Things You Should Never Do On Your Mission – Part 2

Memory Lane Series

Here is Part 2 of the Memory Lane Series. It is here that I reminisce about the funnier and more unique experiences I had on my mission over 30 years ago.
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3.  Never underestimate the faith it requires for a 62 year old to take the lead
     on a bike.

Sister missionaries come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. That’s one of the blessings as a sister missionary; there is no age limit for service. Well maybe there is, but sisters certainly have greater age latitude when it comes to serving a full-time proselyting mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So it wasn’t unusual to me to be assigned a senior sister missionary in the latter stages of my mission. What was unusual was that at age 62, my companion insisted that she be treated like any other sister missionary, which meant she would be riding a bike.

While I struggled with this initially, it was not long before I realised just what this sister missionary was made of.

It didn’t help that the area we were working in at the time was actually about 2.5kms (1 ½ miles) from our flat (apartment), and then it was another 2km ride to the actual suburb we were working in. Summer was upon us, a particularly hot one at that, and we were positioned in one of the hilliest areas of the mission.

But even with all these things going against us, she was determined to face each daily challenge with determination and enthusiasm. So much so, that it was hard for me to keep up with her at times. Each morning we would get on our bikes and she would take off ahead of me, eager to get to our area and start work.

Maybe it was pride on my part, but I often found my enthusiasm assuage and my pride intensify as she accelerated away from me each day. Who was the senior companion here anyway? Well, yes, she was old enough to be my mother, so that made her the senior companion. But actually, in terms of the assigned companionship, I was the designated senior companion. I had been out the longest, and I had been assigned the senior roll. So why was she taking the lead all the time?

I look back on it now and wonder what the fuss was all about. Who cares? We were there to do the Lords work, and who went first really didn’t matter in the over-all scheme of things. Had I not learnt anything on my mission?

But what really astonished me about her enthusiasm and determination was her absolute focus on her goal. Each day, as she got on her bike, her head would go down and her legs would start peddling, and basically not stop till she reached her destination (from the rear it was actually quite a comical scene). This non-stop action included her navigation of the many hills in the area as well as the busiest roads on route – there was simply no stopping her.

On many occasions I would look up from my frantic peddling to see her barrelling across a six-lane dual carriageway without stopping to look or avoid traffic. In her mind, she was on a mission and she was not going to stop for anyone! How did she survive? I suspect faith, but I really can’t tell you.

What I do know, for the three months we served together, that enthusiasm and determination never let up. Indeed, she completed her mission with the same consistent, enthusiastic, faithful, focus.

What I can tell you tho’, is that her bike riding times were soon to be over, as you will find out in #4 of this series, but not from any kind of reckless riding on her part…

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4.  Never learn to drive on your mission

Under normal circumstances I guess I would find my companions bike riding habits somewhat easy to come to terms with. After all, she was fit and sprightly for a 62 year old, and was keen to get out and do the work. Indeed, as the previous story illustrates, she was not going to let anything get in her way of doing the work.

But what she failed to alert me about was that, in spite of the fact that she was sprightly and in good general health, she actually had a heart condition. Can you imagine my horror when she revealed this to me one morning as she lay in bed stating that she was not feeling well because she was having heart palpitations?

Discussing the situation later with our Zone Leader, and then the Mission President, it was decided that the only solution was to put us in a car.

The only problem with this solution was that I didn’t actually have a drivers licence, and she refused to drive because she didn’t feel safe driving at her age.

Yes, you heard me right!

She could jump on a bike and peddle for almost 10 kms every day without lifting her head once to see if the traffic was against or for her. But she couldn’t get into the safety of a car and drive because she felt she was too old…where is the logic in that?

Solution to problem?

She had a licence, so she would be the designated driving instructor, and I would be whisked down to the nearest Road Traffic Authority (RTA) by the Elders to get my learners permit.

It was one thing for me to pass the written test for a learner’s permit, but another to get behind the wheel of a manual car and drive it around the streets like I knew what I was doing.

I had attempted the driving test twice before my mission, and failed both times – and that was in an automatic. Now I had to contend with gear shifting, which was not something that came naturally to me. My only comfort was in knowing that the Elders had promised to teach me if I managed to pass the written test.

