News Release

Turning Outward Brings Relief and Perspective – How Missionary Work in Europe is Changing

The perplexing times the world is immersed in, with the expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic into almost each country and territory, might cause a certain level of anxiety or fear, especially when the number of infections keeps rising sharply and an effective treatment or vaccine is not yet foreseen or available. These emotions are naturally shared by members and missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the last few weeks, Church leadership decided to cancel Sunday worship services and other Church meetings and activities in the meetinghouses and directed members of the Church and their families to stay inside their own homes and worship there.

Other than some who returned home because of pre-existing health concerns, missionaries continue to serve in Europe. They are staying in their apartments and are ‘sheltering in place’ until the situation improves, and it is safe to go outside again. For almost all missions in the Europe Area, missionaries can still share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone, using the technology that is available in their smart devices. Nevertheless, the transition from working outdoors to an ‘indoor approach’ required some adaptation and soul-searching.

This is the third article of a series. Click here to read the first article and here for the second one.

In the city of Cannock, in England, Elders Cade McFarland, Markko Aresgado, Davis Larsen and Trey Logan confess that when they were first asked to self-isolate, they were a bit shocked.  They serve as full-time volunteer missionaries in England Birmingham Mission and this transition was, in the beginning, difficult to comprehend.

Serving in the England Birmingham Mission, Elders David Larsen, Francisco Rodriguez, Trey Logan, Markko Aresgado, and Cade McFarland stop for a photo while they deliver postcards with inspiring messages to those who live in their community2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

But soon the group felt that they were spending too much time focusing on themselves and on the challenges and struggles this change represented. In their own words, “they were turning inward”. The scriptures show that Jesus Christ always turned outward. He spent His life in the service of others. He healed the sick. He strengthened the faint. He ministered to the forgotten. They realized they needed to turn outward and make the most of their situation. Prompted by that feeling, they started searching on Facebook for some community groups in the area of Cannock where they could participate in. Their hope was to start serving and helping others.

When they came across a ‘Coronavirus Support Network’ in their proselyting area, they were very excited. After some more research, they discovered they could volunteer to deliver postcards for members that belonged to that Facebook group in their community. They got together with some other missionaries, living in the same geographical area, and they got to work.

Elders Cade McFarland and Markko Aresgado, holding a postcard, like many others they shared in the city of few of Cannock, England2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Looking back on that experience, the service they gave wasn't huge. Yet, they felt so much better. Elder Cade McFarland, who is from Tucson, Arizona, said that “I'm convinced that this was because I decided to turn outward. I found myself taking every small chance to smile, wave, and say "good morning". We may have had to keep our two meters of distance from each other, but we were able to uplift people, and that's what being a missionary is all about”.

Elder Cade McFarland, from Tucson, Arizona, serves as a full time volunteer missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the England Birmingham Mission2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

In the city of Tamworth, 30 kilometres east of Cannock, Elder Robert Ison, who is from Bloomington, Indiana, in the United States, confirms that his success came from answers to prayers. “I felt like God had put me into a pinch and I felt like I wasn't doing all I could”. Feeling he was wasting God’s time, he decided to pray and ask God why he was serving as a missionary in that area, in that particular time. He says the Spirit of God spoke to him, as audibly as one man speaks to another. He clearly felt that he was being taught and prepared on how to live in these new conditions and fulfil his missionary assignment and follow a righteous path for the rest of his life.

Elder Robert Ison, from Bloomington, Indiana, is serving as a missionary of the Church in the city of Tamworth, England. That city is within the geographical boundaries of the England Birmingham Mission.2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
       The message really boiled down to what can be found in the holy scriptures, “be still and know that God is there”. He was shocked and, at the same time, amazed. He no longer felt like he was letting God down. “I realize that for the rest of my mission, maybe I won't be able to go street contacting in the traditional ways, but I still need to share the Gospel”. This experience taught him to work in another way, with a new “higher and holier approach”.

Technology is opening up many new opportunities

Down in the Balkans, Sister Savannah Andrews, also felt the COVID-19 pandemic was going to dramatically change her routines as a missionary of the Church. Sister Andrews is from Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the United States, and is currently living in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital. With the lock down instituted by governments and health authorities, missionary work everywhere is shifting to a model of proselyting online, using technology to reach the entire world. Although this is a stark change from the street contacting, something she was doing just three weeks ago, she’s still been able to lift and help others in new and creative ways.

Montenegro is one of the five countries that is covered by the Adriatic North Mission. This mission became a technology mission less than a year ago, when the missionaries started using smart devices to help with the work. In her word this was “just in time for this situation”. The younger generation of missionaries has been trained years in advance on how to use technology as a means of reaching out to others and now it’s the time to put that training to use.

Sisters Kierstyn Dimas and Savannah Andrews, missionaries of the Church in the country of Montenegro, teach a gospel lesson via a video call using their smartphone2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

“We have continued teaching through online video chats. If people do not have the ability to video chat, we have lessons over phone calls”. Sometimes she and her colleague simply call people they are working with and sing a hymn with them. Things they once thought they could only do in person, like the Come Follow Me discussions, that is the home-centered gospel learning program of the Church, Addiction Recovery programs, English classes, and Primary lessons for children, can now effectively be shared by using a variety of technological resources.

They are able to reach out to people through inspirational posts on Facebook and contact dozens more daily through the use of private messages. They do all of this and more from their living room, in their own apartment. And with the time that has opened up without the need to travel from person to person, they can fit even more interaction into their schedules. They have been able to teach multiple lessons every day and be in contact with even more returning Church members than before the shutdown.

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