Just about a week ago, my dad and I wandered around the streets of Downtown Salt Lake looking for a Deseret Bookstore. We were strangers there. We had no clue where to go. We walked through City Creek Mall, tried to look at the map on the kiosk… and still, we were lost. Eventually, we made it out to the street and we were facing temple square. Should we go right or should we go left? As we turned around, my dad saw some sister missionaries walking our direction and said, “They’ll know where to go!” So he went up to them and asked them where to go. They quickly and easily pointed out the way. So we began walking west toward the bookstore.
On our way up the street, we passed some very tough and scary looking men. They were guys I wouldn’t want to mess with for sure. But every time we passed one of these men, I could hear a small faint voice in the background saying, “Hi… how are you today?” Every. Single. Time. We hadn’t realized it, but those same sister missionaries that had given us directions to the bookstore, were also going the same direction we were going. They were walking behind us, maybe 15 feet back, and for every person we passed by, they warmly greeted. It didn’t matter to them who it was or what they looked like, these missionaries greeted them anyway.
Listening to those sisters behind us reminded me of how I felt as a full-time missionary. I wasn’t sketched out or scared of people. I didn’t see them for what they looked like. I didn’t view them as a possible threat. As long as it wasn’t in a dark alley, in the middle of the night, I always viewed them as an opportunity. An opportunity to help. To serve. To love and to teach. Every person I passed on the street was a child of God. A brother or a sister. A friend. When I was serving as a missionary, it was the most optimistic I had ever been toward humanity. It was the least cynical I had ever been toward this crazy world.
To these sisters walking behind us, and to missionaries around the globe, there is no record that is too rocky. No past that is too stained. No life too marred by sin to be overcome by the cleansing and enabling power of the Messiah. They say in their heart, “come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God.” (2 Ne 26:33)
The heart of a missionary wakes up in the morning wondering who is out there that they might be able to help and bless. The heart of a missionary is never turned inward, but always outward. The heart of a missionary beats hard and carries tattered shoes from doorstep to doorstep, and powers bicycles from city to city. The heart of a missionary is soft and flexible, causing bended knees and honest supplication to the Lord. The heart of a missionary is courageous in the face of danger and trusting in the power of God as they venture into unknown territory. The heart of a missionary deals with disappointment and despair on a regular basis, but has the strength to keep on moving forward.
If we could take the heart of a missionary and somehow infuse it with the heart of every member of the church, we would have a culture and a church that virtually everyone would want to join. No one would feel awkward. No one would feel unloved or out of place. No one would lack a friend, or long for someone who cared. The heart of a missionary always cares. They’re always ready to help. They either fall asleep on their knees or wet their pillow with their tears on behalf of… well… everyone.
When it’s all said and done, the heart of a missionary is the heart of the church. It’s the beating drum that keeps us marching forward as the body of Christ.