So tonight I went and saw the new movie Errand of Angels with a bunch of my girlfriends from my mission. It was a fun night full of reminiscing. To my surprise I actually enjoyed the movie a lot. I think it was pretty accurate of what a sister missionary goes through. It’s not quite as intense and the companionship problems get bundled up too neatly but overall I liked it.
As I drove home I started thinking about people I met in Indiana- particularly my companions who taught me so much (and were infinity patient with me). People like Sister Servito from the Philippines who worked me so hard one day my feet almost got frostbite. (I’m not exaggerating. I had to soak my feat in warm water for an hour after one long day of tracting in the snow in below O weather!) I can remember walking behind her in the bitter lake effect cold and thinking- maybe if I beg someone will take mercy on me and let me in to get warm! I remember thinking that they don’t show this in the MTC! After I left Sister Servito I gained a heightened appreciation for the lessons in hard work she had taught me and what real commitment means. She expanded my vision for what I could accomplish both spiritually and physically and that is a tremendous gift, which I will always be grateful for.
Another person I thought of was Sister Walker. I had just had a companion who I call my “purifying companion”. Let me just say that when I got Sister Walker I was in need of love and comfort. I felt like a failure and my energy to serve was drained. Despite my weakness we pushed on and contacted a lot of people. By the end of our first transfer we had a number of investigators, which began to energize me for the work. Then just as we were getting excited in one week all of them dropped us. One of them was particularly sad for Sister Walker as she had seen more potential in her than I had. It’s a long story but she was living with a man that used to be her boyfriend (who she was still intimate with on occasion) and was unwilling to change because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. We felt we were making progress with her and then boom she told us that she couldn’t ask him to leave, it was just too hard. We told her that we could not teach her any more without this change. I remember going home and seeing Sister Walker feeling less cheery than usual (I am sure I could have been more comforting to her. It was a bit of selfish time for me- a time I have since apologized for). Anyway, over the next few weeks we continued to work and the bad luck started to change. To begin with we started teaching a golden contact- the niece of a recently reactivated member named Amanda. Then two days before I left we got a call from the woman we had dropped weeks earlier. It was a message saying “Sisters, he’s gone. I’m ready to get baptized.” Sadly, I had to leave the area before she or Amanda got baptized but the experience taught me a great lesson- or should I say I relearned a great lesson. For all intensive purposes I had been at my weakest. I was tired, frustrated, even depressed but still I took what steps I could and the Lord used me. He allowed me to be part of changing others lives and He did it when I was doubting His love and when I felt totally alone. He gave me Sister Walker and reminded me that my sacrifice mattered because of the way that He would use it for building His kingdom. After this realization I knew that the Lord loved me in a way I hadn’t known before. I had understood before that my Heavenly Father loved me when I was righteous but after this experience I knew that He loved me when I was weak too and that He would still use me in profound ways. It was one of the profound lessons of my life.
During this purifying time I also learned a great lesson from my mission president. After the purifying companion I felt confused and even a little angry. I felt she had ruined my mission and made my life miserable for no reason. My intentions were right or so I believed at the time. After she left I hung on to this feeling of resentment and anger. One evening I had called the mission president for something and somehow we got on the topic of my feelings. He told me an amazing story. He said one time he had been in a stake presidency and had offended a librarian over something that had not been his fault. For a while he justified his feelings and she was increasingly annoyed with him. Finally one day he spoke with the stake president about the situation and to his surprise the stake president said “You need to go down there and ask her for forgiveness”. “But I haven’t done anything wrong” He said in response. “Does she think you have done something wrong? Go to her, ask forgiveness, and then you will have done all you can do- any further offense will be on her shoulders then”. President Quist told me this story and I knew right away what he was saying to me. I may have believed I had been injured but the truth is I wasn’t perfect either. I could walk away from this situation saying ” I did everything I could have done to remedy the situation”. So, I wrote a letter asking my purifying companion to forgive me and that I hope she had every success as a missionary. I don’t know what she thought of the letter or if she cared but it was a powerful moment in my life. I balled like a baby writing that letter. It was maybe the most humbling experience of my life and it helped me to understand the atonement’s ability to heal wounds and repair broken hearts in a new way.
Lastly, I will never forget Sister Graves one of my longest companions. After the purifying time I needed some joy and that’s why the Lord gave me Sister Graves. We were in threesomes the entire time we were together but we worked hard, had fun and experienced harvest. I am not saying that every minute went great or that we never squabbled- you spend 24 hours a day with a doormat and I think you would squabble. However, Sister Graves and I shared a special bond. You see, throughout my mission I struggled to walk with my companions. I have a foot condition that causes deep muscular pain. Some days I wanted to saw off my feet they hurt so bad and for almost my whole mission I walked behind my companions (despite many of their attempts to slow down). With Sister Graves things were different. She is a little person, which makes her feet small; therefore, making her steps also smaller than average. We were the dynamic duo of slow walking and I loved it! We had many great memories together including teaching Kim- a golden daughter of a less active member, Kim’s brother, a high school girl named Ashley, and a wonderful woman named Kris. Sister Graves reminded me that there will be people in my life who will always be there for me- walking beside me. She made me feel loveable again and we laughed a lot together. When I look for a spouse I hope that he and I share a similar feeling. That we can walk together and enjoy life while working hard. Yes we will have differences but the love, respect and comradary is never in doubt. I thank Sister Graves for teaching me that.
So, I am sure such reminiscences are far more interesting to me than for you my friends; however, a blog is meant for sharing such thoughts so take what you will from them. As many of my companions will read this blog let me add that each of them taught me great lessons and I could add paragraphs from each but here’s some lessons I learned from each of the one’s I didn’t mention above-
Sister Noyes- to never take pity on ourselves and listen to people
Sister Hamill- to find the common interests with others, even are enemies. She also has a gift for nurturing and loving others.
Sister Chatterton- to not care what others think. She famously said “Your Mission is between you and the Lord and nobody else.
Sister Millett- That missions could be fun. That telling as many jokes as possible was a good thing.
Sister Livingston- That sometimes the greatest thing we can do is serve the people under our nose.
Sister Hathaway- That knowledge is a gift from the Lord, which He will give if we are humble. She was one of the most teachable human beings I have ever met.
So, that’s my mission. It taught me so much but most importantly it helped me understand the depths of Christ’s love and the meaning of His sacrifice. It helped me understand my purpose and made me a little bit more like Him- a tiny bit more pure. It is a holy time of my life- a pilgrimage of understanding and growth.