Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On the Job Missionary Training: Missionaries Tell About MTC Call Center Source of Referrals and Even A Few Baptisms

The MTC Call Center serves multiple purposes. One it is a place for those who want to investigate the church anonymously can call and have their questions answered about the church.

About.com describes it as: "Some missionaries while at the MTC will be assigned to serve in the call center. This is where phone calls are received from those interested in learning more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are sometimes media referrals, people who have seen a commercial or other advertisement, or received a pass-along card. The missionary referral line is 1-800-645-4949. Missionaries either take the callers name for referrals or answer their questions.

Danielle Nye Poulter in New Era (March 2007) explains how it works:

When people call the Church in response to TV ads or pass-along cards, those calls go straight to the Referral Center (RC) at the MTC. Here you’re not role-playing; you’re doing the real thing. As you answer calls, you have the opportunity to testify and to invite the caller to meet with missionaries in their area. Many baptisms result from referrals received in this way.
Investigators can also contact them in real-time using a computer at Mormon.Org. In 2009 the LDS Church went online so a person can anonymously investigate the church or request free literature like a Bible, church-related dvd, or a Book of Mormon. The missionary however tries to gain a referral or better yet teach them a lesson and maybe baptize someone.

Peggy Fletcher Stack in the Salt Lake Tribune describe the new online source:

The portal into this world is www.mormon.org, a Web site the church established in 2001 primarily aimed at curious outsiders -- a complement to www.lds.org, which is mostly for members and the news media.

People find their way to mormon.org from various Internet sites, from literature the church puts out or from one of its many television ads. On its home page, people can explore sections marked "Basic Beliefs," "Worship With Us," "Our Stories" and "Ask Your Questions -- chat now."

The online missionaries draw on Mormon scripture, speeches by church authorities and other official publications to provide answers to the questions posed. If a person is interested, the missionary can lead him or her through a whole series of doctrinal discussions, follow up at a future time and even set a baptism date.

To date, between 20 and 25 baptisms have come directly from the online contact.

Church officials added the chatting feature in 2006, and now every missionary who is trained at the MTC takes a turn in the Referral Center for a total of 12 hours online during the three-to-nine-week stay. By the beginning of last year, missionaries were engaged in about 100 chats a day, with conversations lasting from five to 50 minutes.
Elder Calvin B. Smith (South Carolina Columbia Mission) who was in the MTC at the beginning of August related the following description of the center:

I don't remember if I have told you about the referral center yet or not so I will tell you about it now. The referral center is basically a large room filled with computers hooked up to phones and head sets. The computer makes the call for you and you follow a script that acts as a "guideline" for what you are supposed to say. In most cases I am calling people to follow up on a bible, Book of Mormon, or DVD they ordered and try to get them to allow me to send the missionaries over. I am told that this is a lot like tracting. For example: One morning I called 60 people (the computer keeps tract how many calls you make) and I only had 3 people answer. One hung up when I told him I was calling for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The other two politely told me they were not interested.
Right from the first week that missionaries entering the MTC can choose during their Missionary Directed Time (MDT) to work in the call center. On 25 August 2009, Sister Dana Glanzer going to the Ecuador Guayaquil South Mission said:

Things move so fast here. The first week we were put in the referral center making outbound calls and talking to people about the gospel. The first person I talked to was Maria Merida, but she wasn’t interested. We’ll get here :) They are people who have ordered something from the Church website and we call to make sure they got their item and take the chance to testify. It is an awesome experience and I really enjoy doing it.

