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Right now I’m picturing some young men and women who are awaiting their mission calls. They’ve prepared all their lives, they’ve “put in their papers,” and now they—and their families– wonder where they’ll be spending the next 18 months or two years of their lives.
But they have no idea the phenomenal surprises that await them. First, let’s be honest. Even though we know the most important thing is that they serve, we all see the screams of delight in videos of the announcement when an exotic location and language are revealed. As a people, we still struggle to get over the where.
Let me tell you where I would pray with all my heart for my child to go, if I had a mission-aged child at this moment: Wisconsin. And here’s why. Our last stake president, who actually served there as a young man, has just been called as that mission president, heading there soon. And I cannot think of a luckier assignment on this earth, than for a young man or woman to work under his guidance.
This is not just any former stake president. This is a man who knew every single name of every youth in the stake. This is a guy who gave such phenomenal blessings that no one could even speak for a few minutes afterwards. This is a man who “gets it,” who understands God and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. He would be one who would work with the strugglers, who would give every missionary the tools and motivation to succeed, and who would teach life lessons that would bless that missionary’s future marriage, work, and entire life. His wife is equally incredible and is even a trained therapist. I would pay to have my child serve in that mission (if such a thing could even be done, which we know it can’t, but I’m just saying).
But this is just one mission president that I know of. In fact, there are hundreds of them, all over the globe, equally incredible and inspired to help the missionaries under their stewardship. Wherever a missionary goes, there will be phenomenal leadership and love awaiting them. And it doesn’t stop with a fabulous mission president. Unbeknownst to prospective missionaries in every location, there are companions who will serve up life lessons you couldn’t find at the finest universities. There will be trying ones who teach them patience, forgiveness, and creative problem solving. There will be amazing ones who inspire them and bring their testimonies into blazing glory. Companions—both the exasperating ones and the exemplary ones—can help a missionary grow in ways now unfathomable to that missionary or to their parents. And every one of those lessons will bless a missionary time and time again throughout life.
Then there are the yet unmet ward and branch members, all of whom are a mystery at the moment, but will be revealed as the missionary arrives, gets transfers, and moves about. Some of these people will click with a missionary and offer a single line of encouragement at exactly the right moment. Some of them will share testimonies that resonate as nothing has ever done before. Some of them will become lifelong friends.
And then there are the investigators. Some of them will be rejection machines, refusing to open their hearts. Some will be time-wasters with no real intention to pray and accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. But some will have eyes to see and ears to hear. Some will have a heart that only this particular missionary can open. Some will have prayed for answers and it’s this exact missionary who is meant to answer those prayers. And it doesn’t matter if it’s in India, Russia, Belgium, or Nevada. This is the work of gathering God’s children home again. Where they are at the moment has nothing to do with where they can be if they embrace the Plan of Happiness.
Missionaries are on the brink of miracles. And not one of these monumental miracles will be related to the “excitement” meter of the mission location or language. God has chosen you—or your child—to serve in a particular spot at a particular time. Not because they studied French for four years. Not because their grandfather and father served in a particular spot. Not because there was simply a blank to be filled. It’s because of eternal connections that we cannot even glimpse. But God knows them and is orchestrating all of it. Someone may influence a missionary, or the missionary may influence someone else. But it’s all part of the growing and progressing that we need to go home again. And that’s the real destination to cheer about.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.