Growing up an adamate tomboy who prided herself on doing hard things like the boys did, whenever the discussion in Young Womens turned to mission or marriage, for me, there was never a hesitation. I was going to serve a mission.
My plan after high school was to fulfill four years of collegiate soccer, and then turn my mission papers in. And that is exactly what I did. But when that time came, the decision to serve a mission actually turned hard.
As my senior soccer season at DSC was nearing an end, I knew I couldn’t apply for a mission if I hadn’t made sure that that was also what the Lord wanted me to do. So I procrastinated asking. I didn’t even want to consider what I would do if the answer was no.
Finally, one night, I took it to the Lord. I crossed the street from my apartment and climbed the stairs of the institute building to a little forgotten balcony that housed the air unit for the building. It was a seasoned thinking spot of mine. Beneath my arm was my scriptures and my journal.
As I knelt and presented my decision to serve a mission to Heavenly Father, the feeling that came wasn’t what I was hoping for. I began to panic, as I feared the biggest plan of my life was coming to an unexpected halt. I did NOT want to stay home. I just couldn’t. Amidst the panic, I distinctly felt that God wanted to hear why I wanted to serve.
I want to share the gospel with those who don’t have it, was my first reply.
You can do that at home, came the immediate response.
That was true. There were plenty of people right there around me who didn’t have the gospel in their lives. I rephrased my reason.
I want to share the gospel with those from different countries and walks of life than me.
You can do that at home, was again the immediate response.
Again, that was true, especially on a college campus.
I rephrased that reply again and again, and every time the response was the same: You can do that at home.
Desperate to serve and not stay home, I finally said, I want to serve a mission because I want to!
And there was silence in my mind and a feeling of understanding in my heart. In that moment, Heavenly Father let me see my desire for what it really was: I did have a desire to serve Him and to spread His gospel, but wanting to serve a mission had more to do with me than with His work.
The next feelings that came and the guidance I recieved are sacred and special. Without going into much detail, I was given the go ahead to pursue a mission as well as specific instructions for some special assignments before I left and how to prepare.
The next few months brought miracles and enlightenment as well as some of the most trying spiritual times of my life that really opened my eyes to the reality of the work of salvation that had been going on around me. And when I did eventually get out on my mission, I was in a much different position of learning than I was that night I begged God to let me serve.
As a full-time missionary in Austria and Sothern Germany, the Lord expanded that vision of what member missionary work really involves and looks like. What’s ironic is as much as I had wanted to serve a mission, as I saw more and more of the missionary opportunities that are best fulfilled by local members and not foreigners with name tags, the more I just wanted to go home and serve my family, friends, and neighbors.
I do not believe for a second that serving a mission is the only way to learn how to be a good missionary. I know plenty of people who get the vision and have been serving in their spheres of influences faithfully. The Lord can teach us at home or abroad how to do our part in the work of salvation.
For me, serving a full-time mission was a fulfilling of a long awaited dream. I’m grateful everyday I got to go. I’m grateful everyday for the miracles I experienced, the people I met and love, the language I learned, and the person I became. And I’m forever grateful the Lord used my mission to show me what He meant when He said, you can do that at home.