Missionaries in the Oregon Eugene Mission had an opportunity many of their fellow elders and sisters can only dream of — to share part of their mission with more than two billion people.
Ninety missionaries, along with about 35 young adults from the Eugene YSA Ward in Eugene, Ore., volunteered in the International Association of Athletics Federation World Jr. Championships in track and field.
The IAAF World Jr. Championships in track and field have been held every two years since 1986. For the first time, the event was held in the United States from July 22-27 in Eugene. The events were broadcast to more than two billion people worldwide. Coming together at the Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, which is often the site of Olympic trials in the U.S., the missionary and young-adult volunteers helped to make the event a success.
“This touched all four corners of the earth,” said Nick Snyder, first counselor in the bishopric of the Eugene YSA Ward. He helped to organize and recruit volunteers from the Church after Jordyn Smith, an employee at TrackTown USA, who was in charge of finding volunteers, came to the Eugene YSA Ward and asked for help.
In all, there were more than 1,000 volunteers at the event, including those from the Eugene YSA Ward and the 90 missionaries that Oregon Eugene Mission President H. Jeffery Russell permitted to serve as volunteers after receiving permission from Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Ms. Smith said the missionaries were very well received during the entire six-day event. “It really evolved to [where] people would ask me, ‘Are we getting any more missionaries today?’ ” she said. “The interactions were positive. [Everyone] really appreciated their help and were all looking forward to it every day.”
Missionaries served in various capacities throughout the six days. They greeted people and ushered them, helped and directed hotel guests, directed the athletes to their various events and served food for the athletes, among many other things.
While missionaries didn’t proselytize while they were volunteering, they handed out cards and wore their missionary nametags over the sponsor’s clothing provided to them.
Ms. Smith said her driving incentive for all the volunteers was to make sure they had a great time. She felt the missionaries added to a great experience for everyone they interacted with. “[They were] very positive representations of what missionaries are doing. I didn’t hear one negative thing about that presence during the entire meet.”
The missionaries and young adults participated in the opening ceremonies of the IAAF World Jr. Championships by carrying the 166 flags that represented all the countries participating in the event.
Of this, Brother Snyder said, “All these people were running around with their badges during the flag ceremony [with the] potential to show two billion people. It was a great missionary thing.”
For Brother Snyder, the event was very touching, seeing all the missionaries representing the Lord — a moment that made him tear up and that caused his wife to compare him to a “proud papa.” For the missionaries and young adults, he said, “It was very touching. They had the experience of their lifetime. We had a presence there, and it was wonderful.”