they had a set number of people they must talk to in a given day, or a “territory plan” to ensure coverage of a certain area, equating what they are doing to what I knew, which was territory sales. Elder Morehead chuckled a bit and said, “No, we don't have any quotas or rules about where we go. We just set up our day based off of inspiration and then go out.” I secretly wished that I had Sales Managers like that during my time hitting the streets.

The pair are 19 and 20 years old, which seems to me to be so young to take on such a big endeavor. Elder Bascom said, “It's much easier for us now in the present day. Back in the 1800’s missionaries were generally quite a bit older and their missions lasted much longer than ours.” Plus, the pair have a support system behind them to give them guidance, and the mission president tells them when to stop and move to another area. For the most part, however, they have the freedom to go where they believe they are being led. They rely on their training to open interactions with others, and have quickly gained a keen insight on who to approach and who not to approach. However, both are very clear when they say that they believe those senses are basically messages from the Lord, guiding them to talk to certain people, or putting those that need to hear their message in their path.

A common theme during our discussion, which most all religions agree upon, is that our skills, our talents and our successes come from a higher power. That we just need to be “in tune” to be able to receive these blessings. It's a very important distinction to make, as so much frustration in modern life stems from the belief that we, as individuals, can control actions and events that are clearly not in our control. That lack of a feeling of control can lead to much internal strife if one fails to recognize that there is a higher power that controls most things, and that as individuals, we should focus only on what we can control.

The pair talked a bit about some of the great experiences they have had, and some of the wonderful people they have spoken with and shared stories of faith. They have had some bad experiences, like when they were traveling through the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Although they considered it a “bad experience”, they both also knew there was a reason they went there and experienced what they did. It might not be revealed for some time, but all “bad experiences” are at least opportunities to learn, and that the real reason for the experience will eventually reveal itself. Elder Bascom said, “We are taught to talk to everybody, and the God will put people in our path ready to receive the gospel. Maybe they are not ready to receive it at that time, or from me, but even a negative encounter can be the spark that changes an attitude in someone's heart, and that could be the reason why they were put in my path.”

We spoke a bit more about their decisions to get into missionary work, and the difficulties they believed they would encounter, and the benefits they would enjoy. Elder Morehead said, “It was a hard decision for me, because although I've always believed I have a strong relationship with God, I have always been an introvert. So, opening up and speaking with strangers is difficult for me. However, I believe doing this mission would help me overcome that difficulty, and in the short time I've been doing this, I have already started to see results. I'm building social skills and becoming more comfortable talking with people.” Morehead plans on getting a degree in mechanical engineering and putting his analytical and math skills to good use in the future.

Elder Bascom said, “It was a bit different for me, as I had fallen away from my faith during high school. But I felt that I had to come back to it if I ever was going to find happiness and peace in my life. When I made my decision to go on this mission, a lot of my friends, who were not church members tried to stop me. When I was 17 years old they had an intervention to dissuade me from what I knew I needed to do. But I also had a lot of supporters in the church who honored my decision and encouraged me. I just feel like getting away from the element that was holding me back and going on this mission was what the Lord had chosen for me, and I see the benefits of this decision every day.” Elder Bascom plans on becoming a pilot when his time doing missionary work is over.

Both are in Sidney for a just a short time longer, and both expressed their fondness for our town. But they will be moving on soon, off to spread their message and meet more people. They go where the inspiration takes them. For example, on Saturday I came home from covering the Western Conference Tournament at WNCC in Scottsbluff, and I stopped at the Git-N-Split on 12th and Illinois St. to get large Mountain Dew for editor Barbara Perez, as the caffeine in the drink helps relieve her migraine headaches. As I was walking out, here came Elders Bascom and Morehead, looking to spread the word at the Git-N-Split. Inspiration doesn't discriminate where it can be found, and it definitely doesn't take Saturdays off. Regardless of one's personal thoughts about faith or having people knocking at your door, being able to approach and talk with people is a valuable skill far too many young people do not possess. It can be one of the scariest things to do, but the value of overcoming your fear and pushing yourself to do something you may not want to do is one of the key elements of success in our world. Many successful people note that overcoming shyness, speaking in public and talking to strangers were a big obstacle they had to overcome on their path to success. Perhaps talking to strangers about your faith isn't for everyone, but getting out of comfort zones and developing the ability to communicate serves most very well on their journey through life. With so much of world becoming “virtual”, the ability to communicate person to person is becoming devalued in many ways. It is easier just to send an email, or a text or direct message. However, the ability to meet with strangers and converse, persuade or present a call to action is a valuable skill, that can't be acquired with a computer program or app. Encouraging younger adults to speak in public or engage with strangers about a product, or petition question, regardless of purpose, is an endeavor that should be encouraged, as it builds skills that will benefit the practitioner throughout their lives.

 

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