RIVERDALE -- Jace Warren took art lessons when he was 12 and knew then he wanted to draw with chalk. What he couldn't have known is that those lessons would help him share a message with people on the other side of the world.
About a year into his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Moscow, Russia, Warren and his companion were frustrated that they had only made three contacts in six weeks.
"We thought there's gotta be a better way to get them to listen," Warren said, "We did a brainstorming session. My companion had a brother who served in France and did chalk drawings."
Warren loved the idea. His mission president loved the idea. Most importantly, the Russian people loved the idea. He described his first drawing as a "dinky practice" of Joseph Smith's first vision, but right away it drew the curiosity of a local man who asked if they were Mormons and if he could learn more.
The drawings became bigger and more elaborate, mostly focusing on scenes from the Book of Mormon or illustrating the church's concept of the plan of salvation.
Warren started with chalk he found at a local market and then began getting a more colorful supply from the U.S.
"It's incredibly successfully. Russians love the arts. It's in their interest to inquire about our drawings.
"There everything is gray and asphalt. Even their clothes are gray. It grabs people's attention. It brings out their curiosity," he said.
Warren said during one drawing session, he and his companion gave away 40 copies of the Book of Mormon in three hours.
But not everyone loved their work. A priest from an Orthodox church threatened them and called the police, who showed up with AK47s and told them to remove the drawings. Warren said lawyers got involved and determined they weren't breaking any laws.
Warren's mother, Kelly, saw the drawings for the first time in an e-mail.
"He didn't give us a lot of info but he said on p-day we're going to go and draw at the park. I mentioned it to a co-worker. She got an e-mail showing missionaries with chalk drawings. It was Jace," she said.
Pictures from the e-mail then showed up on a YouTube video that has received almost 10,000 hits. Warren's mission president asked him if he knew his drawings had been circulating on the Internet.
"I didn't know what to think," Warren said, "Why would someone want to put my chalk drawings on the internet? I didn't think they were very impressive. Most of the hits probably come from my mom."
Although he's modest about his drawings, it's a method he believes in.
"Anywhere there's a lot of people it will work. It would be effective in any culture. I'd be curious," he said.
Kelly and her husband met Jace in Russia at the end of his mission in early May and witnessed his success.
"It's incredible to watch missionaries talk to bystanders (when they are drawing). People would come off the street and talk to them and take a Book of Mormon," Kelly said, "It's inspirational to me that when he was younger he chose chalk and then was able to use it on his mission."
Check out a video on YouTube of Jace Warren's art.