Monday, April 14, 2014

Straight talk.

I don't have much to share this week, so I want to direct my comments to all those who are considering going on a mission or wonder what it's really like.
I was raised in the Church, and my whole life heard returned missionaries say, "It was the best of times and it was the worst of times." "It was the hardest and most rewarding thing I've ever done." I would hear this and think, "I'm sure it was hard and I'm sure it was wonderful, but let's not be so dramatic and cliche. It could not have been that bad or that good."
Well, it is. It is that bad and it is that good.
First, let's start with the "worst of times" part.

The mission will humble you. It will take a big giant magnifying glass and place it right over your weaknesses, not only for you to see, but also for your new 24/7 companion to see. It will make you acutely aware of every character defect you have, and it will hurt.

For example, before my misison I thought that I was a nice person. I smiled at people on campus as I walked by, I was patient with the new cashier in the grocery store, and people generally knew me as nice.

Insert 24/7 companion.
Patience, kindness, and empathy out the window. After a few days with a person, I start to notice THEIR character flaws, and they annoy me. I'm never outright mean, but I get grumpy and sarcastic. And worst of all, I go silent.

Oh, that's another thing I'm bad at: communication. Other struggles: self negativity, motivation, following the Spirit, street contacting, and, oh yeah, fitting into my clothes.
I'm flawed, oh so flawed.

So that's the first thing the mission throws at you. You're somewhere between 18 and 25, you think you have yourself figured out and you're pretty great, and suddenly you realize that you're scum. Worse than scum. The scum between scum's toes. Like Moses, you say to yourself, "Now, for this cause I know that [I] am nothing, which thing I never had supposed." (Moses 1:10)
Then you throw companion relationships into the mix, which I don't even want to go into. Two imperfect people working together imperfectly in an imperfect world. Just remember: "It's not always rainbows and butterflies; it's compromise that moves us along." Your companion will drive you nuts. They will snore, loudly. They will lack motivation. They will get grumpy. They will check out in the middle of lessons. And guess what? You will, too, and they will be just as annoyed with you as you are with them.
So you're dealing with yourself and with your companion.
NOW throw in the actual missionary work itself. The days are long and exhausting. You have to step outside of your comfort zone to talk to people on the street about Jesus, of all things. You become too emotionally invested in other people's spiritual welfare, only to seem them give up and fail. You struggle with the language. You go weeks and weeks without teaching a single lesson and all of a sudden that faith you thought you had is by the wayside, withering among the stony places (Matthew 13).
Am I being clear enough? Missionary work is HARD. It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. If you're considering a mission, do not go into it thinking that it will be an eighteen month to two year vacation away from real life. It is not. If you only want to get away or you feel obligated to do it, don't go. You will hate it and your companion will hate you.
But don't let me scare you TOO much. If you have a testimony, if you love the Lord, if you want to help other people improve their lives, if you want to be a better person, friend, sister, mother, father, or member of the Church, GO ON A MISSION.

Because it's worth it.

It is oh, so worth it.
Being a part of another person's conversion is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. As you teach people about their Heavenly Father, who loves them and wants them to be happy, you will see the light of Christ increase in their eyes. You will grow to love them more than you thought you could ever love a complete stranger.
Every time you are transferred to a new area, you will meet people that you can't imagine living without. They become part of you and you will never, ever forget them.

More than the effect that you have on other people, though, is who YOU will become.
I don't even know who I was before the mission. What was important to me? What did I believe in? What did I think about? Did I even have a testimony? I know that I did because I had the faith to leave everything I knew behind and dedicate my life to the Lord for a year and a half, but I feel as if I didn't even exist before I got here.
If you allow it to, the mission will change you. With each of those newly noticed flaws, you will be given the opportunity to turn to God and let Him help you change it. And He will. It's just like how it says in Ether 12:27:

"...if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficent for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

Because you are alone and entirely dependent on Him for support, the Lord becomes your best friend. It's not that He loves you any more than He did before your mission; it's just that you are suddenly much more aware of and dependent on Him. With your invitation, He makes you who you could never be on your own.
You are still very flawed, and with each day you become more aware of your flaws, but you change and progress. You become converted. Converted and changed from a natural man or woman, a lump of raw materials, to a spiritual being, a piece of art.
That's the power of the Gospel.

"O, that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth." (Alma 29:1-2)
I truly feel this way. I wish that I could fly above the trees and speak to all the nations about the wonderful restored Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Come unto Christ
Come unto Him
And by His grace be made holy again.
He's calling YOUR name.
He's waitng for YOU
With arms open wide.
Come unto Christ.
(2014 Mutual Theme)

I could go on and on and on.
If you have any sincere desire to go on a mission, seek the Lord's approval, and then GO. It's not for everybody. Some have other callings. But if it's right for you and you have the opportunity, you will never regret it. Will your whole mission be fun and easy and full of baptisms? Probably not. Most of the time you will just get through every day and sometimes you will want to go home. But each one of those days will add up and soon enough you will have created THE BEST TWO YEARS (or 18 months) OF YOUR LIFE.
Just do it. Take the leap. Be not afraid. Trust in the Lord.

Hermana Bennett

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