So yesterday I got the opportunity to speak in sacrament meeting and I totally stole my Daddio’s idea of quoting U2 in a sacrament talk. I’m pretty cool, I’d say.
Haha just kidding but I think it went really well. They asked me to talk about what brought me on a mission and what feelings I had about being a missionary. Best topic EVER. It’s been a while since I actually WROTE out a talk and followed it mostly as I wrote it but I felt like I should this time. Partially because I really wanted my own copy of it for .. posterity’s sake, right? 😉 So I’m going to copy and paste my talk into the end of this email. And because not a TON happened this week so it’ll be kind of short. 🙂
Here’s the big news items of the day:
–Sister Johnson is being transferred tomorrow and I’ll be getting what will probably be my LAST companion. Ahhhhhhhhhhh! Sweet, though. I’m excited. There’s something rejuvenating about getting a new companion.
–We are moving apartments and moving to a little town called Marietta at the end of this week or next week. I don’t have my address yet so just keep with the one below for now and then hopefully next week I’ll have an address to give you. Let me just tell you how excited I am to move apartments AGAIN on my mission…. NOT at all. But hey, it’ll help the work and the apartment is bigger so I can’t really complain too much. Bring on the new adventures!
This week has kind of been filled with dealing with a lot of problems for some new members or part member families. We’ve been really pounded with a lot of things that really aren’t missionaries’ responsibility.. like finding people places to live. And we’ve been trying to work through our ward council but it’s been just kind of crazy. Luckily, Elder Durham is actually staying and training a new missionary and he and I have been working really hard to get our ward council to be excited about missionary work and really trying to figure out our role with them and how we can help. Especially Elder Durham.. I shouldn’t take all his credit. But we have set a great vision, goals, plans, and accountability and written it up for the ward and then we have scheduled a meeting with our bishop and ward mission leader on Wednesday so I think there’s a lot of great things that will be happening in the next few months in the Elizabethtown ward!
I don’t have anything particular with lessons or people we taught this week that’s really of interest. But the talk that I gave really was a highlight for me because it helped me really reflect on my journey to where I am right now. Hope you enjoy! Have a great week!
In April of 2013 I found myself scrambling to do a lot of things. I was using any spare moment I could to search the local stores for the cutest missionary clothes I could find, knowing that for the next year and a half I’d be stuck with them so I’d better like them. I was dragging my two younger sisters along with me to Café Rio, The Chocolate, India Palace, Cubby’s and the rest of my favorite restaurants along the Wasatch Front. I was piecing together a farewell talk and planning the best farewell open house for all my friends and family to attend. I was squeezing in my last few Imagine Dragons concerts, re-runs of Modern Family episodes, movie nights with What’s Up, Doc? and The Brothers’ Bloom, and all those strangely hilarious videos that you discover when you find yourself in some deep, dark corner of YouTube. I was seeing all of the people that I knew I’d possibly never see again as school and jobs take us all over the world. I was cramming my nose into textbooks studying for finals, staying up way too late, taking tests and finishing projects. And I was combing through the scriptures to find the perfect scripture to put on my missionary plaque that is now hanging in the hallway of the church building that houses the Edgemont 6th Ward in the Provo, Utah Edgemont Stake. And somewhere in the midst of all of those things… I suddenly found myself in the Missionary Training Center down the road from my house. Goodbyes had been said, clothes had been packed, tears had been shed, and I was right on track. The beginning of a journal entry from April 25, 2013 reads, “It is the end of my first full day at the MTC, and if I had one word that could describe how I feel right now, it would be EXHAUSTED.”
I’ve been given an amazing opportunity today to share with you how I found myself on a mission and what it has brought to me in my life. The road leading up to a mission was not necessarily an easy one for me, but I don’t believe that it’s meant to be. I feel so strongly that when there is something in our lives that is worth doing that it is going to take effort and energy; so it has been for the greatest things accomplished on the face of this planet.
The summer after I completed my freshman year at BYU, I was working at Outdoors Unlimited, the outdoor retail and rental shop on campus and a woman named Stacie Christiansen came in to rent some ducky rafts for her family to go paddle around in. She had been in the ward that I grew up in and I was excited to see her. She was someone I really admired. We laughed and reminisced and talked about how our lives had changed since my family lived down the street from hers. And as I was rolling up her rafts, getting ready to say goodbye, she just looked at me and said “You are doing great things. I’m so proud of you for being here at BYU and working toward a great education. I am just so thrilled that you’ve been so diligent in your life to get to this point. But you are bigger than Provo, Utah. You are brilliant and you have so much to offer this world. I don’t know how you’ll do it and I don’t know what you’ll do or for how long, but you’ve got to do something outside of this city. Don’t leave forever, but go share with the world the wonderful things you have to offer.” We then said goodbye, she left, and she nor I probably had any idea how drastically that conversation would change my life.
I got to thinking and I considered all my options. I was looking through different opportunities—international internships, study abroad programs, teaching English in a foreign country, humanitarian projects… anything. And I’d look at the options and for about two weeks they would sound good, and then I would just stop feeling like I needed to do that specific thing. Through this search I kept thinking to myself and telling those around me, “Man, if they would just change the mission age to 19, I’d be gone in a heartbeat.”
