We are all familiar with the phrase, “My (son or daughter) is serving an LDS mission in Peru, Madagascar, Louisiana, Pocatello,” etc. The words bring to mind images of neatly dressed missionaries with clean hands and neatly organized backpacks filled with scriptures and other resources for teaching the gospel. We picture them knocking on a door, speaking in church meetings, or riding a bicycle down a country road. What does missionary service really mean?

As we have seen recently, in some cases nothing could be further from the truth. Following the aftermath of hurricanes in both Florida and Texas, the areas were flooded a second time—with LDS missionaries, sleeves rolled up, mud on their shoes, and ready to work hard to bring relief to God’s suffering children. One stick and shovel-full at a time debris was cleared, trash was removed, and mud was scooped out. One hug at a time people realized they were not alone. Hearts were softened and a degree of comfort was given.

During this time, the weekly emails from your missionary sounded much less like “I am doing fine. We knocked doors all day and only one family let us in. Can you send me some new socks?”, and much more like “I am exhausted, every muscle aches, and I think my sandwich had dirt in it, but I have never been happier.” This portion of their missions may well come to be their favorite time and  one that changed their own hearts. This is what our beloved former prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley learned on his own mission from his father who taught him with the words, “Forget yourself, and get to work!”

There does not need to be a natural disaster for service to be important to both the missionary and the reciever. Missionaries are expected to give service in the course of their daily routines. In our own ward, the sister missionaries make a habit of coming to help with every luncheon we hold for grieving families after a funeral service. They are able to serve physically by serving food, doing dishes, or mopping the floor. They are also able to help comfort and answer questions.This may not seem like much to these sisters, but as we read in the Doctrine and Covenants (64:33). “Be not weary in well-doing. … Out of small things proceedeth that which is great” A simple act of kindness can reap great rewards if offered with sincerity.

It is a lesson we can all learn to employ more fully in our lives as we follow the teachings of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”