How did that go?

My journal from the time states, “I passed the test! Then they [the Elders] took me to some quiet streets to give me a crash course in driving a manual. I was nervous and embarrassed…[but] before I knew it I was shifting gears with no worries. They then had me drive from their place over to ours (while they followed in their car). That meant driving along several main roads. I was hesitant at first, but thought ‘why not’. I did a pretty good job. The Elders left us at home with the car and that was the end of my driving lessons.” Welcome to the world of driving I say….

N.B. About 5 years ago, last I heard, thus mentioned senior missionary companion was still meeting life (at over 90 years of age) with the same determination and vigour as her mission years.

Hope you enjoy my reminiscences. Please don’t forget to leave a comment so I know that you have visited and enjoyed my stories.

<< Back to Part 1 of Memory Lane <<

>>Forward to Part 3 of Memory Lane>>

>>Forward to Part 4 of Memory Lane>>

What More Could a Mother Want?

The leap

When your missionary daughter says to you she loves you but doesn’t miss you, is not homesick, and doesn’t want to come home, you really know that those apron strings are being cut.

Direct quote just two days into her MTC experience, “I love you guys so much, don’t miss me too much because I’ll be having the time of my life …I am definitely not homesick yet”

But I am ok with that. I have never been one of those mums who dies a little bit inside every time her child steps out into the big wide world and discovers something new to explore (without being there to make sure they don’t hurt themselves).

My parents left home when I was 19. They packed everything up, stored it away (including me), rented out our family home, and moved to the other side of the world to discover their family history roots in the UK for 2 1/2 years. I was left behind to fend for myself.

I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. But I had no choice. I was thrown into the waters of life and was told to sink or swim.

It was a difficult time for me. At times I struggled to keep my head above the water line. I really didn’t know who I was without my family.

Looking back on that experience now, it was a defining time in my life. I discovered an independence I never knew existed. I discovered an extended family within the church that became my support when I needed it.

But most of all I discovered who I was and what I believed. I no longer just believed on the traditions of my fathers. I learned for myself the rich blessings available to me, as I trusted in the Lord. I began to apply everything my parents had taught me, and I discovered that it was all true.

My parents had planted the seed of faith in my heart, but that faith wasn’t going to grow much more without me applying it on my own. I no longer needed the faith of my fathers to get me through. They had helped to plant the seed, now it was time for me to nurture it.

So when my daughter says to me she loves me, but doesn’t need me, it is not a sign that I have failed. It tells me she has found her swimming style and is on her way to becoming all that her Heavenly Father wants her to be.

As a mother of a missionary, every time I receive an email or a letter from my missionary daughter I feel fed, and alive. My faith is strengthened as I see my purpose here on earth bearing the fruits of my labour. She is discovering for herself who she is, what her purpose on earth is, and is bringing that purpose into the lives of those she teaches.

Hang on, did I just throw my daughter into the waters of life and tell her to sink or swim? Or did she jump herself?

Whatever it was that just happened, I know that she is making the most of the experiences she is having. Her faith is increasing, and she is discovering who Heavenly Father wants her to be. And she is having the time of her life.

What more could a mother want…

In memory of my life…a vision of the future

Not long ago I went on an overnight sailing trip with several of the Young Women in my ward. We moored overnight in a small cove within one of the many beautiful islands surrounding Auckland Harbour.

In the morning we decided to explore the tiny island that had been our shelter for the night. As we climbed to the highest point we noticed a single row of white headstones. Their etched inscriptions facing toward their destinination, but not quite making it. Each of them told a story of tragic circumstance, of lives cut short, and reminded us of our brief mortal presence here on earth.

As we gathered around to enjoy the view I asked each of the girls to tell me about the vision they had for their future. Tho’ there were many of them who had not yet formulated a full vision of where they wanted to be in the next 10 years, it was a reminder to me of how important it is for each of us to understand the plan that the Lord has for us.

Elder O. Vincent Haleck, in the 2012 Sunday afternoon session of General Conference suggested that, “If we are to prosper rather than perish, we must gain a vision of ourselves as the Savior sees us”.

