For anyone who might/will serve a mission, who supports a missionary, who has served a mission, who interacts with missionaries, or who has had a good or bad experience with a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The question surprised me. For a moment, it insulted me. Then I was grateful for it.
It had been a terribly hard day. It seemed everything about my mission was kicking my butt. And to make it worse, my companion and I weren’t getting along very well.
I don’t clearly remember the whole conversation, but I remember trying to explain to her why I was struggling to do some missionary-related things. It went something like this:
“So you don’t like the heat,” she concluded.
“No.” I got lightheaded quickly when we were out under the Texas sun.
“You don’t like walking.”
“No.” I had always had very flat feet, so even in the most supportive, expensive shoes, my feet got sore if I was on them too much.
“And you don’t like talking to people.”
“Not really.” Social anxiety made a lot of things difficult, including contacting strangers, calling on the phone, and making small talk at church (all in Spanish!). And hugging. Hispanics hug a lot.
“Why did you even serve a mission?”
That question weighed on my mind and heart that day, and I’ve thought and prayed about it a lot since.
Reasons for a mission
I realize that people choose to serve missions for many reasons. Some leave because they hope to travel to exotic locations. Others may hope to learn a language and a culture. Some go to meet new people and make new friends. Some go to get out of the house and into a new environment. Some go for their parents, for their friends, for their bae. Some go simply because they don’t know what else to do with their life.
You might identify with one of these. And I think that there’s no problem with that, even though I think they may not be the best reasons. God will do what it takes to get the people He needs on a mission, and if that means He needs you to believe that you need the cultural experience, He’ll give you that desire.
But although many leave on missions for just okay reasons, I believe almost all stay for the right reasons. A mission is too big a trial for very many to stay without a really good reason.
I think there are a few really good reasons to go and stay on a mission. This was mine:
Why I served a mission
After a moment of surprise, I told my companion:
I went because I knew that’s what He wanted me to do, and because I wanted to do what He wanted for me. My mission scripture was my inspiration:
“If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work”Doctrine and Covenants 4:2
I went because, despite obvious roadblocks, I knew God wanted me there. I knew I had something valuable I could share with other people. In hindsight, I know I needed to be there for some individuals, and they needed to be there for me, too.
That companion was one of those people who I needed; we had a rocky transfer, but we eventually became swell friends and still are. I love her a lot, and I know she was supposed to ask me that question.
I hope I always remember that question as I interact with missionaries today. I feel it’s easy to see when they’re not loving everything about missionary life, and I have heard bad stories from others that have left them pretty disenchanted with missionaries.
I hope that, when we all see the missionaries, we ask ourselves, “Why are they even here?” Then, seeing through Christlike eyes, we must presume that they serve because they love God and His children, and that He is working in them, maybe more than you are letting Him work in you.
Thank you to all those who are preparing to go on a mission, have supported or are supporting a missionary, have served a mission, or have helped the missionaries in some way. Please help them.
Friends, let them into your homes, whether you are a lifelong member of Christ’s Church or barely know who He is. Let the missionaries teach you and those you know. They have been called by God to do His work, and they can help you.
And maybe even ask them: “Why are you on your mission?”
You tell me
If you served a mission, why did you leave? Why did you stay? If you are considering a mission, what’s inspiring you? What else can other followers of Christ learn from this story?