Many years ago, I served a two year LDS mission to Germany. I realized today that I’ve not written much about the experiences I had during those years and then it hit me why: IT WOULD BORE YOU TO DEATH.
It’s not very interesting hearing how a church plunks young 19-year old kids into a different country and sets them off to convert a group of people who believe that church is something to attend on Easter and Christmas Eve. Telling these people that, in order to join my church, all they need to do is:
- Attend church every week for 3 hours
- Tithe 10% of your income to the church
- Stop drinking beer
The first two on the list are difficult but not impossible.
But #3 is a deal breaker.
Try telling a German he can’t drink beer anymore and see how well that goes over. Might as well tell him to stop breathing air. That would be the equivalent of banning SportsCenter, Scooby Doo and Days of Our Lives in our home. There’s no way that’s happening. Game over.
Trying to convert people to a religion that requires a good deal of participation is a difficult prospect. Add to that that most Germans had only heard of Mormons in conjunction with plural marriage or Donny Osmond and you have all the ingredients for an entertaining discussion.
On more than one occasion we’d find someone who appeared interested in our teachings and was progressing towards baptism. That is, until we told him that plural marriage was banned in 1890. The idea of having more than one wife was something these guys could get excited about, and we dashed their hopes as quickly as you could say “Oh Heck”.
Most days on a mission consist of attempting to talk to people who don’t want to hear what you have to say and handing out books nobody wants to read. And riding a nerdy looking bike with a ringer bell on the front and a wire basket on the back. It’s a miracle I didn’t get my butt kicked riding this embarrassment around town. This bike was so bad that it was stolen one night and returned two days later. Even a bike thief couldn’t be seen on this clunker.
I’ve had many years to think about what I learned during those years spent in Germany. I’ve come to the conclusion that, more than anything, I learned to handle rejection. I’d speak to dozens of Germans telling me I’m an idiot for spending my own (ok, my parents) money to come to their country and teach them about a tiny, US based religion.
And yet I did it. And not only did I do it for two years, I was happy to do it. At least most of the time. I got spit on a few times and had a few beer bottles tossed my way. But nearly all the Germans I met were very kind. Even those that called me crazy for thinking I could convert them told me they respected my conviction in my beliefs.
So next time you see those crazy guys riding bikes while wearing dark suits in the hot weather, give them a break and don’t make fun of them. They’ve probably had 50 doors slammed in their face that day and will be thrilled to to be acknowledged by your wave or smile compared to other gestures they regularly see.