I remember contemplating this very thing over 30 years ago when a tiny seed of an idea was formulating in my mind. I was 20 yrs. old, had just arrived back in Australia after spending almost a year in the UK with my parents, and wondered where my life was to take me from  that point. I had the world at my feet as a 20 yr. old, but I just couldn’t get a grip on what I needed to do.

I had never contemplated the idea that I could, or would, serve a mission. Indeed, as a child the idea never entered my mind, and certainly as a teenager it was the last thing I would have addressed. But at 20, it began as a tiny seed of enquiry.

This was the first time I considered the scripture that Elder Haleck read out recently in conference, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 21:18). It was also the first time in my life I considered my future with the realisation that I could actually really mess things up if I didn’t have some kind of vision of what the Lord wanted me to do with it.

My journey of enquiry took me to many places that year. In my mind and heart I considered  many options, and in the end I turned to my patriarchal blessing for some answers. I began to create a vision in my mind as to what my purpose was, and what the Lord would have me do.

Tho’ I couldn’t predict my future, there were certain truths that I couldn’t deny.

  1. This life is so short, and we don’t have time to indulge ourselves in selfish pursuits.
  2. The choices we make now will have a lasting effect, not only on us, but upon the lives of others.
  3. The Lord knows us even better than we know ourselves.
  4. To act on vision we must apply faith.

This journey of self discovery took me to places that allowed me to glimpse the possibilities. It was that year that I truly understood the wisdom of Solomon, “Where there is no vision the people perish”. I discovered that I could obtain a vision of my future, and that vision would allow me to prosper.

But, even more importantly, that vision allowed me to prepare for the day when I could fulfill things I thought I could never do. Through missionary service I was able to sew the seed of faith and vision in the lives of many individuals and families. Through my life as a mother, I am far better prepared to sew the seeds of faith and vision in the lives of my children.

Unlike those tiny headstones that were perched on the top of that island – in sight of the city of their destination, but cut short by tragedy – I prepared myself for the journey of life. In choosing to serve a mission I know that I was fulfilling a purpose that the Lord had set out for me. From that point on it didn’t matter how long or short my life would be on this earth, my path was set and it would lead me in the direction that the Lord wanted me to take.

I know that I will arrive at my destination no matter what this mortal existence involves, as long as I maintain that vision and exercise faith.

Carry neither purse, nor scrip…

The suitcase of Faith

Our missionary outside the MTC with her suitcase of Faith

It was almost 12 months ago that our family crammed into the family car and drove out to the airport to bid farewell to our daughter, the newest missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Preparing for that day involved, not only concerted spiritual readiness, but also foresight into what clothing needs she would have. Gone are the days when missionaries were expected to embark with, “…no purse, nor scrip, nor shoes…”(Luke 10:4)

For us, that preparation took on quite a unique nature.

While our missionary daughter was already well prepared with much of her personal clothing needs, coming from the fairly temperate climate of the pacific, she was not ready for the possible sub-zero weather conditions of mid-western USA.

As all mothers do, I panicked. My daughter was going to die from hypothermia on some quiet Utah street. Four months out from her departure, and from our humble abode in Sydney, Australia, I could not imagine how we were ever going to kit her out with enough warm clothes to avoid this outcome.

Typically, my daughter seemed to think that she could survive on what she had…

This was probably the first time I had to contemplate the principle of ‘faith’ as the mother of a missionary. But, desperate times require desperate measures…well that’s how I saw it anyway.

Coincidentally, my husband and I were heading out on a trip to General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah just three weeks before she departed. So a plan was hatched…

With shopping list in hand, my spare time while over there was spent ticking off each item. With the help of my husband, and lots of size guessing, I managed to fill one middle size suitcase with winter-ready clothes. Part one of my plan was complete.

Part two required that faith I was fast acquiring…I left the suitcase there. That’s right, I didn’t take it home with me.

My daughter had a total of one day, upon arrival in Utah, to try the clothes on and make any exchanges or adjustments needed. How’s that for an exercise in faith? I say, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

I am pleased to report that I not only managed to please her with my design choices, she actually survived the freeze of her first winter in America.

I am sure many of you were faced with similar decisions when helping your missionary prepare for their adventure. I would love to hear your story here.