Thursday, January 30, 2014

UPDATE: A Simple Hundred-Year-Snow-and-Ice Storm can’t stop The Work!

For those of you watching the news at home, you can’t help but be concerned over the well-being of the Missionaries of the AlabamaBirmingham Mission.  Never fear.  
They are all well and continuing to work hard, even though it might not be a normal Alabama winter.  

If you’re familiar with the geography of the Mission, this will make some sense to you:  most of the snow and ice bound areas were from Birmingham south, and somewhat to the west; for those missionaries serving in most of Mississippi and Alabama north of Birmingham, it was definitely cold, but mostly clear except for an odd snow flurry here and there. (Map of the Mission)

In advance of the anticipated snow and ice storms that would eventually cripple much of the southern half of the mission, President Hanks put on his meteorologist hat and directed that missionaries throughout the path of the storm should remain in their apartments until temperatures rose and melted the ice and snow.

{We should point out that here in the South, most of us just simply wait indoors for the sun to take it away rather than spending millions of dollars on snow removal equipment that would sit idle for years between weather events.}

He went on to tell them that they should be out doing whatever good missionaries could do, but without vehicles until roads were cleared.  Translation – walking is always good for your health.  It’s doubly good for recognizing service opportunities and even teaching the Gospel to those good folks who are staying at home!

What kind of good would a Utah or Idaho upbringing provide to the beleaguered folks who rarely have experienced such weather?  Sisters in Prattville, Alabama – just north of Montgomery, spent hours teaching children how to make snowmen.  It might seem like a second nature thing in some parts of the country but here?  Consider how many of these kids have ever even seen snow in their lives, let alone ever made Snow Angels.  You can really appreciate just how valuable an experienced Westerner’s assistance can be!

Other missionaries spent hours sweeping and shoveling snow and ice from cars, porches, sidewalks, helping push cars and trucks out of ditches, digging frozen-in tires from ice and snow, and performing myriad other services for people who had never experienced such weather conditions.   At the same time, Hastening the Work continues on multiple levels. 

Two short stories, from among the dozens of examples, illustrate the way that this storm has provided opportunities for the work of preaching and teaching and inviting all to come unto Christ.

Service in the Snow

In this particularly heartwarming event, three sets of missionaries – two sets of Elders and two Sister Training Leaders – were walking back to their apartments in the Millbrook Zone north of Montgomery from evening activities at the chapel the first night of the snowstorm. The snow had started much earlier in the day, and by this time, the snow-blown and icy streets were empty.

As they walked across a nearly empty Wal-Mart parking (a real rarity in Alabama), there were over 100 shopping carts that needed to be returned to the store.  One employee, a man previously known to one set of the Elders, was the only one working on returning those carts.  Not only was he the only one doing it, he was the only one willing to do it, while other employees stayed inside in the warmth.  That wasn’t the only difference: he was also the only one handicapped by a nearly completely useless left arm and leg.  These Elders had helped him once or twice before, but never under such terrible conditions, nor with such large numbers. 

With the wind chill and blowing snow, the temperatures were in the low single digits, eventually falling to below zero by the time the work was done.  Whether the carts had been brought in that night probably makes little difference to Wal-Mart’s business; what did make a difference is the warmth of the hearts of these young, dedicated men and women whom you have sent forth – and whom a Prophet of God called - to represent the Savior among His children in Alabama – to show love and service to one, struggling child.

Finding in the Snow

And, lest we forget that – when all is said and done – Missionaries are here to spread the Gospel, this aspect of the work continues without concern for the weather. 

Two Elders spent the morning of the second day brushing snow from windshields and roofs of cars of their neighbors in the apartment complex.  Still prohibited by the weather and road conditions, and justifiably hungry, they decided to walk the two miles to the Taco Bell which would surely be open.  Upon arriving, the discovered that it was – like many other businesses – closed for the day. 

As they mused about where they might yet go, a young man walked up and asked if the store was open.  When they told him it wasn’t, he said that he knew the CiCi’s Pizza was open, about a mile down the road.  They decided to walk together, explaining what they were doing out in that weather, and wearing ties no less.  As they walked along, one of the Elders noticed money lying in the snow on the street – which turned out to be $40.00.  They were some distance from any home or business by that time and could not reasonably be returned to anyone.  The Elders decided to split the $40 with their new companion – just because it was the right thing to do. 

Later, over lunch, the young man listened intently to the Elders description of the Plan of Salvation and agreed to set up an appointment for a follow-on lesson the next day.  In answer to the age-old question of “Where is the best place to find investigators?”  the answer is clearly “Everywhere you look.”

Steadfast In Christ


  1. Great stories! Thanks for sharing-

  2. Loved reading these stories! Thank you for sharing them.