What I learned about missionary work from hanging out with a 1-year-old

missionary work lessons from one year old

So I recently quit my job as a nanny because I got a sweet gig as a full-time apartment manager. For those of you who think my new job sounds lame and/or boring, take a nibble of “free rent in the bay area” and tell me it doesn’t taste great. The awesome family I was nannying for knew that I was going to quit in December/January to find a full-time job, but I randomly heard about the apartment manager job, applied, interviewed, got offered the job (in the interview – woo!), and moved into our new (free!)  apartment in the span of like two weeks. It was a totally awesome miracle.

During the span of my like 1-2 months as a nanny for this family, I learned something new about missionary work. Back in the day when I was a full-time missionary, I tried really hard to verbally share the gospel with everyone I met, just in case they were interested. I was of the firm opinion that the spirit doesn’t have to prompt you to do everything – I mean, I read my scriptures in the morning without an angel appearing to me in my bedroom, instructing me to do so. To be honest, not only did I get see great results from this practice, but it made me feel really good, too. I felt peaceful, and like I could stand before God and tell Him I did everything in my power to help other people have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The family that hired me to be their nanny was not LDS, but they were a married couple with a cute baby boy. They were super nice, very loving people. And even though they lived a different lifestyle than me, (in reality it really wasn’t that different, but they did drink), I felt the Spirit in their home. I felt comfortable there, and you could tell that they loved each other. The wife mentioned at least twice during my employment that she “had a good feeling” about certain decisions, and I saw her follow through on those decisions which – from my perspective – turned out well. The husband was also a very kind person, and although I heard him describe situations he didn’t like, I never heard him talk poorly about anybody.

As you can see, their home was  a wonderful place to be. They were a great family. Before I started officially watching their adorable little son, they had Jeremy and I over for dinner. They knew I was Mormon because I had mentioned my mission in the job interview. The wife sat across the table while her husband got up to do something, and she sipped on a can of soda. She looked at me with wide eyes and said something along the lines of, “I had a friend back in Canada that was Mormon. I know some things about the Mormon faith.” Jeremy and I sat there and I said, “Cool!” or something like that. And nothing else. With wide eyes she continued, “I don’t know much, though.” I just sat there and smiled at her, didn’t say a thing. Neither did Jeremy.  I think I asked about how she knew the friend, and the conversation drifted away. Eventually she asked if Jeremy had served a mission too, and he said he did in Texas/Louisiana. She made some comment about how being a missionary must have been “quite an experience” or something like that. I said, “Yeah, it’s a lot of talking to people. Like all day, you just talk to every single person you come across and have deep, meaningful conversations with them. No other time in your life do you get to do something like that!” The conversation then drifted away from the gospel again.

Okay, so after reading that previous paragraph, you probably think I’m the worst missionary known to mankind. She was basically asking for information, and I didn’t even give it to her!! …Right?

When they hired me in the first place, they knew I wasn’t going to be with them for very long. Part of the “deal” was that I would help them find a replacement nanny, considering I would have access to a huge LDS network as soon as I moved there. Before I even interviewed for the apartment manager job, I emailed the Stanford single’s ward  and asked if anyone was interested in my nanny job. Within 30 minutes I had two prospective nannies for the family to interview. When I quit, they obviously weren’t happy. I gave them the contacts, and through the church I even found two other organizations/head honcho type people for them to contact if those two prospects didn’t work out. It turned out that they only interviewed one of the prospective nannies because there were some scheduling conflicts with the other girl. But after a background check etc. they hired her! This was truly miraculous because they had been searching for a nanny for months when they hired me – it had been quite difficult to find someone. And even though I gave them a one-week notice, the girl started the day after my last day of work with them. It all went totally seamlessly.

As I was leaving their apartment for the last time on my last day of work, the husband held the baby on his hip, standing in the kitchen, and told me, “We’re going to keep our foot in the Mormon church,” because there is some networking abilities that members of the church have that they don’t have in the Bay Area. I stood there, and all I said back was, “Yeah, let me know if you need help networking or anything! We’ll be in the Bay Area for a looooong time!” At that I waved goodbye to the cute little baby, and left.

Another missionary fail?

The thing about these two experiences is that I did what popped into my head. Elaborating on what we teach as missionaries, or why we have such an awesome network seriously never crossed my mind. Not even for a second. I just responded as if sharing the gospel was not even an option. My missionary self probably would have encouraged my current self to repent and have a little more faith or something. But the thing was, that I don’t think that’s what this family needed at this point in their journey. And that’s not a judgment I have made by looking at them and saying, “I won’t share because I don’t think they’re ready.” It’s because I had the Spirit with me and it didn’t even cross my mind to share the gospel with them. I think the biggest thing I learned about missionary work is this:

Have the gospel be a normal part of your life and talk about it in a normal way. Answer questions as they arise.

The best example of this is when the mother of this little family asked me on a Saturday night if I could watch their son the next night so they could go out. Before leaving me with the baby that day, she asked, “Do you have any plans tomorrow?” I answered that I did, at 5:00pm. She explained it was her husband’s birthday and she was going to see if he wanted to go out that night. I said something like, “Oh! Well, it’s a live broadcast of a worldwide church conference where the Prophet and some other people are going to speak. I was going to watch it live, but I can just watch it later – it will be online.” She offered to have me watch it at the apartment when I watched the baby. I said, “As long as you’re okay with it.” She replied that she didn’t care.

I didn’t wind up watching the baby that night, but it was a totally natural, normal way for me to bring up the gospel. Had she had a question, she could have asked it in that setting. She learned something new about my faith in that 2-minute exchange, which was awesome. But I think what was double awesome was that it wasn’t a weird, forced conversation.

For me, one of the ways that this missionary strategy works for me is to follow the following steps, and to answer questions from people when they arise:

  1. Have the spirit with me so I can recognize if the Lord wants/doesn’t want me to say something and
  2. Let God know every once in a while that I would like to share the gospel with someone, so if He wants to use me, he is welcome to.
  3. Live my life.

I think we all go through spiritual phases, so this missionary approach may not work for you right now. But this is an approach to missionary work that is new for me, that seems to be working pretty well. Of course, I encourage anyone reading this to prayerfully consider their personal missionary efforts, and to do what the Lord tells them to do; not what some random person (ME) tells you to do in a blog post.





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