Jace Felix, 20, and Ty Mair, 19, are literally on a mission: a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
These two young men are Mormons. Originally from Utah, Felix and Mair live in Napa. Six days a week they rise, pray, then hit the street to spread the word about their faith.
On a recent weekday afternoon, after referring to a city map marked in numbered sections, Felix and Mair set out to go “contacting” in a quiet northeast Napa neighborhood.
Arriving by car, the two parked on a side street, hopped out of their vehicle and strapped on two black backpacks.
They wasted no time. Holding copies of the Book of Mormon and introducing themselves as Elder Felix and Elder Mair, the two men earnestly knocked on doors, poked their heads into open garages and generally chatted up anyone they saw.
For the most part, Napans were welcoming to these two strangers in their midst.
“We’re here to teach people about Jesus Christ,” Felix told one man who was working on his car parked on the street.
Did the man attend church?, Felix asked him. Did he believe God can answer prayers?
The man listened politely. The three talked about different parts of the Bible for several minutes.
“I appreciate your enthusiasm,” the man told the missionaries, ending the conversation.
“Hi, how are you doing ma’am?” Felix asked at the next house. “We’re missionaries with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Noticing a skateboard at the door, the two young men asked about the woman’s family, striking up a conversation about children.
“We’re here to share a message,” one said.
“Are you religious at all?” they asked her. “Do you have any church-related questions?”
When the woman told them she wasn’t raised to go to church, the two men offered to share some scripture from the Book of Mormon. Latter-day Saints members consider the Book of Mormon to be another testament of Jesus Christ.
“Go ahead,” she said.
A few moments later, they presented her with a card for a free copy of the Book of Mormon, which she accepted.
“God bless you,” Felix told her as they left her porch.
At the next house, a woman with her hair in a towel and holding a phone to her ear cracked her door open several inches and then shook her head at the men.
“She said she’s not interested,” Felix said after leaving her porch a minute later.
But the two weren’t discouraged.
“You can get a different reaction at every house,” Mair said.
“Sometimes, I’m extremely nervous” when it’s time to go contacting, Mair admitted. “Some days don’t go as well as you want them to, but the good outweighs the bad,” he said. “Today we met two new people in 10 minutes.”
The missionaries estimate they’ve met more than 1,000 people in the Napa area, but they know they’re not always welcome. Some people slam the door when missionaries come calling or yell at them while they are walking.
“There’s nothing you can do,” Mair said. “We’re not trying to annoy people.”
“We’re human,” Felix said. “Sometimes I do dwell on it, but it’s easier to let it go. We just tell them ‘Have a good day’ and walk away. We can’t let one thing get us down.”
If no one answered their knock, Felix or Mair stuck a postcard in the door. A portrait of Jesus was printed on one side of the card. “Please accept this free DVD, ‘Finding Faith in Christ,’” read the other side.
At another home, Felix shared a scripture from the Book of Mormon with a man smoking a cigarette on his porch. Stepping into the shade closer to the house, they ended up talking for more than 15 minutes about a particular Mormon prophet.
“He was willing to listen,” Felix said after the discussion had ended. The man also invited Felix to return next week and talk some more, he said.
Felix felt good about the encounter. “We’re helping people become closer to Christ,” he said.
As the two young men paused for a moment to decide which direction to head next, Felix noticed a woman power-walking down the street. He quickly strode down the driveway toward her, reaching out to offer a Latter-day Saints information card.
“No, thank you,” she said, passing the men. “I don’t have time to stop.”