LDS missionary workers want to serve

Editor’s note: Nelson Witt called the Homer Tribune and asked an interesting question. “Do you have a typewriter I could use?” We did, an old 1950s era manual tucked away in a closet. Witt and fellow-missionary, Thomas Butler, came to the Tribune office and picked it up. They explained they cannot use computers while on their mission, along with other restrictions to make this a time of devotion to people and service. They can’t go out on a boat fishing, watch television or movies, nor even read a newspaper. So the typewriter was to use for letters home, and a news column Witt had in mind to write, which we print below.
His experience with the typewriter involved finding out it takes a whole ream of ribbon to write a long letter. Since he didn’t have white-out, he used the old-fashioned x. It also can make your fingers hurt, he said, but the result felt like an accomplishment, since it was done without electricity and using what may well seem an ancient machine.
Witt’s dad is in the military, so he moved around a lot growing up. He was sent to Alaska from Syracuse, Utah, and plans on exploring the possibility of becoming a journalist.

By Nelson Witt
My name is Elder Nelson Elias Witt. Elder Witt is what my name tag says and that’s just what people in Alaska call me. I am a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are sometimes called ‘LDS’ for short or “Mormon” by most. I have been in Alaska for almost 15 months, and I have about nine months left. A mission lasts two years, in which we do not see our families, but we talk to them on the phone twice a year. We do not get money for our service as missionaries; in fact we pay in order to do what we are doing.
The number of ‘LDS’ missionaries around the world (at the end of 2010) is 52,225 who come from 14,131,467 ‘LDS’ church members worldwide. We are 19-26 in age and we have learned much about the world before and during our missions. We are separated into 340 missions across the world. We do not get to choose where we are assigned, but are assigned by church leaders. In the two year time as a missionary, we travel in a set missionary area (one of the 340). Ours in which we have been assigned covers all of Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada. We get moved around this large area every so often as the mission president feels is needed. For instance, I spent four and a half months in Anchorage, five and a half in Seward, two in North Pole and Salcha (together), and now I have been in Homer for about eight weeks.
As missionaries we get to see a lot of things. We meet different types of people, and learn much of various cultures that we incorporate into our lives and education. We sometimes encounter the strangest situations one could imagine. One is knocking on people’s doors who we do not know. In all honesty, we are just as nervous standing at your door as you are having us there. We are not trying to sell anything, so why do we do it? We do it to try to bring happiness into people’s lives. Allow me to explain.
The one thing I have run into the most on my mission is misunderstanding about the church and what we as missionaries are doing. This is due somewhat to miscommunication and misinformation available about us. I feel this is why people get nervous when we are standing on the doorstep in white shirts and ties and ask to share a message or to do some helpful service.
Being 15 months in Alaska as a missionary, I have almost come to memorize the responses people have to the questions we usually pose. People will usually say they have a great personal relationship with God that they cherish and they do not wish to change it. Other times we get a door closed before we say two words, and we also get reactions in between those two.
When we are at your front door, our intentions are in no way negative. We seek not to insult how the person thinks or feels. We only wish to uplift and add to the wonderful and honorable beliefs people already have. For those who are Christian or who are interested in the message we have of Christ, we simply talk of and testify of him. In fact, “The Book of Mormon” which we share, is another testament of Christ and speaks specifically of his ministry after the resurrection. We are there to uplift, not tear down. We are there to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.
When we stand at your front door, if you do not want to hear about Christ or The Book of Mormon, simply tell us. We have other ways we want to uplift and help. We will be willing to talk to you and help out in any way we can. There are very many people, especially here in beautiful Homer, whom we have served and talked to, even though they do not want to hear a message.
On my mission so far, the list of what I have helped various people accomplish is lengthy. I have built a greenhouse, a shed, a wall. I have planted gardens, cleared driveway and sidewalks of snow, I have helped cook meals, I have gone and just talked to the elderly. The range of people we aid stretches from both young to slightly older. I have weighed fish, taken care of endangered eider ducks and recently, I helped lay a cement floor for the first time in my life.
We missionaries are here to help and serve; when we are at the front door feel free to ask us to help with anything that is needed. We enjoy helping and serving, and we love doing it often. Don’t think of us as merely missionaries, think of us as people who want to uplift, inspire and comfort. We care and want to be friends with as many as we can. We truly want every person we meet to be happy. We believe that is what Christ’s work was, to bring true happiness into people’s lives.
So next time we knock on the door, consider our offer to serve. If there is no service to be done, feel free to just talk to us. Numerous times I have talked to people that just needed a friend to talk to. Also, if you have any questions, any at all, feel free to ask openly. In fifteen months I have heard it all. Like I said before, most people do not understand us because of what they have heard or read has been misinformation. When you have questions or problems, feel free to ask them, and we will do our best to answer you. If we do not know the answer, we will do our best to try and find it, so we can hopefully help us all to understand.

