Helping people come unto Christ

Dan Maxwell is a neighbor with a message.

He's ward mission leader of the Uinta View Ward, Evanston Wyoming South Stake, and one of an unsung, unseen army of part-time missionaries across the Church whose service is largely invisible to members. Yet, he and other ward mission leaders are charged with the responsibility of keeping the ward's missionary effort focused. They are the missionary safety net - to ensure that no willing investigator is lost.Ward mission leaders also coordinate the activities of the stake missionaries in the ward as they "help people come unto Christ through repentance and baptism," according to the Stake Mission Handbook. Ward mission leaders work under the supervision of the stake mission president.

Although their efforts are rarely spectacular, ward mission leaders' work is vital.

Among their responsibilities are:

To help find people who are interested in hearing the gospel, including unbaptized children of less-active or part-member families.

To help train stake missionaries and ward members.

To help fellowship investigators, and integrate them into the ward. They are also to offer special support to newly baptized members until the new converts go through the temple a year or more later. This includes seeing they are taught the discussions for new members.

To organize baptismal services of the full-time missionaries.

To help full-time missionaries teach investigators.

Bishop John W. Gardner of the Uinta View Ward praised the stake missionaries in his ward for their efforts. "We've got a really good ward mission program," he said. "We've really had some good full-time elders who worked well with the stake missionaries."

He added that the ward mission leader, Dan Maxwell, is doing a good job. "He's a sincere individual, and people understand that he believes what he's saying, and that it's the truth."

Bishop Gardner explained that Evanston, Wyo., "is a good mission field." This is an oil boom town that faced hard times a few years ago when the bottom dropped out of oil prices, but is recovering now, and even growing. People are moving in and a few new homes are being constructed.

"People in the community are really comfortable with other people moving in," he said. "This is an open community as far as welcoming others."

Brother Maxwell, a career paramedic, said, "The people in this town are very receptive. Many are looking for religion; we get a lot of referrals. We have a great group of people - I don't think it is anything I have done."

When he was first called, he wondered why he'd been selected. "I didn't serve a full-time mission, and I have never been a scholar of the scriptures."

However, he said, his belief in the gospel is so deeply felt that he often becomes emotional when he shares it. And he lives what he believes.

One of his duties is to organize the pairing of a local member with a full-time missionary. For this, he recruits stake missionaries, members of the elders and high priests quorums and priests.

He also supports stake and Churchwide activities, such as the recent missionary satellite fireside, which was well-attended in the Evanston South Stake.

He recalled that despite ward efforts in seeking investigators, one of his most satisfying experiences came about a year ago when a less-active member found him.

"I had just gotten in from working the graveyard schedule," he said. "I had just gone to sleep and the doorbell rang. I wasn't going to answer it, but I decided to anyway."

At the door was Susan Bickett, a less-active member whose son, Chase, had been attending services with the Maxwells. She asked where she could find someone to teach her son and baptize him.

"That's us," said Brother Maxwell.

Their conversation began a long teaching experience that resulted not only in Chase's baptism, but also the baptism of his father, Gary, and the reactivation of Sister Bickett.

Gary Bickett, originally from Southern California, is now a stake missionary. He explained: "I became interested in the gospel while Chase was taking the discussions. For the next six months, we met with missionaries each week. I received a testimony." The family was sealed in the temple last August, he said.

"About three or four months after I was baptized, I was called to be a stake missionary. I've certainly learned a lot by doing it. It has made my testimony grow.

"Sometimes it is scary to go out and meet the people. We live in a small town and I wonder, `Whose door are we knocking on now?' But I enjoy it, and hope that I can continue."

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