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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