Shares gospel while dipping doughnuts

Busy mom finds missionary opportunity at bus stops, soccer games, carnivals

Show Sally Okura Lee a group of people waiting for a bus and she sees a group of people waiting to be taught the restored gospel. Put her to work in a high school carnival booth dipping malassadas (Portuguese doughnuts), and she may as well be out tracting with the full-time missionaries because the results are very similar.

Missionary work is an important part of life for Sister Lee, wife of Bishop Abe Lee of the Makiki Ward, Honolulu Hawaii Stake, and mother of five children, ages 4-14.She finds opportunities to teach nearly everywhere. For example, one day she felt prompted that one of the non-LDS construction workers renovating the Honolulu Tabernacle was ready to learn about the gospel, but she didn't know which worker. She prayed for guidance, and that same week as she walked through the building one of the painters smiled and said, "Good morning." They talked for a few minutes and she asked if he would like to learn more about the Church represented by the building he was painting. He readily agreed and received the missionary discussions and was baptized two months later.

Another opportunity to share the gospel came when Sister Lee met Mei Hanamura at a pre-school parenting class. Sister Lee invited her new friend and her husband home for dinner. As they sat down to eat, Mei Hanamura said, "So you are Mormons. Maybe you know my uncle, Wayson Okamoto."

They knew him; he is patriarch of the Honolulu Hawaii Stake. The Lees and Hanamuras enjoyed a friendly discussion about the Church and its doctrines. The Hanamura couple met with full-time missionaries the next week, received all the discussions, attended Church, and also studied other religions. Last Dec. 10, Mei Hanamura was baptized by Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who was then president of the Hawaii Honolulu Mission.

When a professional photographer went to the Lee home last November to take a family portrait, Sally Lee saw another opportunity to teach someone the gospel. The Lees felt the photographer had a soft, humble heart. When she went to pick up the proofs, she prayed the photographer would be interested in the gospel. As she inspected the proofs, the photographer told her about his family. She felt the conversation was an answer to her prayer. She asked if he would like to know more about families being forever. He was interested. He joined the ranks of numerous people who have come into contact with the full-time missionaries through the efforts of Sally Lee.

Sister Lee, as active in her community and voluntary school efforts as she is as a member-missionary, was assigned to work in a malassada booth at a school carnival last year. Next to her, as she dipped batter in boiling hot oil, were two men who turned the doughnuts as they browned. Although the hissing of the oil and the smell of the doughnuts might detract even the most stalwart member from thinking about spiritual matters, she received a feeling that one of the volunteers was a special person with whom she should share the gospel.

"It came like a lightning bolt to my heart as though it was an assignment I just had to do," she later recalled. Their four-hour voluntary shift wore on, with hungry carnival-goers ordering malassadas, and carnival music and noise all around. As Sister Lee dipped her batter she prayed silently that somehow, in all the rush and commotion, she would have an opportunity to bring up LDS principles.

After three hours, the man next to her said to his friend, "Jon, let's switch places." That was her opportunity. For the hour remaining on their shift, she and Jon Matsuo talked about their children, her Church and how families can be together forever.

Matsuo was interested. For five days the next week, Sister Lee prayed that he and his family would be prepared spiritually so they would say "yes" when she called them to suggest setting a time and place for the first missionary lesson.

"Because of the powerful feeling I had about him and the beauty of his spirit," she recalled, "I didn't want to blow it. I really needed to do it right. I really needed the Lord's help."

With the Matsuo family on her mind, she went across town to see the May Day program at Punahou School. She sat down in the large gym to wait for the program to start when someone sitting next to her tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Aren't you the lady at the malassada booth?" It was Matsuo's wife, Patty.

Sister Lee knew the way had been opened again for her to contact that special family. The Matsuos went to the Lees' home every Wednesday night for two months to meet with missionaries. Jon Matsuo was baptized July 31, 1988, and is active in the Hawaii Kai 1st Ward.

Recently, Sister Lee met a young mother with a newborn infant. She told the mother how wonderful it would be if the child could grow up knowing the gospel of Jesus Christ. When the mother asked what that was, she invited the mother to learn more. When the mother called her two days later, she indicated she was ready to meet the missionaries.

Bishop and Sister Lee are certain that an active Church member can successfully do the Lord's work while raising a happy family, and even while dipping malassadas.