I was asked by a dear friend who wasn't a member of our church what to do when she saw the missionaries in the store or just out and about. I've known this friend for many years and she is a member of another church and is very faithful in her beliefs. She also knows that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). We share many of the same beliefs and although she is not interested in the message the Mormon missionaries have for her, she wants to be polite.
"I don't want it to be an awkward moment between the three of us," she said. "So what do I say or do?"
So here are some things to know about Mormon missionaries.
1. They are far from home and only have written communications with their family. So be kind to them. Don't slam the door in their face; be polite. Remember there is a heart under that white shirt or pretty blouse that beats just like yours and it is probably beating faster than yours because they are going out on a limb to share something with you they hold dear.
2. If you have a moment, hear their message if only to allow them a moment to practice. In America we actually have foreign missionaries who are now serving from other countries so their English might not be 100% perfect so let them practice. And then be polite and thank them for sharing something from their heart.
3. Offer a glass of water and a snack if you can or feel like it. Many times they have been riding their bikes or walking for hours and they are human and get thirsty and hungry. They have a very limited food budget and many of the local missionaries are burning more calories than they are putting in (we live in a walking and biking mission). Be kind. What if it was your son or daughter out there tonight? Wouldn't you want someone to offer them a refreshment of some sort?
4. If they ask if there is anything they can do for you, think hard if there is something they can do. How about take out the garbage? Sweeping the front walk? These young men and women aren't just out to spread the gospel but to be of service to those whom they come in contact with. They are men and women who are strong and willing to help out. And if there is nothing physical they can do, how about spiritually? Is there someone you would like an extra prayer said for? How about asking them to pray for or with you for that loved one? They love to say prayers.
5. If you chance meet them in the grocery store or out and about town, don't be shy. Stick out your hand and give a warm handshake. They love warm sincere smiles. Ask them if they have written their mother? Ask them if it was a good letter. As a mother to missionaries (yes, I have two sons serving) it is very important that I hear from my sons each week. I worry when I don't get good letters. And if you need to, drop my name, "Sister Blanding told me to ask you if you wrote your mom a good letter this week." You can also ask them if they are eating well and staying healthy.
6. Remember that those young people you meet are giving up 18-24 months of their lives to share good news with people, to serve a community where they don't reside, and are far from home. They miss their families. Treat them like they are someone's child, because they are. Treat them like men and women of God, because they are (just as you are). Treat them kindly. They aren't out to trick you or force you in any way. They are out there because they love their Heavenly Father, plain and simple!
7. Be kind--that's all I ask.