The first month of your mission will probably be one of the hardest. They say, the days go by like years…and the years go by like days. You’ll probably think about home a lot. You might question your abilities and face lots of failure. You might think about friends, family, dogs, and sports. You’ve probably never had so many people look at you so weird in your life and you might wonder how the heck you’re going to get through this.
You might think to yourself, “One little phone call and I’ll be right back home…”
Elder Holland, one of the great spiritual generals of our time knew that some of us may have the desire to turn back during these hard transitional times. He said:
“Elders and sisters, don’t you ever quit. Don’t you ever give up. Don’t ever talk to me about going home. I am manifestly the wrong man in this world to talk about whether you want to go home. You’d better talk to somebody else. Because I am absolutely, totally, and completely biased. I am insufferable on that subject. I would wrestle you to the ground, I would grapple with you all the way to the airplane terminal. I would get in your backpack and go with you. You will never get rid of me. You try to go home, you look up in the middle of the night in your bedroom window, I’ll be there. And I might scratch on the window pane. I might make sounds. Just don’t ever turn away from the greatest experience of your life. I couldn’t live with it. I could not allow it. I couldn’t do anything within my power, but have you experience what in some way I experienced.”1
Elder Holland is obviously not going to wrestle you to the ground or sit outside your house and scratch on the window, but he wants you so badly to know how valuable this mission will be for you, your family, and for everyone the Lord will put in your path. There are definite physical, mental, and emotional challenges that necessitate the return of some missionaries. Those missionaries shouldn’t be looked down upon by others or feel shame in any way. There are plenty of other ways to serve if it doesn’t work out in the field. Everyone is different and everyone can contribute in their own way. But the key is to continue to contribute. Continue to be a missionary. Never quit…being a missionary regardless of your situation in life.
Paul knew what it was like to be a missionary and it was tough for him. He had to leave his cushy seat in the Sanhedrin in order to fulfill his foreordained rescue mission. He described his time on the missionary front lines as being “troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”2 Can you imagine if the great missionary Paul turned back to his previous life and stopped serving? Can you imagine if he just called it quits, even with that “thorn in his flesh” that he begged the Lord at various times to remove. We’d have a big void to fill inside that Bible we hold so dear.
Your ability to work through challenges and uncomfortable situations, will determine what kind of person you’ll become in life. Joseph B. Wirthlin said that “in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result.”3 The fruits of your endurance will carry on well beyond your service as a missionary. It will set the tone for success in your business, profession, education, future church service and most importantly, in your family.
Ezra Taft Benson once said: “One of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work. If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people; and he will be happy. There will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for all time and talents and interests are centered on the work of the ministry. That’s the secret—work, work, work. There is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work.”4
Did you realize that while Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He would have known exactly where He was situated on the Mount of Olives that excruciating night. He knew the landscape and geography very well. His friends were asleep. He was all alone under the cover of night. He would have known that all he’d have had to do to avoid what he called “His hour” and what He knew of Roman brutality…was to walk up that hill over into the Judean desert, and no one would have known. He would be gone and no one could have traced Him…but He stayed. He endured. He fulfilled His mission. For you.
We can do the same for Him…in our own little ways.
1. Jeffrey R. Holland, Missionary Work and The Atonement of Jesus Christ June 20, 2000
2. 2 Cor 4:8-18
3. Joseph B. Wirthlin, Come What May And Love It. Oct 2008
4. Ezra T. Benson, Come unto Christ, 96, 97