And it's over. As I sit here in my apartment in Provo, it's still hitting me. The plane landed over a month ago. Shortly after that, the tag came off, the mission journals went in a box, the jeans resurfaced, and I was no longer a missionary. Just ordinary me. But definitely a different me than left 18 months ago.
I know a mission's not for everyone, but for a moment, I'd like to make the case that a mission can change your life.
Growing up, I was a rebel in my quiet way. I refused to consider going on a mission. My usernames had 15 in them for 2015 because that was the year I was going to graduate from BYU because I was NOT going on a mission. My 5-year-plan did NOT include 18 months taken as a missionary. That was an asterisk at the bottom of my notebook where I'd scrawled, "If not married by 21, maybe serve mission." But I knew. Because when the Lord wants you to serve, you just know. Pres. Monson announced the age change and the desire to go burned in my chest. I knew the Lord wanted me.
I've always had a very strong testimony that the Lord loves His children, so I had a strong belief that God wasn't going to let my decisions affect the salvation of the world. Occasionally, you hear the guilt-trip line, "If you don't serve a mission, think of all those people who won't hear the gospel!" I thought that was ridiculous. God loves those people way too much to let little me stop them from hearing the gospel.
So why did I leave?
I went because I wanted to be obedient. The time when I went, I had a lot of trust issues with God. The year before my mission, my mom almost died of heart failure twice, my family was practically thrown out of our home and forced to move, and we almost went bankrupt. My parents were doing everything they could to follow the Lord's will, and as far as I knew, so was I. So when rough seas hit, I took it hard and I took it personally. How could God let something like this happen to my family? If He really loved us, why wasn't He taking care of my family? Those were the questions I had when I entered the mission field. But despite my doubts, I knew He lived, I knew He loved me, and I knew that He wanted me to serve. And so I left.
How do you describe 18 months in a word? 5 minutes? A blog post? Words at all?
But I will try.
A mission is a journey. Of course you travel. Some a couple states over. Some a couple continents. But the journey is internal. A mission is hard, and there are times when you question everything: Why did I come? Why am I still here? Do I really know what I say I do? What would happen if I quit? Does God have any idea what a jerk my companion is being right now? Am I strong enough to make it to P-day? Christmas? The end? Why did God choose me? Why did He want me HERE? Do I have the patience to let go of how frustrated I am right now to talk to that person? Do I know enough Korean to talk to that person? Will God help me if I try? The list never ends.
But here's the thing. God loves questions. Because He has the answers. And He wants to give them to us. When you serve, you have questions only He can answer. You're forced to turn to Him. On those days when we think we're alone, He loves proving us wrong. He is there. And oftimes on the mission, He is the only one there.
I said a mission is a journey. A journey isn't a journey without a destination. So where are we going?
He is the destination. When He is the only one there, there is nowhere else to turn. And when you turn to Him, He gives the answers you're seeking; He shows you who you are and who He is. You see His face and you can't go back. There's a point when you understand that you can trust Him. He is the best and closest and most perfectly loving and loyal friend you have and there is nothing that should ever separate you.
I learned a lot of things on my mission. Every missionary does. You learn life skills, people skills, language skills, a lot of skills. You strengthen your testimony beyond anything it was before. You develop attributes, recognize weaknesses, discover strengths, and build new relationships. But the greatest and most precious thing you can ever gain as a missionary is a relationship with the Lord you serve. It will change you in ways I cannot describe. It has changed me. I know who I am: I am a daughter of God. I know He lives and that He is always with me. I don't ever need to be lonely again because He is always there. I am calm, happy, and at peace because He lives. He is living today, and He is blessing and working miracles and taking care of you and doing more than you can ever imagine. I know He lives. And although I may not be a missionary anymore, I will never stop testifying and sharing and do everything I can to witness of Him. I know He lives. Humbly, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
|A few hours after I landed, my sister Elizabeth got home from a semester in China. Best reunion ever.|
|One of the happiest days of my life.|