Yesterday I decided to read a little bit out of my missionary journal to refresh my memory of all the important lessons I learned while I was there. I've heard that a mission teaches you 15 years worth of lessons all compacted into 18 months-2 years. And boy do I believe it! My mission was the hardest thing I've ever done, but of course wouldn't change a thing about it. What it has given me, is priceless.
As I was reading, I came across one, of the many entries, that talked about my struggles out there lol. I had written down parts of this Ensign talk that really spoke to my heart at the time. I want to share it with you because it is SO inspirational.
Be Not Afraid
by President James E. Faust
"I learned the lesson that life's burdens don't seem to be so great if we don't allow ourselves to get paralyzed into a stupor of inactivity by our sorrow and pain."
He goes on to talk about the children's classic The Secret Garden, author Frances Hodgson Burnett. The author writes this commentary:
"So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and his detestation of people who looked at him and reflected hourly on humps and early death, he was a hysterical half-crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and the spring and also did not know that he could get well and could stand upon his feet if he tried to do it. When new beautiful thoughts began to push out the old hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthier through his veins and strength poured into him like a flood...Much more surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has sense to remember in time to push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place. 'Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.' "
Sometimes we allow ourselves to fall into this trap of self pity and doubt, and forget about the huge potential we really have. Most of us don't even know what we are capable of, and sadly may never know. It takes great strength to rise above our burdens.
The beginning of my mission was especially rough for me. I couldn't speak the language yet, so of course my companion ended up doing most of the talking. During our appointments I'd be struggling to stay awake, partly because of boredom, having no clue what was being said, and also dealing with the affects of jet lag. I was completely exhausted, homesick, and feeling inadequate in every way. It took a little time, and a lot of patience before I began feeling like I knew what I was doing, and could say what I wanted to say.
In my first city, I had the opportunity of participating in the beginning stages of a women's conversion. When I say participating, I mean just being there, with a smile on my face. Due to the language barrier, I really had no part in it at all :) Anyway, she ended up getting baptised a few months after I left the city. And now 7 years later, I receive an email from her, thanking me for serving a mission, and telling me how happy she is. Her conversion has lead to many wonderful blessings. She has fulfilled numerous callings in the church, taken out her own endowments in the temple, her daughter is now a member (after years of investigating the church), and was recently sealed in the temple to an amazing young man.
I don't believe I personally had any part in this. I didn't say much, didn't do much, was just simply there, and for that I am most grateful. I didn't see a whole lot of lives being changed while I was there, and sometimes wondered why I had come in the first place.
Two main things I learned on my mission, was;
#1- My mission was mostly for me. To strengthen my testimony, to go through the ups and downs, and to prepare me for the life I was about to lead. Every lesson I learned out there applies to my life now in so many ways.
#2- We may never know of the lives we've touched or the people we inspired or helped along the way. All we can do is be mindful of others who may be in need of encouragement, kind words or even a little love. We may be an answer to someone's prayers without even doing much but simply being there with a smile on our face. We should lift one another, rather than tear them down because of jealousy. Be grateful for our OWN individual talents, and have faith that we too, have something extraordinary to offer. Push out those negative thoughts, enjoy the sunshine, stand up on our feet, and do it!