I guess Heavenly Father decided he’d really put my bold claim to the test. My 19th birthday was September 26, 2012. And a week and a half later in General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson announced the lowering of the age for missionary service to which young women could serve at 19. Now let me tell you, when that announcement was made, it was like straight up pandemonium in the off-campus housing just south of BYU. I kid you not, after that announcement was made, I opened my apartment door and you could hear echoes of screaming and crying and way too much girl emotion erupting from the buildings surrounding me. Girls were running around and calling their parents. By the end of the session, many girls nearby me had scheduled flights home, withdrawn from their classes, and scheduled meetings with their bishops to start their mission papers. I really think I spent the rest of that day with my jaw on the floor at the chaos of my surroundings, but I quickly knew I had a big decision to make.
Had the mission age been changed about a month before then, I wouldn’t have had a hard time deciding. I would’ve just been ready to go and excited. But, about a month before my birthday, my family had a big curveball thrown at us. My mom came to us all, sat us down, and gave us the news that no family ever wants to hear. Divorce was on the table and our lives as we knew them had come crashing down. Being the oldest of the family, I felt a lot of the weight on my shoulders. My younger sisters and I really learned to band together and support one another. But with that, I felt a great responsibility to act as glue for my siblings. How could I go on a mission and just abandon my sweet siblings and my aching father? How could I go away for a year and a half when our lives had just turned upside-down and inside out? I was up against the most crucial year of my schooling up to that point—the year I would be completing prerequisite classes for and applying to my major. I was working two jobs. I was doing all I could to help the sister right below me especially as she took this life change with great difficulty. And, I was working on doing some healing myself.
I met with my bishop and he gave some very pertinent counsel. I have experienced that sometimes the truth that I don’t want to hear cuts me the deepest. He just told me that there was nothing more I could do to help my family at this fragile time than to serve the Lord. It seems like such a backward idea. Put something else BEFORE my family and it will help them more than prioritizing them? But, the Lord had made a call to hasten his work and had promised that families would be brought together through service in the Gospel. He never said that it would only be the families that the missionaries teach, and I’m a firm believer that the families that the missionaries come from are substantially blessed.
So in what felt like no time, I had my papers in and received my call. When I put my papers in, I put my availability date as April 24, 2013 knowing that to be the first day that I could physically be in the MTC, but thinking I’d probably be reporting later in the summer. I opened the call… Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission preaching the Gospel in the English language. Reporting to the Provo Missionary Training Center on April 24, 2013.
Missions are not easy. But words by Elder Holland have given me great comfort as I’ve been serving.
“Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
“You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
“Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.
“For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
“If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” 16 then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.
“The Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Being here, serving a mission, has done more for me than I could have ever dreamed. This has changed my heart and softened me and sculpted me more than I can even describe to you. And I think that the other missionaries, and returned missionaries in the congregation would all agree with me in saying that no matter how difficult the day, or the companion, or the area… It is worth it.
We cannot labor in the service of the Lord without one another, and without our Savior, Jesus Christ. He carries my burdens when I’m humble enough to let Him. He strengthens my back to make my burdens lighter. After all, “He broke the bonds and loosed the chains, carried the cross and all my shame.” Each and every one of us has the opportunity to access the blessings of the Atonement. It is a gift that is given to us by the Savior. What a privilege we have to have that knowledge and that light in our lives so that our trials can be made easier and our burdens be lightened.
Looking back, it’s not so much now about what I haven’t been able to do because I’ve been on a mission. It’s not about the music I don’t get to listen to or the movies I don’t get to watch. It is about the blessings that I am so fortunate to receive. Though my combing through the scriptures to find one for my missionary plaque may have been more of a prideful thing at first (so I’d have the best scripture on the entire wall of missionaries), that scripture has become a reality for me.
Alma 29:9 : “I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.”
My once little struggling family is doing amazingly. We’ve had the opportunity to welcome some new family members into ours as my Dad remarried a few weeks ago. My siblings are happier than I’ve seen them. My dad is full of light that I truly missed, and he’s so happy to be where he is now. They are not void of problems. They still hurt and they still cry and worry about the trials that have come and the trials that are currently upon them. But, my family has experienced the blessings pouring from heaven as we have kept our eyes single to the glory of God. As I have served, I have felt it confirmed to me time and time again through the quiet but piercing whisperings of the Spirit that my family is well and that the Lord is watching out for them. How grateful I am for the counsel of Stacie Christiansen and Bishop McKay. Those words, and words of others, and the perfect timing of the Lord, got me to where I am today. It’s a wonderful blessing in my life to be here, to serve, to worship, and to be given the opportunity to love all of you. I can never thank my Savior enough for these things, so instead, I’ll wear out my life in service of Him. I’m grateful for the preparation my mission has been for the rest of my life to come.
The last District picture!
Sister Johnson, Sister Doxey, Sister Morphy, Me.
in back: Elder Gibson, Elder Baggett, Elder Boren… And Elder Durham’s hand. Haha.
The last District picture! I stay in comfy clothes for Weekly Planning.. it makes it all the more bearable. Release the Quackin’!
This is Porky, as I call him. He’s the creepy cat that randomly shows up on our balcony when we’re studying in the mornings… And he has a curly tail. And weird eyes. #catjudger …. I tried to lure him into our apartment for a photo but it didn’t work. haha.
Sister McKann Hanseen