Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Flashback: Door Approaches

Somehow, I was reminded about some missionary experiences. These stories are mostly about creative "door approaches" used while tracting. Much of the missionary's working day was spent going door to door, which we called "tracting." When someone came to the door, we had to grab their attention in just a few seconds, with the objective of being invited inside and giving a "discussion."

Clermont-Ferrand: cookie anyone? Okay, this isn't a door approach at all, but during my very first talk in a French language sacrament meeting, I was about to quote a verse from Galatians in the New Testament. In French, the book is Galates. The congregation laughed out loud as I spoke the reference. Later I learned that I was about to quote from the book of cookies: le livre des gallettes.

Yverdon: can we have a prayer? I don't remember what we said that got us invited in, but I do remember what happened when we asked the elderly woman if we could have a prayer before we left. We asked, "Pouvons-nous avoir une prière?" She promptly opened a drawer in the table in front of her and produced a spoon: une cuillère.

Yverdon: a couple can be together in the next life. Our knock on the door was answered by a young couple, obviously in love. We asked them if they would be interested to know how to be together in the next life. During the course of the discussion, they explained that, while they loved each other passionately right now, they each expected to have many other partners during their lives, and weren't really interested in our message. Six months later, I was still in Yverdon, but had a different companion. I didn't recognize the door until the same couple answered. They looked at me, and I looked at them, and the three of us burst out laughing. After a brief check to see if they had changed their minds, my puzzled companion and I moved on to the next door. Clearly, I had stayed in Yverdon too long.

Béziers: a program to help families get along. Once, as we approached a door, we could hear a very loud argument between a man and a woman. As the door flew open to our knock, I quipped, "Would you be interested in a program that helps families get along?" (It was something in French, of course, but to that effect.) They calmed down and invited us inside. During the discussion, I pointed to their wedding picture, prominently displayed, in which they were both radiantly happy, as we told them about the Family Home Evening program. Nothing long-lasting came of this contact, but the argument was stopped that time, at least.

Béziers: Elders of Israel. As we approached another door, I noticed a little box attached to the door jamb. Somehow, I recognized this as a mezuzah, and that therefore our usual door approach referring to Jesus Christ would likely be ineffective, because the family living there would be Jewish. My invention at this door was to announce, "Nous sommes des anciens d'Israël." Which interpreted is, "We are elders of (from) Israel." They welcomed us with open arms, much to our astonishment. My companion remarked, under his breath, that he was looking forward to seeing me work my way out of this one. I tried to explain the restoration of the priesthood, and the sense in which we were elders, but as soon as they realized we were Christians, we were politely shown the way out.

Marseilles: sometimes it takes three. One sister missionary was missing a companion for a day, and so two elders and her worked together. At one door, the young man responded to the elder by inviting us inside. This was such a novelty that he didn't understand, and kept asking if we could come inside. Finally, one of the other two, either the sister or myself, I don't remember, stepped inside, and he followed. This young man was himself a door-to-door salesman, and was quite receptive to our message. In later visits (this time minus the sister) he told us a lot about his sales techniques. Sadly, after going to his parents' home for vacation, and speaking with the family priest, Frère (Brother) Boulanjon, as we had been calling him for weeks, asked us not to continue teaching him.

Marseilles: I can't pay tithing: I smoke. We taught several discussions to another young family. When we got to the lesson on tithing, the family huddled and computed the monthly amount. Sadly, they explained that they just could not spare that amount. We returned later and gave another lesson, this one on the Word of Wisdom. Again, the father sadly said that he could not give up his cigarettes. In an attempt to make a point, we asked him how much he spent on them per month. After a brief calculation, he named an amount. We all froze in disbelief as we heard him say exactly the same number that he had named in the tithing lesson. Unfortunately, even this coincidence was not enough to bring the family into the church.

Genève: best foot forward. Another threesome. This time, myself and the two assistants to the president. I was irritated with them for some reason, and when it was my turn at the door, I spoke the usual door approach and then walked into the apartment, as the woman stepped aside and let us in. My stunned companions followed. After a brief moment, she persuaded us that she was really not interested, and we left. The assistants closely interviewed me, having been astonished at my success. I explained that this was a technique that I had learned from Frère Boulanjon in Marseilles. After the door approach, he said, you simply take one small step forward, adding, "may we come in?" Most people, he explained, will take one step back, and if they do that, you just walk right in. Shortly after that, Frère Boulanjon was asked and accepted to speak at a missionary zone conference in Marseilles. But the technique was not adopted by our mission in the end.

Genève: vous êtes malades--allez vous cacher. Finally, not a door approach, but a most creative response. Another threesome, two other elders and I knocked on a door, and said our piece. The woman replied that we were sick and should go hide ourselves. She then promptly closed the door. We had a good laugh as we walked to the next door.


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