Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Different Path

When all young women first get their mission call, it states that the time of their service will be 18 months. That’s what they all count on – 18 months and nothing less. They painstakingly pack their bags, trying vainly to fit a year and a half’s worth of clothing in along with everything else that’s crucial to survival to a girl. Then… they set off. To all the corners of the world to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the wonderful news of the true Church’s restoration. It’s a true act of pure faith.

I, like every other sister missionary, fully expected to serve those 18 months. When I set out, I was determined to make it to the end. See, I had the mind set that a full mission was 18 months – nothing less. To me, if you didn’t serve that exact time, it wasn’t a complete mission.

Heavenly Father had a different plan for me.

About half way through, I had to go home for medical problems (problems that still persist to this day, even after trying to fix them). I was devastated. I am STILL devastated.  There isn’t a single day that I think about my time serving the Lord. Not a moment passes by where I’m not reminded of the hard work I did. Often times, it hurts and I can feel the bitterness creeping up.

I’ve often asked myself, “Why did I feel so prompted to serve the Lord on a mission, only to come home early, hurt? Only to have these problems persist? Only to feel cheated?” These questions of why haunt me into the early morning and keep me awake at night. Sometimes, it even hurts to pray to my Lord because I feel so bitter at times.

As time has gone on, I begin to realize more and more how narrow my vision is. I thought that 18 months was a full time mission. It is to most, but not to all. Heavenly Father didn’t need me to serve for that long – He only needed me for about half of that. For me, half of those 18 months was MY full time mission. It wasn’t cut short. It wasn’t truncated. There was no cheating, no unfairness, no abandonment. For some reason, my full time mission was just a little shorter than everyone else’s.

I was meant to serve just those few months. From the beginning. I take great comfort in that and, even though I often have to remind myself that I served MY full time mission, I know it all turned out that way Heavenly Father intended it to. There's a reason it was shorter than most - and I am quite determined to learn why. The answer won't come tomorrow and it probably won't come the next day. But I'm confident that someday, the Lord will make it all clear to me.

2 Nephi 2:24 states, “All things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things.” Through this journey, I’ve come to treasure these few words deeply. Heavenly Father knows all and He knows what the future holds for us. A concept that continues to enthrall me to this day - one that I cannot seem to fully grasp. He knows all. He sees the outcome of each path we take and does His best to put us onto the best path. For me, the best path was one with rotated bones, twisted muscles, awful pain, and a shorter mission than most. I suppose the path were I served an 18 month mission didn't turn out as well as this path will.

The full time mission I served changed me. The pains of it not being as long as I expected it to be strengthened me. The future that is before me will shape me.

To all those who also have had to come home early for unforeseen circumstances, take heart. You served all that you were meant to serve. Heavenly Father accepts your service and He is so very proud of you. You served your full time mission. Don’t let anyone ever tell you any different.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

