The Dominican Republic is a very Christian country. It is the only country in the world with a Bible verse written on its flag. The verse comes from John 8:32, “The truth shall make you free.” When Bret and I were called to the Dominican Republic to serve as mission leaders we were surprised at how easy it was to talk to the people there about religion. It seemed everybody on the island believed in God. References to God sprung up automatically in every conversation: “Vaya con Dios,” (Go with God) “Si Dios quiere” (God willing). Instead of bumper stickers, Bible verses were written across the windows of the busses and taxis. It was almost as if the drivers considered the verses a talisman, protecting them from an accident.
With this positive attitude toward Christianity, our missionaries found it easy to begin gospel conversations with the people they encountered. They could strike up a conversation with people in the parks, in the streets, at the ball field, standing on a street corner, or riding a bus. Gospel conversations took place all day long. Often times the people our missionaries contacted were so eager to speak about Jesus Christ that our missionaries invited them to prepare to make covenants with Christ upon the first encounter. The missionaries then invited them to set up an appointment so the people could learn how to make these covenants.
“Inviting in the contact” was encouraged in our mission. The missionaries generally chose one of three invitations to extend: sometimes the missionaries invited the people they encountered to schedule a visit, sometimes they invited the people to come to church, and sometimes they invited the people to prepare to make covenants through baptism by proper authority. The invitation they extended depended on what the spirit prompted them to do.
A couple of years into our mission, we received a missionary from another mission where it had become unsafe for him to serve. He was not thrilled about the transfer as he loved his previous mission and didn’t think he had been in danger. In addition, when he arrived in our mission, he was surprised by our enthusiastic contacting methods. In the mission he had come from, the missionaries didn’t work the same way. He protested about our methods. He argued with the young mission leaders and he argued with Bret and me. We didn’t change our methods and that frustrated him.
About this time, one of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles happened to be in the Dominican Republic. The apostle was accompanied by one of the Assistants to the Twelve. It was an unscheduled visit and took us by surprise. While this apostle was in our mission, he offered to host a meeting with all our missionaries, along with the missionaries in the neighboring mission, the senior couples serving and the temple missionaries. We all gathered in the largest stake center available and it was packed. There were easily over 400 missionaries there eager to hear the counsel of an apostle of the Lord. At first this apostle gave an inspiring message as did his companion. At the conclusion of their talks, they invited the missionaries to ask questions.
One by one, different missionaries raised their hands, the apostle called on them, and responded to their questions. The missionary who had been transferred into our mission and was so disturbed by our enthusiastic contacting had been raising his hand throughout the question-and-answer session. Finally, the apostle called on him to ask his question.
Bret and I held our breath. We knew this missionary was disgruntled, and we anticipated that he might say something that reflected negatively on our mission. Bret turned to me with wide eyes and I read his thoughts. I grasped his hand and squeezed. “Our mission president says it’s okay to invite someone to be baptized in the contact,” the disgruntled missionary spoke words to this effect. “Isn’t that too soon? It seems rather presumptuous, don’t you think?”
I gulped. Bret and I were sitting on the stand along with the Assistant to the Twelve, and the other mission president and his wife. I was sure all 400 people in the audience saw me blanch. My heart raced as I awaited the apostle’s response. Would we be chastised here in public in front of all our missionaries and the neighboring missionaries as well? Would we be instructed to alter our invitations, to re-route our missionaries, to change our methods?
The apostle didn’t hesitate before responding. “I’d like to invite my companion to answer that question,” he said. The Assistant to the Twelve who had addressed us earlier strode to the stand. “That is an excellent question,” he politely thanked the bold elder. “I’m happy to say that I was invited to be baptized the first time I met the missionaries. I entered the waters of baptism three weeks later.”
The Spirit flooded my being. I sighed with relief and gratitude. I relaxed the vice grip on my husband’s hand and replaced it with a tender stroke. The Lord was guiding our mission. He had blessed us with success. Inviting people to prepare to make covenants was one of the invitations that could be appropriate in the first contact. It might not happen in every contact, but when the spirit prompted, our missionaries would respond.
I have often reflected on the “coincidence” that this apostle happened to be in our mission so unexpectedly. I marveled at the “coincidence” that his companion had been invited to be baptized in the contact, and was baptized three weeks later. I marveled at how powerful this testimony was, not only for the disillusioned missionary, but for our entire mission. We felt intimately the support of the Brethren, and also The Lord. Our missionaries continued to work hard–they worked as one, supporting and encouraging one another in this marvelous work. We can be assured The Lord comes through for missionaries. He also comes through for their mission leaders.