Sunday, October 23, 2016

Leaving the field

Words for a friend who is leaving the mission.

"To die will be an awfully big adventure" -Peter Pan
There sure are a lot of references to death when someone talks about a mission. And it's an easy comparison to make, as I'll talk about a couple of examples before moving on to a happier, higher note, so hang in there.
Leaving the mission feels like dying. You don't know when or if you'll ever see these people again, and try as you might to ignore it you know that even if you do, it'll never be the same. And it won't. Unlike natural death, you know when it's going to happen, almost down to the hour. Don't let that make you paranoid. As a missionary, you know that you should never waste time but that doesn't mean that you should beat yourself up for every hour that didn't go as "perfectly" as you planned and hoped it would. Don't have unrealistic expectations for these days just because they're your last. When you look back on your mission, this week will be lost amidst the many other miracle-filled ones you've witnessed because of your continued faith and obedience. You've done well. Now comes the part of "enduring THROUGH the end." Have patience with yourself.
The death-bed speech: You can choose your attitude. You can either be an "old man filled with regret" for the things you wish you'd done better and for the opportunities lost now that your time is up, OR you can take the time to be grateful for the experiences and blessings that you've had. My last week in the field was one of the most peaceful weeks of my entire life because I knew I had served honorably and I let the Spirit remind me of it from time to time.
The charade: Try and go about as normally as possible, for your companion's sake, at least. Try as you might to avoid it, sending you home will make your companion a little trunky. Don't contribute to that more than necessary. Remember that mission life will continue without you- people will be taught and baptized, contacted, and dropped. That that is as it should be.
Remember the life you've lead: Take a nostalgic moment now and again. Remember that we are only called for 18 months. Accept that your time has come, and be at peace.
Freak-outs: If you haven't had one yet, you might have one soon. I remember as I faced the first day of the month in which I would go home, I was a wreck. I followed my companion around the streets without even the heart to contact and eventually sat down to sob at the approaching reality of my departure. If you have to cry, do it, it's ok. Normal, even. "The only way to take the sorrow out of death is to take the love out of life" and oh! How dearly have you loved these people! Your sorrow at leaving is a sign that you have developed charity- true Christ-like love. And that's a wonderful thing.
The upside:
As you pass through this veil, you get a glimpse, just a small one, of the incredible impact your time as a missionary has made. In the lives of some people, you have made ALL the difference. In mortal death, we have no lasting connection with those whom we leave. But thanks to the miracles of modern technology, YOU never have to loose the people you have come to love. I was a big Facebook user before the mission, posting pictures and "clever" statuses, but since I've returned I've used it to connect with dozens of beloved members and recent converts, even some investigators! I've had video calls and Manuela has called me every week since I left. These people are a part of your life now. No goodbye's only, "Hasta ver's."
Interview with President: It's really special. I won't give too much away but if a part in the middle of his monologue sounds familiar... that's because he borrowed it from my "Lo que el Senor me ha ensenado." See that? I'm haunting you from beyond the grave. ;) Also, it may comfort you to know that you don't actually have to turn in your emergency money. They just tell you that you do so that you aren't reckless throughout your mission. So if it's gone but you still have enough to live on for the next few days... you're fine!
There is proof of a GLORIOUS resurrection. You are going to die. You will fly home and see your family. It isn't going to be perfect, so don't expect it to be, but it is going to be so, SO good. And then.... you're back. A stronger, smarter, happier, more focused version of you. And you go on living a wonderful life, forever changed for the better by what the mission taught you. As a returned missionary, I have felt SO much JOY in sharing my experiences, taking the opportunity to bear my testimony, and hearing of the faithfulness of my recent converts.
I remember thinking that I was somehow doomed to misery when I came home. I thought I would be abandoned by the spirit simply because it would no longer be possible to completely live a missionary lifestyle. I realize now just how silly that was. I remember the answer to a fervent prayer, "How will I keep up on spiritual learning?" and hearing in my head, "duh, Institute." Missionary lessons? Visiting Teaching! Do the simple things.

My mom got me a book called "Taking off the tag" helping missionaries adjust to normal life. It's helped me a lot. The gist of it is, don't forget. Don't forget the self-mastery you've learned or where your real priorities lie. Don't forget to serve and seek out the spirit. Don't forget to be HAPPY.
I'm telling you that it's all going to be ok. That I'm so, SO very proud of you, how you've grown, and all you've accomplished. My pride pales in comparison to that of your Heavenly Father, whose work you've done so diligently.
Well done, thou good, and faithful servant.
Hope to see you soon!
If this is your last time reading/writing emails... Hurrah for Israel!
Hasta pronto, Hermana.
-Alayna Een

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