By Kent Larsen
Hartford Missionaries Overcome Rejection; But are Human, too
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT -- Accompanying missionaries as they go door-to-door
in Hartford Connecticut, the Hartford Courant's Helen Ubinas sees plenty of
rejection, and missionaries that manage to maintain a good attitude in spite
of very hard work. She discovers also that the Elders she meets are human,
too, subject to the same emotions as everyone else.
At door after door Ubinas sees that the Elders are ignored or turned away.
She accompanies two missionaries from Canada, a Elder Matt Jensen and Elder
Jay Nielsen one day, as they knock on the door of a college-aged man who
turns them down saying, "I've moved away from religion." Another student
tells Jensen when asked what he knows about the LDS Church, "I know about
the polygamy part," the student says. "I'm all for it." They give the
student a Book of Mormon, extracting a promise that the student will read
it. At a third house, they are confronted by a sticker on the door that
reads, "Property Protected by Jesus Christ," leading Nielsen to react, "I
love that." But despite noises inside the house, no one answers the door.
She also meets Elder Daniel Grimshaw, 22, who tells her, "You can't teach a
spiritual message from the top of your lungs," to explain his calm reaction
to rejection. Elder Grimshaw and his companion, Elder Jason Wagner, face a
door that slams in their face with a "I'm not interested." A little
frustrated, Elder Wagner says, "But you didn't even give me a chance to tell
you what you're not interested in." "Eternal salvation," Elder Grimshaw
says, facetiously. "Yeah, why would you be interested in that?"
Elder Grimshaw tries to put the rejection in a positive light, "It'll be
good when we go back home and try to get a date," he jokes. They tell Ubinas
about their lives, the homesickness, the $147 a month out of which they eek
out a living, often surviving on "yellow death," also known as macaroni and
cheese. There's a book full of rules, and Elder Jensen pulls it from his
shirt pocket, and is embarrassed when a picture of actress Natalie Portman
tucked inside the cover, is noticed. His companion defends the picture,
"It's not bad. She's got a sweater on," says Elder Nielsen. And Jensen notes
its not the only picture he has in the rule book, "I have a picture of Jesus
Christ in the back."
Ubinas observes that the Elders are human, "They are young men of God. But
they also young men - who leave behind college, families and girlfriends to
fulfill their two-year commitments, and who at times have had their own
doubts about church and religion." And she also learns that they are
sincerely looking for people to teach, for the door that will open and
listen. When that happens, "It's awesome. Just awesome," Grimshaw says. And
Ubinas ends her account with a young single mother on Warrenton Avenue who
does listen. She says she wants to go to church, but has work conflicts and
would need someone to watch her kids so she can work a different shift.
Elder Jensen offers to baby-sit, but she declines. The Elders then sing a
hymn for her, and leave her house with hope; hope that they can return.
Looking For An Open Door, An Open Heart
Hartford CT Courant 9Jul01 N2
By Helen Ubinas: The Hartford Courant