This last week Elder Daniel Simmons (Bulgaria Sofia Mission) related to his family on his first week at the MTC:

Oh, I almost forgot! I got to go to the Referral Center (RC) today. We made outbound calls to confirm people received their DVDs, BOMs and stuff. It was way intimidating at first, they basically said, “Here’s the phone and the prompt. Go invite people to come unto Christ!” My first few calls were all answering machines. I confirmed a few deliveries, but no one really wanted to discuss anything. My last call was amazing. I talked to a lady named Cindy from KY. She has a liver biopsy next week, is a recovering drug addict, and has been investigating lots of churches to find which “is the only right one.” GOLDEN! I got to bear testimony about the BOM and the Restoration and she agreed to meet with the Missionaries. I was the only one to get a call like that so everyone listened in. It was so awesome. That’s what missionary work is all about.
Elder D.J. Polivka says about his experience:
Oh ya, at the R.C. (Referral Center) we get to call people (real non-members) every Friday and teach them over the phone. Not all of them are too excited about it, but it pays off.
A few weeks ago on Friday, 7 August 2009 Elder Josh Gonzalez (Philippines San Pablo Mission) had a good experience:
So Tuesday we went to the Referral Center and we got to call people who requested a bible or video or something. I was really excited that I could actually start doing some work for the Lord opposed to being a class room all day. We were only there for 30 minutes and it took 29minutes before someone picked up the phone and I was losing faith but I prayed that I would be able to teach someone. And surely the Lord provided ;) as he always does. A lady picked up the phone who had ordered a bible she's from Dallas and just recovered from Breast Cancer, so I told her I' d get here another Bible and offered her The Book of Mormon and if she'd like some lessons from the Missionaries. She gladly accepted and I had a REALLY good conversation with her for about 30 minutes. Just talked about life she told me to pray for her so I did over the phone I asked her if I could call her back and see how things were going so I'm overly excited for tomorrow!

On Saturday, 22 August 2009 Sister Samantha Smith (Chile Conception Mission) said of his experience there:

I've also been to the RC (Referal Center? Maybe? I'm not sure) a couple of times. It's a little nerve wracking sometimes but it is pretty cool. You call to make sure people go the free things they ordered from the church like the Bible of The Lamb of God DVD or the Book of Mormon. I mostly get answering machines because the time I have to call is weird. We are also a chatting district so we get to chat with people online if they go to mormon.org and have questions they want us to answer. They actually have missionaries that serve in the RC as their entire missions. They teach the discussions and everything through the computer. Technology is so cool.
One interesting byproduct is that it even teaches missionaries how to handle rejection. Elder Andrew Bryce Klemme (Arizona Phoenix Spanish Mission) laments:

Our entire district went to the Referral Center on Saturday and did Outbound-English Calls. What we basically do is call people who requested videos or Books of Mormon or Bibles and confirm that they received it. I can honestly say that I have received my first rejection of my mission! :) I had called this lady from...I think it was Texas... trying to see if she received her copy of the Book of Mormon. I literally got out "My name is Andrew from The Church of Jesus Christ..." when I heard an "Oh..." and a "click" on the other line. It pumped me up so much! I was so nervous because I didn't know how I would take my first rejection but it went really well!

Elder Dubois, affectionately known as MexiMatty describes the appeal to him of helping out at the call center:
My favorite part of every day is Missionary Directed Time when we can do whatever because Elder Grimm and I along with about half the district go to the call center and speak with people about their deliveries. I have not yet been able to teach someone over the phone the first lesson but a few Elders have and we all sit and listen. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to bear your testimony to someone and know that you have made a difference in their life through the Spirit. I realize that it is not me doing the work but that it is God working through me which makes all of it easier.
The MTC is a laboratory for helping missionaries develop their skills so they will be effective in the mission field. I wish when I had gone on a mission I had the tools for developing my teaching skills like the current missionaries have. The church has gotten sophisticated in preparing missionaries for the mission field.

Also missionaries serving at various visitor centers such as Nauvoo, Kirtland, Salt Lake Temple Square work part of their day as call center missionaries.

Sister Ann Bailey serving at the Nauvoo Visitor Center feels like it is one of her most motivational moments on her mission:

For right now I live for the call center. We always have something to do in the call center. I never thought that having people say they want free stuff would make me so happy. I love the call center. The hours I spend in there are probably my happiest.
The call centers serve not only as a training center but also as a source of baptisms. There is something appealing about discussing the gospel with people who actually call you to find out about the gospel. The missionaries in the call center do have to pass over their virtual friends in the end to real live missionaries from wherever the person calling lives.

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