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MISSIONARY MOMENTS

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One hour a week

In 1988 while living in New Jersey, I was watching a movie on television about illiteracy in America. Illiteracy was more of a problem than I realized. After the movie was an advertisement that said: "Change someone's life forever by giving one hour a week. Be a literacy volunteer."

I thought about the advertisement a lot. "Change someone's life," I thought. "I have one hour a week to help change someone's life." My husband and five children were supportive. However, others said, "You don't have time for something else."

They were right. I was busy, but who isn't? I signed up at the library, took training classes and was assigned a student, Mary Ellen. She was a cute, short woman in her middle 20s. The first thing she did was thank me repeatedly for being her tutor and told me she had been on the waiting list for more than a year. I wondered who was giving the most in our relationship and enjoyed meeting with her and sharing her enthusiasm.

We had been meeting for a little more than a year when one day we were reading in a newspaper and the subject of churches came up in the article. She stopped, looked at me, and asked, "What church do you go to?" At that moment I didn't know how to answer her question. Should I tell her about the Church or remember that my job was to teach someone to read and write and not teach religion? I decided to simply tell her what church I went to, and I asked her if she knew where the meetinghouse was. It turned out that the building was only a few miles from her house, a close distance in New Jersey. A few weeks later on a Sunday morning, I walked into Church and there was Mary Ellen, her brother, and her boyfriend. Later, they told me they had been talking; they were impressed with the way I lived my life and they would find out which church I went to.

They heard the discussions. I was honored to give a talk at their baptismal service in May 1990. During the baptism, they all cried and hugged each other. I kept thinking what would have happened if I would have said I was too busy to spend an hour a week to change someone's life.

I have since moved to Pocatello, Idaho, but I won't forget Mary Ellen. We still write and call each other once in a while. I learned from offering community service that sometimes the best way to share the gospel is by just being myself and by being an example. - Lois Mansius, Highland 5th Ward, Pocatello Idaho Highland Stake

(Another in a series of "Missionary Moments." Illustration by Deseret News artist Reed McGregor.)