One thing that I love about living in this time is how we can use social media to stay connected. One of the hardest things for me about being home is being away from the little family I created back in the field. But thanks to Facebook, Instagram, Skype, and texting, we’re able to stay in touch. One thing I love is the little facebook group specifically for the missionaries who served in the Great California San Fernando mission under President and Sister Hall. It’s great to get updates from the field, see photos from the mission’s meetings and conferences, and read the occasional hysterical comment or update from Sister Hall (she’s a crack-up AND an Angry Bird pro).
Just in time for fast Sunday, Sister Hall posted an invitation for all the Returned Missionaries from the mission to join those in the field to fast for the new incoming mission president and his family. It was a really special experience to feel that unity that I felt in the field here at home, knowing that I was not only fasting with those in California, but all of the RMs from our mission around the world – from Canada to Korea to Samoa to Utah, we were all unified in a single purpose once again. It was a much needed tender mercy from the Lord for me, to feel that surge of love and power that comes with fasting with a purpose, and that sense of loyalty and unity, knowing that a part of me was still in the field.
Sister Hall also posted a request recently for each of us to email a miracle from our mission to President Hall for his own little transfer journal. Transfer journals are this strange little phenomenon in every mission, sort of like a missionary yearbook. My trainer practically forced me to get one, and in retrospect, I’m really glad. When I’m missing the field, I pull out my little Smash Book and flip through pages of letters, photos, and memories from those I served with in the field. Some entries are just a pencil-scrawl of hello and an email address, others are detailed scrapbook pages complete with photos, washi tape, journaling, and things taped in.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the miracles of my mission. For most of my mission, I hated putting anything into the little ‘miracle’ box that so many other missionaries did. I disliked feeling like we were measuring our success by miracles. I saw the hand of the Lord every time I looked around, in every detail of our work. But I never called them miracles. It just didn’t feel right to me to put it under the category of ‘miracle.’ In my mind, miracles happened, but they deserved a special honor. They didn’t deserve to be cheapened by over-use. It was a strange Sister Red complex thing. Maybe I was lacking faith, maybe I was being pessimistic or stubborn. Maybe I just didn’t truly know what miracles meant.
I was never driven by the numbers – how many people we talked to, how many new investigators, how many baptisms. Those weren’t miracles to me. Yes, the followed the definition of what a miracle might be in LDS culture, but they were byproducts. Something put to measure something immeasurable. So instead of numbers, my motivation was helping as many people feel the Spirit, feel loved, feel like they had hope. That was my measure of success.
Still, it sometimes was frustrating that I wasn’t seeing ‘the fruits of my labor’ – no one I taught had been ready to be baptized. It wasn’t a big deal to me, but I honestly felt judged at times. I recognize that a lot of it was my own insecurities and the pressure I put on myself. Most of the time, I brushed it off.
When I first entered the mission, we had a huge mission conference with Elder Kopischke of the Seventy. It was a HUGE deal. We spent weeks preparing, talking about him, and pondering questions we wanted to ask. I have a ton of notes from the conference of things he said, impressions from the Spirit, ideas for contacting or teaching. But the thing that stuck with me throughout the rest of my mission was a promise he made.
He promised that we wouldn’t leave the mission field without baptizing our replacement.
That stuck with me. I was never focused on the baptisms. I was a missionary who did her best to teach and prepare people for the temple. I never went into a contact or lesson thinking, ‘how do we prepare them to be baptized?’. It just never worked for me like it did for others. Instead, I pushed Elder Kopischke’s promise to the back of my mind and kept working, stayed focused on helping people individually. I taught people who were baptized, but I was never able to be there. I got transferred. So it goes with mission life.
As I got to the last few weeks of my mission, I couldn’t get Elder Kopischke’s promise out of my mind. I hadn’t realized how I had clung to it for over a year and some months, how it had driven me without me even noticing.
We prepared Hunter to be baptized. The day of his baptism was so chaotic. The odds were against everything. Everything that could have gone wrong in our eyes did. It was exhausting, nerve-wracking, and emotional. There was a moment of panic when we saw President walk into the room where we were holding the baptism. There weren’t enough chairs, we didn’t have a table, the elders were late, where was our paperwork? My mind was moving in a million directions. I didn’t have time to process anything.
We sat down, our part for the day finished, to wait and watch. As Hunter’s uncle pulled him out of the water, it hit me. It hit me as I looked around at a room so full that it was standing room only. It hit me as I looked to Sister Marsh and we shared an exhausted, happy smile. It hit me when Elder Jacobson and Elder Mathews powerfully and simply shared the message of the Restoration with those in attendance (and with no ‘gimmicks,’ President!). It hit me when President Hall settled his hands on Hunter’s shoulders and pointed him to look at the elders, telling him that he would one day have the opportunity to serve too. It hit me when I saw the look of joy and awe in Hunter’s big, brown eyes as he pushed the wet curls out of his face.
Elder Kopischke’s promise hit me. I would not leave the mission until I had baptized my replacement.
And with only a few weeks to spare, he was right.
But the miracle for me wasn’t just the fact that Hunter was baptized. The miracle was me believing – truly, fully, without a doubt – believing in the miracle of the promises of the Lord. I had believed in miracles. Being on a mission was a miracle to me, with the physical and emotional/mental challenges before me.
The miracle of my mission was that moment when it hit me. The Lord always fulfills his promises. He just asks us to believe.
I love the quote by Elder Holland: “God is eagerly waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can’t if you don’t pray, and He can’t if you don’t dream. In short, He can’t if you don’t believe.”
The miracle of my mission was not just that I believed, but I came to know that I believed, and saw those fruits.
I believe in miracles.