I found this graphic on an ad for some home business opportunity that showed up on my sidebar in Facebook. I have no interest in pursuing whatever that business happened to be, but I was struck by how much this image could also apply to the experience of serving a senior mission.
There is no question that we get to see drop dead beautiful places and that we are enjoying some pretty exotic experiences. However, for those that think that this mission is just one big tax deductible vacation, that notion could not be further from the truth.
The simple reality is, being away from our family and friends and everything that is familiar to us sometimes feels really hard. Also, we do not go where we want when we want. We follow the direction of our assignment leader. Sometimes we stay in places longer than we would prefer. Sometimes we have to come back to our home base when we would rather have had one or two more days in the field. We have had plenty of peak "mountain top" sorts of experiences that humbled us with gratitude. We've also torn out our hair in frustration at times (like when we got hopelessly lost in the deep forest at night on an unfamiliar road while looking for one of the more remote family history centers where we had someone waiting to meet with us - the New Zealand bush can feel kinda creepy at night when you can't see where you are going, the GPS is bonkers and possums keep darting out in front of you.)
We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity to be here. Time and time again we have had things happen that have confirmed for us we are exactly where we need to be at this time in our lives, despite the sacrifices required. We would not trade this opportunity for anything in the world.
As we look at the big picture of all the pros and cons of serving in a foreign country for a 23 month period, we know the blessings outweigh the hard things.
Still - the hard things are real. Those just don't happen to be what we usually post about. I believe in following the admonition of Deiter Uchtdorf who teaches us to be grateful all circumstances. ( See THIS LINK to that talk from April 2014.)
We don't wait for wonderful things to happen and THEN give appreciation to God for blessing us. We acknowledge that our very lives are a blessing each and every day - even when things are hard.
One of the reasons our church teaches people to learn about their ancestors is based on the belief that people will cope with their own life's challenges better when they know the stories of how their forebearers got through hard times. I know that is true for us. We think about Edward Bennett Sr. who was called on a mission to England in 1887, leaving behind his farm and family of six children and a wife who was carrying the seventh when he was asked to go. Our sacrifices pale in comparison to that.
|Family of Edward and Elizabeth Bennett|
I consider the challenges he and my grandmother surely faced raising nine children in that canyon.
How many times did they get up in the middle of the night to light the smudge pots to try to save the orchard from freezing? How many times did they struggle to save crops and trees from the forces of weather, insects, or other catastrophe?
|Frank & Jane Pendley spraying the orchard|
Oak creek, AZ
So, rather than get discouraged when things don't work out to my liking or if we are asked to do an assignment that is way beyond our comfort zone I can just smile and say "bring it on".
I have learned that when I am fully obedient to whatever we may be asked to do in this mission, I learn and grow in ways that I never would have accomplished by getting my own way.
So yes, sometimes it is difficult or uncomfortable or just downright scary. But I am grateful for every minute of this experience. Even when my heart is aching for the people I miss back home or the uncertainty I have about how I will salvage my career when we return....I count myself blessed to be a full time missionary. I hope I can always hold on to my memories of this time and this place. It really is pretty amazing, after all.