The snowstorm on Feb. 5 shut down schools and businesses on the Avalon. It pulled buses and cars off the roads. Yet, in the worst of it, two pairs of young men could be seen with snow matted to their hats and scarves, shovelling driveways.
Their work, free of charge, left behind many an appreciative customer, including this reporter.
Before posing for a quick picture outside of the Village mall last week, snow day shoveller Elder Chase Hanson shrugged off his jacket to make his white-shirt-and-tie ensemble clearly visible.
"It's kind of our uniform, I guess," said his friend Elder Brandon Packard with a laugh.
Packard ran a hand down his own tie, before the two 20 year olds paused for the camera.
Both Hanson and Packard hold the name "Elder" because they are active volunteer missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
"We're two of the 12 missionaries in Newfoundland," said Hanson, adding they are two of four within the St. John's -Mount Pearl area. All four were out in the early February snowstorm.
"We figured that it'd be kind of hard to have conversations about Jesus Christ or religion during a blizzard, so we figured the best way to help them out would be to help them shovel, shovel them out," Packard said.
Packard and Elder Christopher Haskell took care of 15 driveways in the Mount Pearl area, while Hanson and Elder Sean Hill lost count working in St. John's.
They accepted no money, but handed out cards offering a free copy of "The Book of Mormon" and a future chat - if you were interested.
Packard said "missionary" is a too formal or "religious" term for some people, so "traveling teachers" is another way of looking at it.
"We're in the Canada-Halifax mission. There's about 84 of us here right now in Atlantic Canada and the mission president is in charge of us and the area," Hanson said.
Mission presidents (this region has one in Nova Scotia) will pick the youth up at airports and help them to get settled in their mission area.
The metro-area youth here are sharing an apartment, Hanson said.
"There's 53,000 of us (missionaries) all over the world," he said. "Serving a mission is optional, but we just tell them we're good to go for two years and we send in our application saying we're healthy. They pray about where we should go and send us where we're most needed or best used."
Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are usually between the age of 19 and 21. They volunteer and apply for the task. They receive no funding from the church, paying their own way for an average of 1 1/2 to two years.
The youth receive missionary training. Training takes place at one of 15 training centres worldwide, usually for three weeks (nine if the youth are being asked to learn a new language).
And so "travelling teacher" is an appropriate title. Packard is originally from Beaumont (Houston area), Texas and Hanson is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah.
"First I went to New Brunswick and then I was in Nova Scotia and now I'm here in Newfoundland," said Hanson, who has now been in this province for approximately nine months.
"We just go wherever they send us," Packard said. "I have some friends that are in Ireland and Africa, in South America, doing the same thing."
Hanson and Packard said the experience has introduced them to plenty of youth of the same faith, building their community as they also share their church's teachings, their beliefs, with others.
"We (now) know all the other missionaries in Newfoundland," Hanson said. "We're actually pretty close to them, we're all really good friends. It's pretty cool."
The provincial missionaries stay in touch by the usual means, plus regional meetings.
Hanson has been told that, following a regional meeting in Dartmouth this week, he will be moving on to a new mission area.
"They let me know on Wednesday I'm leaving on Monday. I've been here for about nine months, so it's pretty good - a pretty good time length," he said.
A lesson offered
"We come here to serve. We volunteer to pay our own way and do this and serve the best way we know how, helping people out - like shovelling snow," Hanson said.
There have been other activities, too, all in the consideration of providing information and potentially having someone take up an interest in their faith.
"We want people, first and foremost, to know about Jesus Christ. With faith in Jesus Christ, we believe, that's the way we're going to get to heaven, that's the way we're going to get through temptations, that's how we can be happy," Hanson said.
"Some people don't like the message, some people are looking for it, some people think they have what they need ... we respect everybody, definitely," he said. "We're just here to offer them something that's helped us out."
Hanson and Packard said the message they bring on their mission work is "unique,"
"I guess that I don't want to sound like I'm dogging other religions," said Hanson, shifting.
"But we teach that God still speaks to man," he said. "We believe in modern-day prophets, like Moses and Noah. And, so, we've been sent here by the prophet who's alive right now."
The current prophet, president of the church, is Thomas S. Monson.
Monson is the authorized successor of Joseph Smith, believed by Mormons to have been visited in 1829 by John the Baptist, then also by apostles Peter, James and John, who helped Smith to return the ancient Church of Jesus Christ to the world.
Work is not without difficulties
Asked if there have been any negative reactions to their missionary works in Atlantic Canada, Hanson and Packard agreed there had been, from time to time.
Asked if there had been any violent reactions, they went quiet.
"Yeah," said Packard, after a brief moment.
"Yeah, a little," Hanson said.
"Newfoundland's a really safe place," Hanson added after a moment. "Atlantic Canada's a pretty safe place, but like some people - from car windows people might throw stuff at us. In other instances people are kind of offended by us when we really haven't said much to them. They've just heard things or they know what we're about and they don't like it."
That was all they wanted to say about the issue.
"I think if everybody understood what we were doing ...," Packard started. "It's not us that they hate. It's just what we represent. And you learn to just respect what they believe."
"You just invite them to learn and if they don't want to, you just respect that. If they want to fight - we're not here to fight," Packard said.
"We're just here to invite and help out and help people come to Christ," Packard said.
Packard said that invitation will continue to come alongside what they both viewed as good works, like snow shovelling.
He added he and the other metro-area Mormons will be on the streets with their shovels again as soon as the next big snowfall comes along.