Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Growing Older - Missionary Style

Last night we had another Senior Missionary Family Home Evening.  It went GREAT.  Elder Cotterell taught a fabulous lesson based on chapter 6 in Preach My Gospel, about how we can develop the attributes of Christ.  We had a wonderful discussion, with various people sharing ideas about the various attributes they were working on and talking about what it means to allow our very natures to be changed through the atonement of Christ.

I have been working very specifically on the attribute of patience, particularly as it relates to how I respond to the challenge of my broken wrist.  I have had many nights when I was not able to sleep well because of the pain and discomfort of this injury.  When it really gets hurting, I have gotten up in the night to read my  scriptures, to pray, and to ponder the larger concept of coping with adversity in our lives.  I've learned heaps in the process.

After the lesson we had a delicious meal of lasagna and salad that Sister Cotterell had prepared and had a good time visiting with the various missionaries - especially those who live in Manukau that we don't get to see very often.

When we came home, Larry and I enjoyed talking about all we had learned that evening.  Then we decided to watch a movie to relax before heading off to bed.  We are able to stream a lot of different films with our iPads and connect that to our TV, so that is what we did.

The movie we watched was "I'll See You In My Dreams" with Blythe Danner and Sam Elliot.  The film portrayed a group of older women friends - all on their own (most widowed, one divorced) and how they lived their lives.  Most of the women knew each other from all living in the same retirement community.  Blythe Danner's character, Carol, is the exception, preferring to live alone in her own home which is near by.  

While I enjoyed the performances of the actors (including a great line up of supporting cast - June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place as the loyal friends, Malin Ackerman as the daughter and Martin Starr as the pool guy who befriends Carol) I struggled with the lifestyle I saw portrayed.  These women spend day after day playing cards, playing golf, and passing away the time with no apparent deeper meaning or purpose than their own amusement.

I could not help but compare that to the lives of the Senior Missionaries I had just spent the evening with.  Among our cohort we have people in their 50's, 60's and 70's.   We have a broad range of people from those with modest means (like us) and people with significant wealth.  However ALL of us have other things we could be doing if all we cared about was our own comfort and amusement.   We have left behind families, homes, and a few rewarding careers.  We have each come to the mission field at some level of sacrifice in order to dedicate a period of our lives to service.  We are missing out on significant births and deaths, graduations, baptisms, weddings, recitals, reunions and all manner of  important family events.  We are doing it because we believe our lives should be about something larger than our selves.  We are doing it because we be believe in the words of King Benjamin from the Book of Mormon when he said "When ye are in the service of your fellow man, ye are in the service of your God."

I am so grateful we have the opportunity to spend this season of service here in the South Pacific.  I am grateful for all the many lessons we are learning, even those that are really hard.  There are times I weep with homesickness and longing for my familiar family and friends.  There are times I worry about how uncertain my career future will be after taking this extended break away from the world of working.  There are plenty of things about living in a completely different culture that  are a challenge, every bit as big as the blessings and the beauty of being here.  But I would not trade this experience for anything in the world.

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