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Posted by on Jun 15th, 2011 and filed under Point of View. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

54 Responses for “LDS missionary workers want to serve”

  1. libbie elder witts sister says:

    you have a true talent. . like somebody else said it couldn’t be published at a better time. keep writing and working hard. thank you for your example . thank you for knocking on peoples doors. and showing them the true light if they except it or not. i am really proud of you. thank you for helping me take an extra step in my life to also want to serve and show that light to people. being a friend is one way just to teach the gospel. this one cool way to bear a testimony elder.

    your the best missionary that i could have as a brother and the only one. good job elder witt return with honor nelsen

  2. Matthew D says:

    Thanks for the article Elder Witt. Homer, Alaska is one of the greatest places on earth!. I know, I lived there for over 10 years and my folks still live there. Some of the nicest down to earth people I have ever met and know, live there.

  3. Haley says:

    This was fantastic Elder! Thank you for representing the LDS faith so well.

  4. Thanks to the editor of the Homer Tribune for publishing this letter. I love this letter. I served a mission among the good people of Bolivia. I hope to visit Alaska some day.

  5. Deborah Hecht says:

    Dear Elder Witt,

    I sure enjoyed your letter and the article. I thank the newspaper for publishing it too. It gives a more positive light on the church and our mission as a whole; to bring good tidings of great joy, of the Savior, Jesus Christ and his gospel.

    I am eternally grateful to the sister missionaries that came and knocked on our door in 1970 and shared the gospel with us. The missionaries are definitely Heaven sent. I know without a doubt that the gospel is true. My husband and I are grateful we listened and gained a witness by the Spirit that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I am thrilled also to hear of all the good works you have done to just help others without any other motive than to do good. It was the mission of Jesus Christ and his followers to do good and that continues in His church today.

    Thank you again and keep up the good work!


    Deborah Hecht

  6. David Thomas says:

    Kudos to the Homer Tribune for printing this human interest story. It would be interesting to if the Tribune could do a follow up story on the service this missionary does in the near future in Homer as a result of this story.

  7. Maria E Fawcett says:

    Thank you for publishing this letter, my son is serving in Argentina and hi is one of the many elders around the world trying to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of this dedicated young man found me many years ago in Mexico. And my life forever changed. And so did my brothers, his life is a story of success and dedication to helping others do better in life. I am sure that the missionaries that share the Gospel with me did not have any idea how far reaching their dedication would be. keep up the good work and keep it paying it forward.

  8. Leslie Watson says:

    That, Elder Witt, was simple, inspired and just what people need to know about the young men who knock on their doors. I find myself trying to be nicer to everyone in hopes that people will be kinder to our Elders and Sisters that spend their time and talents dedicated to serve in the Lord’s army. Thank you for your service and willingness to spend the time trying to find those interested in hearing the restored gospel that it is our privilege to have on the earth. And as for Alaska, we love that last frontier and all that it has to offer. Our prayers are always with you.

  9. Charlene Vaughan says:

    I read the entire letter and loved it. My son has just returned from his two year mission in Milwaukee Wisconsin and he loved it. And I love him and am so proud that he had the courage to take this upon himself. And he did it because he loves his Heavenly Father and did it for His children. Thank you Elder Witt for writing this letter and for the Homer Tribune for publishing it. I hope many people read it and maybe gets sent to other newspapers. Everything he said was true and if this helps give people who are not of our faith a better idea of the LDS church, then let it flow.

  10. Carol Kaatz says:

    Thank you Homer Tribune, for publishing this article and thank you Elder Witte, for a very heartfelt article that really helps to promote understanding of the role and purpose of missionary work. Well done!

