2017 marks 20 years since my mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Every Monday, I’ll be posting tales from that time.
This week, rather than try to create something interesting from the repetitive days in the MTC, I ask you to read this piece that I wrote in 2015. Read that first. Go ahead; I’ll wait.
Now that you’ve read that, a story from much later in my mission.
Of my time in Montreal, two miracles are never far from my mind. The first miracle happened after I’d been in Montreal for seven months. We were in an area of the city that was difficult to work in, as it was an enclave of orthodox Jews. My grandmother was Jewish, the daughter of Russian immigrants escaping the pogroms of 1906. I respected their faith deeply, and proselytizing to them never felt right to me.
In the early months of my mission, we spoke with many Muslims. I loved speaking with them. They had an abiding love of God and prophets, and our conversations were always respectful and engaging. Two months after I arrived in Montreal, we were instructed to no longer teach Muslims. Even in a pre-9/11 world, there was concern that if their families found out they were speaking to Christians, their lives could be in danger. This made me profoundly sad—I never expected to teach any Muslim families to the point of conversion, but I knew I would dearly miss the conversations I had with so many people of a faith about which I knew very little.
One night as we walked through the streets of our Jewish enclave, not wanting to knock on any doors but knowing we had to, we decided to head to an apartment building and see if we could talk to maybe one person. The first door we knocked on, a woman answered.
“Bon jour, nous sommes missionaires de l’eglise de Jesus-Christ des saints des dernier jours. Avez-vous le temps de parler?” I asked.
“Please, come in,” said the woman.
I paused for a moment. Did she hear what I said? That we were missionaries? In weeks, we hadn’t been let in to a single home, and I was certain some language barrier was preventing her from understanding who were were.
“My son just arrived from Morocco and brought all this food, and we are celebrating. Join us!” she said, as she extended her hands to take our coats.
I looked at my companion—who normally would find a way to excuse us from such a situation. Our purpose as missionaries was not to celebrate, it was to teach and convert and let the men baptize. She shrugged, took off her coat, and introduced herself. I wish I could remember the family’s name. I cannot. But I remember sitting around a rug with plates of food in the middle, and talking to a Moroccan family for nearly two hours.
During our conversation, they told us they were Muslim, and my companion tried to keep the religion talk to a minimum. But the conversation would always meander back to God, and we shared our common feelings about doing good in the world and serving He who loves us most.
I knew I would not see this family again, and when we left, the mother hugged me tight and long, long enough that I felt tears escape my eyes. It had been months since I felt truly enveloped by another human being.
The letter of missionary law would brand me and my companion as rule-breakers that night. Home visits weren’t supposed to last more than an hour, and staying with a family when the conversation wasn’t really focused on preaching the gospel was frowned upon. But that night, the Moroccan family was a miracle for me. I needed respite. I needed love. And in the years since, it is a moment I witness to others during times of irrational xenophobia.
This family took in two Mormon missionaries, fed them, communed with them, and those two hours sustained me for months. Miracle.
The other miracle? You’ll have to wait a year or so to hear about that one.