The recent World Series between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets added an extra layer of complexity to missionary work that caught the attention of one New York Times sports writer.
An article appearing in the Oct. 26 issue showed a picture of Elders Barrett Bonella and Tyler McKell speaking with two pedestrians in Bushwick, a suburb of New York City.
The article detailed the feverish enthusiasm for the Series felt by New York residents through the eyes of the missionaries and described how the missionaries were able to direct a conversation about baseball into an opportunity to share the gospel.
"A good day for a Mormon missionary is when only a third of the doors you knock on get slammed in your face. There are not many good days during a Subway Series," wrote Alan Feuer in the beginning paragraph.
"The two church elders have what is probably the toughest gig in the proselytizing business: trying to pry people away from the World Series long enough to hear a five-minute message," continued the article, which described the missionaries as "two fresh-faced young men charged with hitting the bricks of Bushwick."
Newspaper articles about the Church are becoming increasingly common, and one of the more frequent topics is the sacrifice and devotion of young men and women who live clean, chaste lives to serve missions.
What sets missionary life apart in New York from the rest of the world during the weeklong World Series was the added challenge of presenting the gospel in a city where both teams call New York home. The Subway Series, as it was dubbed, was totally consuming among New Yorkers.
Missionaries serving in other countries during World Cup soccer can empathize with the challenge of trying to testify of the gospel when most everyone is preoccupied with watching games on television or listening to action on the radio.
"We get a lot of people telling us, 'Go away. We're watching the game,' " said Elder McKell in the article. "Of course, the trick is using baseball to get the conversation going. When we can do that, it usually works pretty good."
"Even though the Subway Series games are largely irrelevant to the missionaries," continues the article, "Elders McKell and Bonella have found baseball impossible to ignore. And they have, like the ticket scalpers . . . found their own, albeit much more spiritual way, to capitalize on it."
The article then described how several questions posed by the missionaries about the Series gradually led into the missionary discussions.
Throughout the article the writer describes the missionaries in their "pressed white shirts," and tells how they learned to speak Spanish in the Missionary Training Center, how they live without television and where they came from.
The article concluded by quoting Elder Bonella who expressed his excitement for the area. "Bushwick is right on the border of Queens, so you get the best of both worlds," he said. "From the perspective of the mission, you find the miracles of Brooklyn gradually turning into the miracles of Queens."