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Someone asked me recently if this was worth it. My answer: “yes. A million times over. Yes!”
But as a pretty recent convert when I accepted the call to serve a mission I felt overwhelmed, often inadequate (a word I’ve learned to hate), and like a fish out of water.
I would have these little moments where I realized I was dressed like a mix of a nun and darth vador in my all-black soggy NW rain attire, my companion is listening to the Lion King soundtrack for the 100th time, and if someone called me “sister” in that (you’re adorable) voice again…there was a good chance they were going to get sliced.
Don’t hate me for saying this but full time missions are not for everyone. It is not a commandment for sisters to serve missions but with that being said this sister will never regret it. So if your considering serving or have already accepted the call, congratulations. As I find myself swiftly approaching the last transfer of my mission there is no doubt I would do it all over again a million times over if I could. So here are some things I wish I knew when I took that first step off of an airplane in Portland almost 18 months ago:
1. Extend the same kindness and grace toward YOUR OWN shortcomings and your COMPANION’S shortcomings as you would an investigator struggling to overcome the things they fall short of as they repent and change their lives. Why is it that as missionaries we constantly tell people with conviction that the atonement is infinite and available to all, yet we so often believe we don’t deserve the same grace we so freely teach others about?
2. Be kind to yourself. There are times you will fail and IT’S OKAY. If you were already perfect you wouldn’t need this mission. It takes faith to keep going every single day. Some days your greatest accomplishment will be waking up at 6:30 putting on your nun clothes and making it out the door that morning. But you know what? You did it. Congrats “sister”.
3. Laugh!!! For the love of anything holy please do not put on the name badge and become a lifeless walking talking breathing mormon robot!! Be authentic to who you are because it is that authenticity that is uniquely yours that will cause you to connect with people that need you. Find JOY in the work and learn to laugh at yourself, the crazy guy that cusses you out for knocking on his door at the dark hours of the night aka (6:00), the people that slam the door in your face for the hundredth time because they don’t like “the witnesses”, the rat that goes flying across the room when you’re quoting the first vision…..Laugh it off.
“Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.”
4. It’s much too late at night and all you can think about are the times you fell short that day. What you should have said in that lesson or when you were afraid to talk to that person, or got frustrated or impatient or were just plain wrong. What happened? You’re supposed to put on the name tag and feel invincible, and perfect, and so holy, right!? Missionaries are seemingly flawless they don’t struggle with anything. You won’t struggle with old temptations. It will be easy. WRONG. You’re still fallible. Let it go. Tomorrow demand of yourself improvement but tonight beg the Lord to change you. It wasn’t until Peter denied christ 3 times and until after he no longer walked with the savior that he started to realize what his calling was. Even the best fall down sometimes. Keep going.
5. “Get really really good at repenting really quickly” Klein g. Gen conf. Enough said.
6. You know enough. Since the beginning of time God has called the weak to bring about miracles. David and goliath. Moses wasn’t a good speaker. Joseph smith wasn’t a good writer. You see the pattern.
“Therefore, if ye have DESIRES to serve God ye are called to the work”
7. DESIRES qualify us for the work NOT knowledge, charisma, or being a scriptorian. God needs your heart and he will guide you from there. It’s all about the heart.
8. Love is the ONLY thing that will keep you here. ..So decide now you are on a course committed to following the savior. Because it won’t be popular or easy or anything like your pre-mission glamour shots. It will be hard work that will require everything you are and thought you were. Because greatness comes when you are willing to sacrifice what you are for what you will become. Greatness comes when you stop fearing change and look at growth as your next step toward reaching your vision for your life.
9. Comparison is the thief of joy. You were not called to your mission to be anyone but you. Not your companion (no matter how wonderful they are) You will be different. Do not strive to change your companion’s personality. Work to excel together rather than compete with one another. Don’t expect the other to change. Work hard and inspire each other to be better. The only person you can change is yourself.
10. Love is the answer to just about every problem you will encounter on your mission.
11. Love is the catalyst of change. You want people to change and repent and you want it now. It won’t happen until you sincerely love them and they see the love of the savior magnified through you. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
12. Wherever you are, be there. Give everyone your undivided attention. Your companion. Your investigators. The person you meet on the street. The ferbie/unicorn/cat hoarder. Strive to see everyone how Jesus Christ would see them.
13. Satan will try to use everything he can to get you to fail. Try not to let discouragement creep into your heart. He will try everything. Take it as a compliment. You are not called to a menial task. You are called to declare the greatest message these strangers will ever hear in their lives. You’re on to something great. Be fixed in your purpose and carry on.
14. Last and most importantly let yourself LOVE your mission!! Don’t love the past. Don’t love the endless possibilities of the future. Love this stage in your life. Love each day as it comes because despite popular beliefs it does end so never wish it away. And somehow with the seemingly endless perhaps mundane days and sleepless nights of surrendering your will to your Heavenly Father’s will you are become converted, stronger, and more refined. And right as you start to recognize these changes within yourself the months you have left to be a force for good in the greatest work you could ever be a part of will be few.
And you will sorrow.
Because no matter how much you try to convey how much your mission has meant to you through a letter home, an email, a Facebook post, or a blog you won’t do it justice. Words will fail to convey the fire burning in your heart and the love that you have for the people, the part of the country, and the experiences that have all shaped this new you.
So let your mission change you.
So was my mission worth it? yes. A million times over.
“…Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.”
Ammon says it perfectly.