Saturday, December 18, 2010

Anchorage Daily News Publishes Detailed Profile Of LDS Missionaries Kyle Offley And Lorenzo Matamua Working The Mountain View Neighborhood

The Anchorage Daily News has published one of the most detailed, accurate, and photo-laden profiles of LDS missionaries I've seen from a mainstream media source since I began this blog. In their Focal Point: Mountain View blog, they profile Elders Kyle Offley, who hails from Meetetse, Wyoming, a town of 400 east of Yellowstone National Park, and Lorenzo Matamua, who comes from Sydney, Australia. Both are 21 years old. Nine photos are included on the blog.

In this story, Elders Offley and Matamua were proselyting in Anchorage's Mountain View neighborhood, the city's most diverse and also the least financially-empowered neighborhood. Although it has its rough spots, it is nowhere close to being a "ghetto". They are both assigned to Anchorage’s Northern Lights Samoan Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and target their outreach towards Samoans, although they will also randomly tract various neighborhoods and speak to anyone who answers the door. Both speak Samoan.

Reactions to them vary. In one instance of random tracting, they stopped at each house on both sides of Irwin Street for one block. It was the middle of a weekday, and almost no one answered the door. They spoke briefly with the few who did. No one invited them inside. Elder Offley notes that there are a number of people who slam the doors in his face, but says it helps him develop a thicker skin. During one split, they were joined by 73-year-old Elder Merlan Ellis, who, although not identified as such, is most likely a ward missionary who's indigenous to the local congregation. Ward missionaries don't face the same financial constraints as full-time proselyting missionaries.

A scheduled visitation to a Samoan family went much better. Many LDS members frequently sign up to feed missionaries, which helps stretch the $135 monthly stipend given them for food and other incidentals. What's interesting is that according to Samoan custom, guests are fed before family members, so the missionaries had to deal with eating while others were watching. That can take some acculturation. And guests are expected to eat.

There are 63 missionary pairs (126 missionaries total) working in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, geographically the largest Mormon mission in the world. Thirty-six missionaries are based in Anchorage. In Anchorage, each missionary companionship is issued a car and each individual missionary a cell phone by the Church, which monitors usage of both quite closely.

Another Alaska-based missionary, Elder Mathieu Squires, regularly blogs HERE. He's been posted to different places throughout the region such as Fairbanks and Whitehorse in Yukon Territory. Elder Squiers recently noted that he had experienced less success than usual in random tracting in his part of Anchorage, which is why the LDS Church urges members to seek out prospects and steer them towards the missionaries, so the missionaries can be more productive.

No comments: