Zelophehad’s Daughters

Top Ten Reasons I’m Grateful for my Mission: 1

Posted by Galdralag

 This is the first post in a series on reasons I’m grateful for my mission.

1) The Stories

As a missionary, I often felt like I was playing the part of an extra in the movies of other people’s lives. I felt I was mostly there to watch and listen; to hear their stories.

Yet, as I lived through the months and met new people day after day, I found meaning in my role. There is inherent value in being observer and confidante, in acknowledging the realities of the worlds of others – worth in serving as witness to their pain.

I left filled to the brim with human stories. Here is one:

 

When Beatrice and I were companions, one day we received a phone call from the mission home. The Mission President had an unusual request. An American member had traveled to the area who was on her way to a medical retreat, and had asked that the mission help her by giving her a ride to the location of the medical facility. It was an eight-hour round trip, so it would effectively take our entire day. B and I eagerly accepted the assignment, both of us excited at the change in routine and the chance to see so much of the countryside. We picked her up at the mission home and began our journey.

She had never been married. She was 29, and she explained as we rode that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Rather than opt for conventional radiation and chemotherapy treatments, she had chosen to go to a homeopathic facility that claimed great success in curing cancer through a strict diet regimen of locally-grown raw organic foods.

As we drove, Beatrice mentioned a relative who had also been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The woman responded immediately in a light, conversational tone: “Did she die?”

Beatrice started in her seat, openly shocked and discomfited. “No, of course not.”

Later she wondered privately to me why the woman would have asked such a question. “Why wouldn’t she assume I was telling her a success story?”

Later that night, after we left her at the retreat, we returned to report to the mission home. The MP’s wife came out in the twilight as we were leaving to our apartment, and hesitantly asked about her. As the three of us spoke, we each realized that we had individually sensed something unexpected from this woman.  It seemed as though she had chosen not to have medical treatment very deliberately; almost as though it was from a sense of destiny – that she had instead come all the way here, to this small, tropical, foreign place all alone, in order to privately, willfully stare down death.

9 Responses to “Top Ten Reasons I’m Grateful for my Mission: 1”

  1. 1.

    In Zone conference out MP promised that if we kept all the mission rules and worked hard, in one week we would have a family to teach. Very rare in our mission.

    My district decided that we would take the challenge. However, as the week progressed. Two of the three companionships gave up.
    My conpanion and I persisted. Saturday night, we were walking back to our apartment. A woman came running up to us and said that she wanted to talk to us. She had the kids run over to the neighborhood bar to get their father. He came back and told us that his brother in America had joined the church and that he recommended that they find the missionaries. He then said that they wanted to be baptized.
    Although he was in a bar when we first met the family, he accepted the Word of Wisdom and lived it from the day he was first taught. They were baptized.

  2. 2.

    Thank you, Galdralag. What a haunting encounter. That’s one of the things I most appreciated about my mission as well–the opportunity to listen to people from all walks of life talk about their lives.

  3. 3.

    On a mission you’ll experience life up close and personal in a way that probably won’t happen if you’re still back home partying with your high school buddies.

  4. 4.

    Kevin….or, if you are a woman who went on a mission before 2013, you left behind college friends who had already started to scatter and/or marry. High school buddies were already a thing of the distant past.

  5. 5.

    Loved the post! I sometimes view my mission as the most extraordinary random story generator. On my mission I got bit by a goose, attacked by a lady who was supposedly possessed, slept all night in a bus station, baptized a lady who panicked in the font because she was afraid of drowning, hitchhiked many miles through the most beautiful mountain coffee fields dotted with water buffaloes, and laughed so hard I couldn’t breath.

    And then there were all the sacred, sweet, spiritual experiences where my heart was broken and where I observed the most amazing goodness and humility in the most ordinary of people.

    I know some people have a traumatic mission experience and it makes me sad for what they experienced. But for me if was so life-changingly good (please have mercy grammar police) that I will always look back with fondness, despite the hard times and despite how my current feelings about the Church are more complex and challenging.

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    [...] can find the earlier posts in this series here, here, here, and [...]

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