When I think about it now, growing up in the church was a fun experience. However, back then, I felt I was being “policed”. My immediate family and most of my mother's siblings, with whom we spend most of our time, are members of the church. As a result, it was very easy to get chastised for things, such as being late to seminary, or not reading assigned scriptures, not having personal scripture study or even having an extreme haircut.
With such an upbringing, I grew to love and keep the commandments, and gained a strong desire to serve a mission. Over the years, one major objective I had was to serve a full-time mission before doing anything else in life. I spent my time learning gospel principles, and striving to rely on the Lord. I didn't spend much time sharing the gospel with others. My friends knew who I was, and what I stood for, but I never talked about the gospel. In Nigeria, when people asked which church I attend, their first comment was that the name of the church is too long, which made me reluctant to mention it again. On the other hand, whenever I was asked gospel questions, I responded easily but with a conscious effort not to invite or share anything about the church - not even with my friends at school. Whenever missionaries asked for referrals, I just told them that all my friends stayed far away. Later, when I was on my mission, I came to understand how this made them feel.
I graduated from high school in 2013 and started preparing for my mission. In the short time I had to stay at home, I was called as a ward missionary. It was not a surprise to me because it was normal in my ward. What surprised me was that my duty was not just to proselyte with the missionaries. We were also tasked to fellowship recent converts and refer people to the missionaries. I struggled with giving referrals not only because I didn't want to, but I felt like I wasn't good at talking to people and did not want to embarrass myself. Whenever I was out proselyting with the missionaries and they decided to contact people, I stayed back and allowed them do all the talking. They never asked to me do much; I just followed them around. This continued till I left for the Ghana Missionary Training Center on the 13th of November 2014 to serve in the Ghana Accra West Mission.
I was trained by an American and this made things easy for me during my training because investigators came to us. We taught a lot of lessons without doing a lot of contacting. The first time my companion asked me to make a contact I very discouraged. When I approached the young man I was about to contact he wasn't interested and asked us to go somewhere else. I was heart-broken, and it took a while for me to forget what had happened. I felt I had overcome my weakness when asked by my companion to make a contact.
Some months into my mission, I was called as a senior companion and the real test started. I was serving with a branch missionary who didn't understand how the work is done full time. The first week of that transfer was a rough one. We needed to find people to teach, but none of us had the courage to contact. I kept telling myself that the reason I wasn't contacting was because I didn't know if the person I would speak to understood English, but deep down, I knew that I still had this weakness. During my personal study, I read from Preach My Gospel that 'Nothing happens in missionary work till you find someone to teach.' That statement stuck to my mind as I realized that either I found people to teach or I wouldn’t be magnifying my call as a missionary. I started to talk to everyone I met in town that could speak English and I began learning to speak their language. By the time I was transferred, I knew most of the people in my area, had introduced the gospel to them and had baptized few of them. I learned in that area not just to teach people, but also to love them enough to teach them the restored gospel. It was then that I felt the joy of doing missionary work. I wish I had learned this when I began serving, but I've decided not to focus on the difference I could have made, but the difference I can make.
I'm currently serving in the Ofankor Stake. During the dedication of the stake center an activity for the day was to organize the young men in the stake to proselyte with the missionaries and invite people to attend the dedication ceremony. There was not enough time to prepare the young men, but I remember telling them to rely on the Spirit and not be sad if people reject them, but go on to the next person. I was ecstatic to see these young men talk to people old enough to be their parents about the gospel and invite them to the dedication. They were learning to fulfill their missionary duty. I wished I had learned to talk to people about the gospel at their age.
'And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations and then shall the end come.' Matthew 24:14
We don't have to wait for the perfect time to share the gospel, or in my case, till we go on a mission. We don't have to learn certain skills or be perfect at speaking before we share the gospel, we must start now. As we open our mouths, the Lord will fill them up with words to touch the hearts of his children.