I have been in the Church my entire life and seen firsthand what a mission does for the missionary. There are situations so acute and influential they stick with you throughout your life. These instances leave a mark that will never be forgotten. We all have them. Perhaps it was the first time you saw your spouse-to-be or exactly where you were the day some significant event took place. But I wager that for many young men and women in the Church, at the top of that list of emotional, significant events is a mission.
Whether it’s opening and reading the mission call, speaking at the missionary farewell, or saying a “final” goodbye at the airport, these experiences are like nothing else in the world for young men and women embarking on the most important decision to that point in their lives, and that is only the beginning. I never tire seeing a homecoming as missionaries are reunited with their families. My own emotions rise close to the surface then. It reminds me of my service and my son’s mission—two different perspectives, two marvelous memories, which I continue to cherish to this very day. I spent my entire life, and particularly my married life, anticipating sending my son on a mission. It was a goal we embraced and encouraged from before he was even born. When he was a boy, we discussed it in family home evening and shared stories from our own missionary experiences.
As he grew into a young man, he began saving for his mission fund. High school was a wonderful experience of growth and personal development. He became a musician and performed various gigs, on stage, in homes and restaurants and produced several cds. Before we realized it, his mission call came and preparations ensued. I remember the night we went to the stake center for him to be ordained a fulltime missionary. I couldn’t believe that his time for a mission was already here. I never anticipated the challenge it would be to send him away for two years at the prime of his life. Yet I knew this was the Lord’s plan for him, and I was grateful for his faithfulness and this opportunity given him.
Your experiences are unique and significant as well. While we have our own memories to treasure for a long time, many capture these surreal moments on video or in journals to be lived and relived for years to come. I once heard that every missionary should serve a mission if for no other reason to experience the joy of a homecoming. Trite as that statement may be, there is a wealth of truth to expressing the joy a missionary feels as he or she is welcomed home by dozens of family and friends. Though I remember the emotions of those days after firsthand experience as a missionary, I realize there are stories and beneficial experiences far beyond my capacity to grasp. I am only beginning to realize what a faithful missionary’s service does for all involved. I have seen my parents at an elderly age spend their golden years serving in various mission capacities. They were blessed with vitality and influence. Their aches and pains for a brief time took second place to their service.
The lifestyle that they willingly put on hold to serve a mission was replaced with memories that buoyed them and us for years to come. The development that occurred was noticeable and precious, and it didn’t happen in them alone. We were all edified. Today, my father has passed, but my mother enjoys the memory of serving a mission for the Lord with her husband, and we children have family memories we will always cherish. Our parents set examples for their children and grandchildren that we are only beginning to understand and fully appreciate—such is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Another example is our beloved prophet, President Thomas S Monson. John W. Gallivan, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, a leader in the Salt Lake community, and past publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune, comments:
“If he’s ever met you, Tom Monson is your friend. This warm, genuine, gregarious man doesn’t love his neighbor because that is the mandate; Tom Monson is your friend because he loves mankind. That’s his nature. The Church gave this community special unification through friendship when it elevated Tom Monson to the First Presidency.”
His diplomatic skill in working with non-LDS groups is very evident in President Monson’s nearly two decades of work in the countries of Eastern Europe. Following his efforts in helping to create the first stake there in August of 1982, a personal dream was fulfilled when a temple was dedicated on 29 June 1985, in Freiberg, German Democratic Republic.
“If it weren’t for Brother Monson, there would be little for our Saints in this part of Europe,” says close friend and Europe Area President Joseph B. Wirthlin. “Now we have stakes, wards, chapels and—miracle of miracles—a temple. Tom has given everything to those people, including the shirt off his back. I mean it! I’ve seen him give away his suits and his shirts and his shoes. I’ll bet he’s given away twenty suits to those destitute Saints in Eastern Europe. He says they were used, old ones that he was going to throw away, but they always looked brand new to me.”
This article is aptly named for a song that I recently found, which captures many of the sentiments of a missionary, so real that for a moment I too was able to re-live one of the greatest experiences of a lifetime. A mission in many ways is the ultimate tithing paid to that point of one tenth of a missionary’s life, and similarly the blessings are also apparent as the windows of heaven are opened wide.
We are here to serve our King. It is his gospel message we are called to preach. It’s his good news that we carry as we labor to gladly bring souls to Christ.
Converts, family, and friends are changed because of the mission you have or will serve.
Others have shared their feelings about this song, which seem to capture my sentiments:
“I served a 2 year mission in Detroit that changed my life. I hope this conveys a sliver of what I feel.”
“I think of my mission every day. Even though this wasn’t my mission, thank you for helping me remember the good times I had.“
“I served in the Ohio Cleveland Mission and just got home like two weeks ago and I can testify that this is definitely how most all of us feel.”
As we make Christ the center of our lives, our fears will be replaced by the courage of our convictions. – Thomas S. Monson
I love this quote. I am grateful for the knowledge I have of a loving Savior & for the uncertainty of my life. Because of it, I am able to practice faith & belief that my life is led by God. How beautiful.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.