100 Things I Learned on My Mission

1. The Spirit does everything in missionary work - you're simply an instrument
2. Bubble wrap solves most problems. 
3. Without Heavenly Father, we couldn't do anything.
4. The most effective way to introduce yourself is a representative of Jesus Christ
5. Backing up mission vehicles makes for a good conversation starter.
6. Missionary work is FUN.
7. Don't worry too much about making a fool of yourself.
8. The Mississippi Gulf Coast has the prettiest sand.
9. If it's not spicy enough, pour Tony's over it.
10. Companions can be your best friend or worst enemy. Make them your best friend.
11. This church is guided by Jesus Christ - not by the government and popular ideals.
12. Don't resist God's will. 
13. Awkward situations make the best stories.
14. You'll almost always laugh about it later.
15. It's alright to think about your family!
16. Journal keeping is inspired and journals make the best treasure.
17. The Mission President is your best friend.
18. Smile!! 
19. A singing missionary is a happy missionary.
20. Members are so very vital in the missionary effort.
21. It's never good-bye forever.
22. Heavenly Father helps out day by day with the tiny tender mercies and miracles
23. Don't pray for a humbling experience - you'll definitely get one.
24. Nothing tastes as good as Mama Z's gumbo.
25. When you skip a day of scripture study, you're always much more grouchy.
26. Pray always. It really does fix things.
27. Make a game out of tracting.
28. Missionaries are probably the farthest from perfect.
29. Go to bed on time every night.
30. What you planned out for the next days will almost never happen.
31. Talking to everyone is really hard.
32. Each time the sun rises is a new day to start over.
33. Don't limit yourself by what you believe is your capacity - the Lord will expand it.
34. The only words that hinder someone's salvation are the words that are left unspoken.
35. You don't know what trials God has asked someone to walk through - don't judge them.
36. If you find yourself incapable of loving someone, list 5 good things about them each day.
37. The easiest dish to eat for dinner is ice cream.
38. You need a lot of hope to serve in the South.
39. Every pass-along card you leave is a little seed. 
40. It's okay to get discouraged once in awhile, as long as you pull yourself back up.
41. The hardest times are the times you are closest to Heavenly Father.
42. Be grateful for each and every day you serve.
43. Write down the tender mercies throughout the day.
44. Nothing is more beautiful than old Mississippi oak trees.
45. There is such a thing as Southern hospitality.
46. What you procrastinated before your mission will come back and bite you.
47. Missionaries don't go on missions to repent - they go to declare repentance.
48. Bible knowledge is invaluable.
49. If a house smells like a sewer - run. They're most likely cooking chillins.
50. The Bible teaches us what Jesus taught. The Book of Mormon teaches us who Jesus is.
51. Patience is the hardest Christlike attribute to attain.
52. You really don't need Facebook or Pinterest.
53. The moments when you need a miracle the most is when Christ provides one.
54. We're often left to figure out answers on our own.
55. Once we've made a decision is when God will step in and help.
56. If you don't know it well enough to explain it to a five year old, learn it better.
57. Dance while tracting.
58. Talk to the Bishop every week. They're all awesome.
59. The Gospel is meant to be simple - don't over-complicate it.
60. Sassy people are the best.
61. Take everything in stride - it'll all turn out.
62. Just because your numbers sucked doesn't mean you suck as a missionary.
63. Doors make the best tables.
64. Carry around pictures of your family and friends everywhere.
65. Just because someone offers you a mint doesn't mean they're trying to hint at something.
66. Be-friend the youth. They all need a good example.
67. You aren't a monk.
68. Wear out your camera.
69. Be devastated when someone rejects the Gospel - it's eternal salvation. But pop right back up.
70. When Elders are bored is when they get into the most trouble.
71. Read and re-read your Patriarchal Blessing and reference it with scriptures.
72. Become a Preach My Gospel missionary.
73. Ask yourself "What would a holy (wo)man do in this situation?"
74. Help the members cook - you'll learn a lot of good recipes that way.
75. Always always always carry your scriptures.
76. Music is an excellent tool for bringing in the Spirit.
77. Your companions receives as much revelation as you do.
78. It doesn't matter if your a District or Zone Leader - you're all missionaries.
79. Don't get competitive with other missionaries - we're all wearing the same jersey.
80. If you don't have a testimony now, get it.
81. Get to know the members of the ward. 
82. Forgive quickly and forgive frankly.
83. Your past doesn't define who you are and who you can become.
84. It truly is always darkest before the dawn.
85. Memorize scripture references weekly.
86. Write your mother!
87. If you didn't take something away from a companion, you're not done yet.
88. Learn how to give improtu talks and lessons.
89. In everything you do, always leave a commitment for someone to draw closer to the Savior. 
90. Just because people worship differently than you don't mean they're a bad person.
91. Always leave your shoes on while in homes.
92. Families really are eternal.
93. The temple is the best place in the world.
94. Live your mission so that you have no regrets when you return.
95. Heavenly Father is helping design our lives and guiding us to where we need to be.
96. Don't give up what you want most for what you want in the moment.
97. Right when you get home, you want to go back.
98. The worst feeling in the world is putting down your name tag for the last time.
99. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is more than real and everlasting. It changes lives.
100. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's kingdom here on Earth today and has been restored to its former glory. It is here because Heavenly Father loves us so much and has provided a way for us to return to Him. It's to sanctify us and to perfect us. It's to give us pure joy. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Fond Farewell

