Missionaries take colorful approach to spread the gospel - Houston Chronicle
Missionaries take colorful approach to spread the gospel By Ruth Nasrullah | Thursday, October 4, 2012 | Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 6:37pm Comments 0
Caden Jensen and Ryan Maccarthy knelt on a Clear Lake sidewalk, chalk crayons in hand, drawing pictures depicting the "Plan of Salvation," the Mormon account of man's creation and destiny. Jensen, 20, and Maccarthy, 19, missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were engaged in something a little different from what most Mormon missionaries do. The series of drawings, several yards apart, provides a visual guide through the stages of humanity's existence as recounted in Mormon scriptures, including the Bible and the Book of Mormon. They begin with "pre-Earth" and finish with "resurrection and judgment." Each drawing is captioned with a specific scriptural reference. This was Jensen's second time creating religious sidewalk art. His first was a few months ago with another mission companion. A missionary's day is full, and they had planned the art project the night before, to ensure their day had no idle moments. Mormon missionaries Elder Caden Jensen draws sidewalk art in the Clear Lake area as part of mission work Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Houston. The missionaries produce artwork on sidewalks in parks and neighborhoods and
"Whenever we weren't teaching somebody we were trying to find somebody to teach," Jensen said. "So that's when we started thinking of things like the chalk drawings."
public areas hoping people will inquire and give them an opportunity to talk
They got the idea from a pair of missionaries who create similar artwork on busy sidewalks in
about the LDS church. ( James Nielsen / Chronicle )
Galveston. Those young men, Lucas Marchant, 19, and Derek Lomax, 20, actually walk willing passers-by through the illustrated "Plan of Salvation."
"You walk along with it and teach them as you go," Lomax said. "We drew it all out on the sidewalk, and then, as people were passing by, we'd show them, saying, 'Hey it just takes a couple minutes.' " The missionaries find that the visual technique offers a clear way of communicating their beliefs. "Most of the time people are like, 'Wow that's really something, I've never really considered it that way,' " Lomax said. They've found using the drawings is a little less arduous than going door to door, which has sometimes resulted in people threatening to call the police simply for knocking on their door. "This is one of the easiest ways just to start talking about the subject," Marchant said. "We can really find out if they're even interested because once we ask them if they'd like to learn more they tell us, 'Well, maybe,' or 'no,' or 'yeah, I'd like to'; so we already know if they're interested." There are about 160 missionaries in the Houston South mission, according to mission president Brian Ashton. Houston has three mission offices that manage the young men and women who share their gospel in the greater Houston area. The missionaries lead austere and regimented lives during their years of mission work - one and a half years for women and two years for men. They get up every day at 6 a.m. for exercise and study, then set out on their activities for the day. "They give up pretty much everything they had before," Ashton said. "They can't watch TV, can't play video games, can't go out on dates and they work six days a week. They study from the scriptures for two to three hours a day, and then they go out and serve people and teach about Jesus Christ." The missionaries are primarily responsible for structuring their daily proselytizing activities. They rely strongly on prayer for guidance in determining ways to reach out to others. That outreach sometimes includes afternoons in the sun getting chalk dust on their pants and hands, but Jensen says it's worth it. Not only has he had the opportunity to share the Mormon gospel, his mission has been a personal growth experience. "I've learned a lot about working with people and how to help them," Jensen said. "How to be a blessing to them and not a burden." And no, these sidewalk artists haven't taken formal art classes. They simply let their knowledge of scripture, their training - and their hearts - guide their hands.
Ruth Nasrullah is a freelance writer and blogger at houstonbelief.com.
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