Editor’s note: This article was originally published on LDSLiving.com in October 2019.
In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Day, we wanted to highlight some remarkable Latter-day Saint missionaries who have helped move the work of the Lord forward around the world.
Image from ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
As a little boy in Primary, Joshua Sloan would sing "I Hope They Call Me on a Mission" and dream about his own mission. “For the past several years, my husband and I struggled to know how we were going to provide this opportunity for him,” his mother, Lynn Sloan, explained in a 2013 article on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. “We looked at several options. We knew Joshua didn't want to serve at the employment office or the bishop’s storehouse. He wanted to be a ‘regular missionary’—a proselyting missionary. We spent many nights praying about how to give him the experience that he so very much desired.”
In 2013, the Sloans's stake president mentioned that he knew the Vancouver Canada Mission president, President Tilleman, and would check to see if there were missionary opportunities for Joshua.
"Joshua kept talking about his mission call and how he could hardly wait to find out where he would serve,” Lynn recalled in the Church article.
In June 2013, the Sloans felt prompted to attend the temple, and Joshua's father found himself seated next to President Tilleman, who leaned over and asked about Joshua and how many hours he would be available to work in the mission each week. “I don’t believe in coincidences,” explained Lynn. “The Lord brought us together that very morning. It was a direct answer to our prayers.”
The article on ChurchofJesusChrist.org explains:
On his first day of missionary service, Elder Sloan was up at 6:00 am, showered, had his tie on straight, his scriptures in tow and was ready to serve! But as they dropped him off at the skytrain station, alone for the first time in his life, his parents admitted feeling anxious. “Joshua wasn't afraid. He flung his backpack over his shoulder, gave a wave, a big smile, and then he was off. He walked with such confidence and purpose. All that I could do,” said Sister Sloan, ”was look up and give thanks that our prayers had been answered.” On the morning that Elder Sloan had his interview with President and Sister Tilleman, the mission president recalls, “I felt strongly that we are going to witness miracles with Elder Sloan here.” President Tilleman removed his name badge and placed it on Elder Sloan’s pocket until his own name tag arrived. Elder Sloan sat taller and exclaimed, “This is the best day of my life!”
Elder Sloan uplifted and served others in the Vancouver Canada Mission faithfully, touching the lives of thousands. About his mission, Elder Sloan wrote, "My mission is so good and amazing!"
Image from Church Newsroom.
When her parents were called to serve a 23-month mission, Esther Fletcher was called to serve as a Church-service missionary in the Belgium/Netherlands Mission.
During her mission, Sister Fletcher carefully marked Dutch and English copies of the Book of Mormon, highlighting passages that could help investigators learn and feel the power in these sacred scriptures.
A 2018 article on the Church's Netherlands newsroom highlighted Sister Fletcher's remarkable service.
Elder and Sister Fletcher reported on one conversion Esther’s work helped to bring about. A man from Eindhoven received one of the books Esther had prepared and read the scriptures she marked. These scriptures inspired him to learn more, and he later joined the Church. Sister Esther Fletcher also learned some Dutch and often joins the full-time sister missionaries in teaching. During lessons, Esther listens for topics she has marked in the Book of Mormon, and shares those scriptures. Since biking is the major mode of transportation in the Netherlands, the Fletchers bought a tandem bike which the sisters use when Esther joins them. She loves to go out on the tandem.
About her work as a missionary, Sister Fletcher shared, “You have to be careful and accurate. I think you need to keep your hand steady and be precise. It takes a lot of practice.” Before finishing her mission, Sister Fletcher led a service project for a young single adult conference in the Netherlands where she taught the members how to mark passages in the Book of Mormon.
When Matt Nielsen was 4 years old, doctors discovered a tumor on his brain and spinal cord. Though not cancerous, the tumor could only be partially removed and Matt was left "on a ventilator, fed by a gastrointestinal tube, and in a wheelchair," according to the Standard-Examiner.
Despite his health challenges, when Matt's brother, Brayden, received a mission call, Matt knew he wanted to serve a mission as well.
“When Brayden and that group of [his] friends all left on missions within months of one another, Matt started talking about how he was going to go on a mission," Matt's mother, MeLisa, tells the Standard-Examiner. Matt's parents immediately began searching for ways Matt could fulfill his dream and discovered the service missions the Church offers.
In 2015, at the age of 22, Matt received a call to serve at the Harrisville, Utah, Deseret Industries. "Matt can make you feel like you are the most important person in the world. Not just in the room, but in the world,” MeLisa said. “He sees people’s goodness.
Matt's desire to serve the Lord and his community helped him stand as an "example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).