The nature of this letter will be much different than any other letter I have written for the past 7 months. As many of you are well aware, I have been dealing with a lot of pain in my knees lately. It's gotten to the point where I can no longer walk for extended periods of time and there's a constant pain no matter what I do. It's begun to seriously impede missionary work in Biloxi and where I can no longer function well as a missionary because the pain is much too great.
At first, I was determined to press through it. I remembered a blessing I received awhile back from my District Leader who said, when being the mouthpiece, that the Lord wanted me to remember that an essential part of His gospel is enduring to the end.
I wasn't about to give up. I kept going. Day after day, I'd walk the distances required - attempting to hide the fact that I was in severe pain. As time went by, the pain intensified. Then I began to noticed that because I was concentrating so much on enduring and pressing onward, I didn't have my full heart and mind on the work of God. I could no longer teach by the Spirit because I was hurting way too much.
After a very long meeting with President McDonough, we came to the conclusion that it was getting much worse and the best option would be to return home to ensure a full recovery. I was very hesitant at first - I did not want to leave. At all. He invited me to pray hard about it for a week and let him know what I finally decided.
I began to fast and pray and study very very fervently. But I believe that I always knew that I was supposed to go home. It was my gut reaction but I didn't want to go - so I denied it. Yet, as I prayed with all I had to the Lord asking for His counsel and guidance, I always felt that I had to return home.
Thus, I have made one of the hardest decisions I've ever made - the decision to put down my nametag for the last time - 11 months too early. For the time being, I am more than determined to get better as quickly as possible and return to the mission field but I do realize the fact that this might not happen.
I do not regret making the decision to serve a full-time mission. When I first got here, it was hard. The South was rough to me. I found that my testimony was tried again and again. At times, I questioned why I was out when no one was receptive to the message that I carried. There were moments when I just wanted to give in and call it all for naught. The South was rough to me. I cannot even count how many times a door has been slammed in my face. How many times I felt so tired and discouraged. How many times someone told me I was following something wrong and I'd have to account to God for it someday. The South was rough to me.
But that was when my testimony was truly born. Hours a week tracting. Countless lessons. Numerous visits to members. It was here in Mississippi where I became the woman I am today. It was here where I gained a truly unshakeable testimony. It was here where I learned that Heavenly Father is real and that He loves me. It was here where I witnessed many many miracles and the tender mercies of the Lord. The South has been good to me.
They say that on your mission, the best convert is yourself. I witness and testify that is true. The Church could send out much older and more experienced men than 18 and 19 year olds and they could probably convert more people than we could. Yet, I know that they send out young teenagers to preach the Gospel because that is where the true converts come.
While serving, I knocked on an average of 5300 doors. Left an average of 5300 thousand seeds through pass-along cards. Many would say my mission was for the naught - that it's the least baptising mission in the Western hemisphere. You know what I'd say? It's the best mission in the world.
It breaks my heart to leave, but I will paint a nametag on my heart and be a missionary forever. There is so much I've seen on my mission and so much that has changed me. I got a front row seat to watching the Spirit change other's lives. I count myself so blessed to have had that.
I end today with my strong and firm testimony - He lives! There is nothing that is impossible with Jesus Christ. This is His true church and His kingdom here on the Earth today. I know because I have witnessed it. I have felt it. I have studied it. This is the only way to salvation - this religion is to save souls. The Gospel is the good news that there is hope and a future for all of us.
He lives!

All my love,

Sister Sarah Michéle Durrant