The primary mission for Mormon missionaries is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to people they meet on a day-to-day basis. The actual teaching of the gospel is not only done through conversations with people they meet while proselyting or teaching lessons in someone’s home, but oftentimes the gospel is taught through their acts of service for those in need. As they go forth doing the work that the Lord has called them to do, the question that they repeatedly ask themselves is not, “What would Jesus Do?” but rather, “What would Jesus have me to do?”
Teaching the Gospel through Community Service
After a recent flooding in Houston, Texas, Mayor Annise Parker included missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as part of the Houston Volunteer Disaster Assistance Initiative which was launched on 29 May 2015 to assist in helping residents recover and prepare for anticipated emergencies. Mayor Parker commented:
When disaster strikes, the city’s immediate focus is on responding to major public needs such as infrastructure and safety. We have not had a system in place to support the efforts of volunteer organizations which are willing and able to assist individuals, but need help identifying those most vulnerable. With hurricane season days away, we have an opportunity to develop and test a system, while helping our residents recover from this week’s flooding.
From the calls that were received through the city’s 311 line, Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) employees and Mormon missionaries were able to canvass Houston neighborhoods to identify flood victims, in particular elderly and disabled, who desperately needed help cleaning up after the disaster. With the ability to speak both English and Spanish, most of the missionaries were able to communicate with most people they met.
Fortunately, the flooding was confined to a limited number of residential areas, however, the amount of work involved in restoring homes that were affected was enormous. One of the main concerns was that the flood waters contained such foreign matters as chemicals for industrial facilities, pesticides from lawns, bacteria and mold spores, which meant that everything that was touched by the waters was contaminated. Waterproof gloves and masks were used during the restoration efforts. After contaminated items were removed from the homes, and all floor coverings were removed, concrete floors were then treated with bleach.
Pam Keller, a teacher and a resident of southwest Houston recounted her experience:
My neighbor called me at 1:45 a.m. to ask if I had water in my house. I ran out and saw water coming across the carpet. Ten minutes later it was up to my knees. After the flood waters receded, I just sat and looked around for about two hours in a state of shock. Then I got to thinking about all the work there was to be done and all the loss.
A neighbor told her about Mormons who would come and help. When her doorbell rang and she saw a group of people standing there ready and willing to help, she remarked, “It’s just fabulous and Christ-sent … very supportive and loving.”
Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been born and raised Baptist. He was studying to be a Baptist minister at the time of his conversion to the LDS faith. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He currently serves as the First Assistant to the High Priest Group for the Annapolis, Maryland Ward. He is a 30-year honorably retired United States Navy Veteran.