  11. ciaobello says:

    Well said Elder Witt. I actually ordered an energy pad from Homer several years ago. Otherwise the name may have been new to me. I love Alaska.

  12. Luz Bago says:

    Well done Elder Witte, you are a great missionary. Good training in your goal as a Journalist someday. May God’s blessings be your throughout your mission.

  13. Cindy says:

    Thanks for that sweet insight. My son is on his mission in Germany. I think you have spoken for each Elder and Sister out there!! Nicely done and I will be sharing it on my facebook!

  14. rob-Missouri says:

    Dear Elder Witt:

    I enjoyed your article. You do have the talent to write and I hope you can reach the
    goal you have in mind.

    I served in the old Southern States Mission from 1963 to 1965 – a long time ago.

    I spend 40 years in the airline industry, including eight years with an airline called Wien Air Alaska, both in Anchorage as the Passenger Service Manager and in Prudhoe Bay as the City Manager. Wien was a great little airline.

    We lived in Anchorage four years and when I got the job in Prudhoe Bay, we decided to move to the lower 48, and a member of our ward was moving to Southwest Missouri. We checked it out and have been here for 31 years.

    My two oldest sons are pilots for JetBlue – one based at JFK and the other is based in
    Boston. They both live in our little town in Missouri. We have a ward in our town.

    My youngest brother flies for Emirates Airways and lives in Dubai, UAE. They have been there for about eight years and really love it.

    The brother just older than the Emirates pilot flies for Horizon Airlines, which is part of Alaska Airlines. They live near Boise and he flies out of Portland.

    The last five years I worked, I was with TSA and had a chance to work in several
    small towns in Alaska, including Kotzebue, Nome, Bethel, Dillingham and Fairbanks.
    I went out with Missionaries on a regular basis in their red pick-up truck….great experience.

    My youngest son is a Urologist in Joplin and they lost their home in the recent tornado but were not injured at all. The Stake Center was destroyed and we have been told that our new Stake Center and the Kansas City Temple will both be completed at about the same time – we are excited about having a temple so close.

    I pray you be successful and safe the rest of your mission. I agree that Homer is a beautiful place. There is no place in the world that I would rather be than Alaska in Summer. The winter I prefer Florida or Arizona. JetBlue just started flying from Long Beach to Anchorage so I’m sure my two boys and I will make a trip up there this summer.

    Take care, Rob

  15. Diane says:

    In most of our current newspapers stories of violence, fraud and crime are found – it is hard to find an uplifting story. However, this story about a young man who willingly gave up his time to serve his fellow man was a pleasure to read. I had to read it twice just so I could take it all in. I ask – when was the last time you reread a newspaper article? This story was honest, unpretentious and to the heart – a rarity in today’s newspapers and media outlets. Kudos to Homer Tribune for printing this story and kudos to this fine missionary. When other 20 something year old men are only interested in more selfish interests, here we have a man who decided to spend his time doing something better. A lesson we could all learn from.

  16. George Robinson says:

    Thanks to Homer Tribune for printing this simple, heart-felt letter.

  17. jjensen says:

    Elder Witt,

    Great article and a wonderful way of reaching out to the local community. I am proud of the work you are doing. Best of luck to you and the 52,000 or so others out there doing the same work throughout the world.


  18. Joel Pascua says:

    Dude!! you’re the Man! I love Alaska I was a missionary there.. i hope that the missionary works there will be fruitful forever..

  19. Kevin says:

    Thanks Homer Tribune for publishing such a well-thought letter of service. It is refreshing to read of a young man heading down that path, rather than the typical articles we read concerning today’s youth. Would that all of us were not only willing to write about such things, but devoting much of our time to doing so as well!

    From one who hopes to grow more like this young man ……….

  20. Tory says:

    This is awesome!

  21. Margarita Rodriguez says:

    It’s early in the morning and I just read this letter. I have been a member all my life and have been close to the missionaries since I was a little girl in my grandmother’s home. She used to feed them and my life has been so close to them. My husband and I were missionaries too (as a couple) but I HAD NEVER READ anything like this, it comes from the heart. It is clear, well thought,, any non member can rest assure that those LDS missionaries are the army of Helaman, trying to save the world from so many scary things and helping, giving of themselves, I love missionaries!!

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