"The opportunity was once-in-a-lifetime," said Elder Ron Densley, who is serving as a humanitarian volunteer with his wife, Annette.
The missionaries volunteered as translators, stat keepers, greeters and floor sweepers. They also performed various tasks such as stocking water coolers, setting up shade tents, smiling, assisting and greeting people.
The missionaries stood out from other volunteers, prompting visitors to ask why the missionaries would leave home at their own expense. Spectators from all over the world loved practicing their English language skills and were surprised to discover how fluent the missionaries were in speaking Serbian, said Elder Densley.
The missionaries proved to be dependable and capable, drawing the attention of Olympic team leaders who came to know many missionaries by name. People commented how the Mormon missionaries were different from other volunteers. They often remarked how they enjoyed seeing the smiling faces and happy countenances of the missionaries.
One young lady from Russia spotted the missionary name tags with delight. She had been a foreign exchange student in Idaho, living with a Latter-day Saint family where the father was the bishop. She accompanied the missionaries to Church each Sunday.
A few copies of the Book of Mormon were given out. One young lady asked if she could attend Church meetings.
In Serbia, missionaries find street contacting to be difficult and seldom productive. Few take the time to stop to hear the gospel.
"What a refreshing change to have people ask us to hear about the message of the gospel," Elder Densley said.
For missionaries, the 2009 University Olympics afforded opportunities to share the gospel and plant gospel seeds in the hearts of people from around the world in ways that are seldom experienced.