As we strive to be obedient to President Russell M. Nelson’s counsel to “…implement a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others.” (Ensign, May 2018), we should be asking ourselves: Are we ready to recognize and respond to daily ministering opportunities? On a moment-by-moment basis, we should be striving to make every person we meet, every act we do, and every word we say a ministering blessing.
Such an approach invites us to look at the smallest acts of our daily lives as having divine value, for “…by small means the Lord can bring about great things.” (1 Nephi 16:29). For example, while vacationing in Texas, I was on a walking trail that led past a home where a repairman was servicing a pool. When this worker noticed me, he stood up, smiled, and said, “Have a blessed day!” His comment made me feel joy. Even an act as small as saying “hello” can be a ministering opportunity.
Each day we should pray for spiritual guidance with the faith that “…all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22). Sometimes clear impressions may come that a particular family or individual needs a call, text, email, or visit. At times, plans may seemingly fall short. For nearly a year, the missionaries assigned to our ward could not find any serious gospel investigators. Then, they knocked on the door of a woman who was impressed with the lifestyles of her Latter-day Saint co-workers. The missionaries invited us to assist them in visiting this single mother and her three young children. Within three weeks after receiving a copy of the Book of Mormon, she was baptized. We were subsequently able to help teach her the post-baptism lessons, assist her with family home evening activities involving her children, and help her prepare to attend the temple.
All ministering roads lead to holy temples. As President Russell M. Nelson concluded at the April 2018 General Conference: “Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life” (Ensign, May 2018). An illustration of this type of ministering involved a single woman who began attending a book club made up of mostly Latter-day Saint women. At first, this dear lady, who was very active in another church, seemed to know very little about Latter-day Saints. After more than a year of feeling the support and acceptance from the book group, she finally acknowledged that many years earlier she had been baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Shortly afterwards, her husband refused to let her attend the branch where they lived. With new supporting friends, she was ready to have the missionaries teach her again. She attended Church regularly and went to the temple. She was subsequently called to serve as a family history service missionary, and because of her proficient computer skills, she was able to help both local and international individuals prepare hundreds of family names for temple work. She joyfully served in this calling until her death. Like Ammon and the other sons of Mosiah, the aim of all of our ministering labors is that righteous souls can be “…gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted.” (Alma 26:5).
A ministering approach to life is not simply a visit to assigned families once a month. Instead, Relief Society general president, Jean B. Bingham recently explained: “The purpose behind replacing home and visiting teaching with ministering wasn’t simply to change how we take care of each other but to help us be more guided by why. …So whether or not someone needs a visit today should be based in large part on what will help them move forward on Heavenly Father’s path for them.” (“Where Did My Home and Visiting Teachers Go?”). This new approach involves focusing on people, having simple and flexible contact(s), and relying on Spirit-led gospel sharing.
In some ways, ministering is like beginning a new road trip every day. As we approach ministering challenges, we may feel an excitement similar to Walt Whitman when he wrote the following words in his poem “Song of the Open Road”:
“I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.”
We can never be sure exactly what opportunities or struggles we may face, but we can pray each day that we can be “…made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.” (Alma 26:3).