Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Book of Mormon Challenge

When the knock came at the door a little earlier than I had planned last Thursday, the last thing on my mind was thinking about sharing the gospel with someone over the weekend. I know that probably sounds weird to someone not of my faith and maybe a little strange for other reasons for someone of my faith. My heart and mind were elsewhere and I kind of just wanted to escape, allow my travels to take me to where ever and allow my soul to be free from cares even if just for a little while. But just as my friends know that I'll rarely pass up a dare (rarely as in never for appropriate dares), it's just as inconceivable that I would pass up on a challenge to do something good. How grateful I am that Thomas, my co-teacher in seminary, the other half of the dynamic duo, startup partner and my friend, challenged me on the way to taking me to the airport to share the gospel and to give away a Book of Mormon sometime during the weekend.

Admittedly, when the challenge was issued and a copy of the Book of Mormon was placed on my lap, my first feeling was one of disappointment as I could see the hours of mind numbing music listening and movie watching on the planes evaporating before my eyes.  But after a few breaths, I saw the challenge for what it was and despite my initial hesitation and selfish resistance, I accepted.

To be perfectly honest, I don't recall much of my first flight other than the fact that after speaking with the woman next to me for a little while I dosed off. The second leg of the journey, however, was unforgettable. The man sitting to my left was so obnoxiously hopped up on caffeine that I could hardly hear myself think about the incessant din of his flapping lips for 3 hours straight. Now, to be fair, there were some pretty funny moments, all of which were lacking any substance worth remembering. But there were also some pretty crude remarks which I gently helped him place back in his personal space before he continued on in a more comfortable, yet equally numbing, one-way-conversation. My journey to the northwest was a bust as far as sharing the gospel.

Through the weekend I was able to share a witness of the Book of Mormon and it's origin with my oldest sister. I'm pretty sure she was baptized by Dad when she was younger but she's had little to do with the church since. I'm not sure if she was playing coy for the missionaries that were visiting Mom or while I explained how Joseph Smith translated them by the power and gift of God, but she definitely put on a good face and attempted to seem interested. She's a very loving and patient individual and as I can't read her completely, it was hard to tell whether she was into it or not.

Ancedotally, during the discussion about the Book of Mormon, Mom had me bring out her replica of the golden plates. Dad wanted to handle them, which we thought was a little odd but after a while he had me put them back on the shelf. After a little time passed, Dad became agitated over something and called me back over. He whispered to me that he was very concerned about there being a spy in the room as the plates were missing. He was positive we had a "mole." I went back over to the shelf and showed him the plates and that seemed to placate him for a moment longer. Finally, when the missionaries were leaving, Dad decided we should pray together and he said the prayer. While it was sincere, it was also interesting as he prayed for the "preservation of the artifacts," both the Bible and Book of Mormon. I think he was still fixated on the mole.

As I arrived at the airport Monday morning, I could feel the weight and burden of the accepted challenge literally grieving my back as the Book of Mormon remained in my laptop bag, beckoning me and almost mocking my weekend, personal proselyting failures. With a prayer to meet someone with whom I could share the message, I approached my boarding gate. As the flight was over sold and storage was a commodity, I stepped to the gate desk to check my carry-on. Simultaneously, a woman, whom I assessed was Chinese, was asked whether she could communicate the instructions necessary to operate the "exit" row seating she had been assigned and with a non-response was asked to step to the side. The man behind the counter immediately asked me whether I'd like an "exit" row seat. Extra leg room? Uh, sure!

I made my way onto the plane and found my window seat. Shortly after, a woman traveling alone, looking shy, book in hand, sat down next to me. After getting settled in, I said hello and we exchanged introductions. I figured it would only be a matter of time before the laptop came out in response to her own nose diving into her book. How wrong I was.

It took only 15 minutes before she expressed how happy she was to be sitting next to me, that her family prayers had been answered. About 30 minutes in and we were both on the verge of tears from sharing spiritually uplifting experiences. By the end of the flight I had told her about temples, the Book of Mormon, priesthood authority and gave her an invitation to look us up in Fort Worth when she would be moving out to Virginia via a road trip in February. Yet, through the conversation, there was never a good moment to actually invite her to read the Book of Mormon. I felt a slight reluctance coming from her and I never felt prompted to invite her to accept it. It remained in my laptop bag, taunting me, and further weighing me down even as I departed the plan in Phoenix.

After getting some Pei Wei Caramel Chicken and resolving to eat it in the food court rather than back at the gate, I searched for a seat and found one at a high table with bar stools. I sat across from a man to whom I said hello and received a cheery response. He was from the Democratic Republic of Congo and we struck up a quick conversation while I ate. He was a food service worker there at the airport and had been blessed to leave his country, join himself with various denominations and even helped form churches in Senegal. I asked him whether he had heard on the news anything about the Gilbert, AZ temple and then showed him pictures of the beautiful edifice. He seemed intrigued and I felt prompted to invite him to read the Book of Mormon. I pulled out the book that had been in my care the whole weekend, knowing that Gregoire from the DR Congo was to receive it, which he did. He promised to read it. I left my mobile # and name on the inside cover and he was excited to receive a book from someone with the same name, Gregory. The light that was shining in his eyes at the invitation and acceptance of the gift was obvious and my heart, previously burden from a very trying weekend, was quickly lifted, knowing I had shared a piece of joy and love with another one of God's willing children. Even more than the sharing, I felt God's love come upon me, feeling at peace that He was working through me yet again and I was so grateful for the experience.

When was the last time you shared the Book of Mormon and what was your experience?

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