Since officially publishing my blog last week, I have heard from some of the most amazing people “out there”! My Stat tracker tells me that over a thousand of you have visited me from 28 states, and 12 countries so far. Who are all of you?! It’s nice to “virtually” meet you! I am touched that you would spend some time reading my site. I’m in a complete “learn-as-I-go” mode. I have learned a couple of cool things so far. Did you know that there is such a thing as a “Bloggernacle”? I sure didn’t! Someone decided to coin this moniker for the community of devout Mormons who feel driven to blog. These are the souls who stay up all night writing impassioned entries for their weblogs, reading other weblogs, and commenting. They hope that something they share will help someone else…and I think this could definitely be a contagious condition. I have found myself visiting fellow “nacker” sites. You should try it sometime. It’s like going window shopping in the Mall of Enlightenment! You never know what you will find. Today, I found little miss Sunshine123186. Sunshine is a young woman who is preparing to leave in a few days to serve as a full-time LDS Missionary for 18 months in Chile. She has inspired me. This post is dedicated to her, and to all those she represents.
Your little blog today has been a breath of fresh air! I have felt your boundless excitement, your youthful energy and unflagging hope. I feel lighter already! Twenty years ago I was YOU. (It makes me just cringe to have to write the actual number. How can it possibly be that long? It feels like yesterday) I had just entered the MTC (as in “Missionary Training Center“, as opposed to a certain Choir who shares the same acronym). I was preparing to serve a full-time LDS mission. This would be my first Thanksgiving and Christmas away from home. However, in all my youthful zeal and sincerity, I was actually excited! I had no idea what lay ahead.
You will be ME soon. I know you don’t believe me today, but if you save this, in a very few blinks of the eye it will have come true!
Way back in those “old days” computers had green screens and believe me, “no one was home”. They were glorified typewriters. News came from a radio, television or a paper. An email, or an e-anything had not even been imagined yet! There was no cellular or digital. There was no CD or DVD. Can you believe that civilization actually survived? I wonder sometimes, too. We did survive, but things went slow. I had to wait for 4 or 5 days for a letter to arrive from home to find out what was happening, and then my friends and family had to wait another week for my answer to return. Thus no one ever really knew too much of what was going on. Everything was old news. But today, a missionary can send and receive instant information, usually once a week from anywhere in the world! They might even get to chat or blog with their families once in awhile. Wow!! That is Totally Awesome!
However, one thing that has not changed over all the years, is the actual mantle of responsibility wrapped around your shoulders the day you will become “Sister Sunshine”. I want to help prepare you somehow. You, and my nieces and nephews, my very own daughters, and someday my grandchildren….all of you that stand hovering on the threshold, preparing to take this really big step. You are asking the question: ‘What will my mission be like?’
Here is my answer:
Becoming a missionary is becoming a participant in the biggest REALITY SHOW of all time! You have been chosen out of a cast of millions of hopefuls. This show will be unique. It will have changing venues and scripts on a weekly or even daily basis with no notice. This is a world-wide program with a global audience. There are literally billions watching you day and night. You have a huge crowd cheering for you to succeed, and you also have a very large group rooting for you to fail. The ratings for this program are at their highest of all time (on both sides of the veil)! The pressure is intense. The risks and rewards are the greatest of any program aired in the past. For the next 18-24 months, you will completely leave life, as you know it. You will live isolated from everything that you have loved and trusted, and you must now care for all of your basic needs (It’s “Survivor“!). You will be asked to interact with strange people in bizarre circumstances, trying things that terrify you, and eating things you did not think humanly possible (It’s “Fear Factor“!). You will be forced to live with a total stranger for 24 hours a day and have absolutely no privacy. Your only moments of solace will come during a handful of bathroom breaks during the day (It’s “Big Brother“!). You will be scared, homesick, hurt, hungry, too cold, too hot, ill, and quite often, even discouraged or depressed. Why in the world did you volunteer to do this… and what were you thinking?? You will repeat this to yourself more than once. You will be tempted to quit. Give up. Run away. Vote yourself off!!
However, usually when things have gotten to be their bleakest, you will suddenly hear a “small voice-over” and feel a brighter light. You discover that you have been chosen to co-host a “Total Home Makeover“! This week, you will participate in changing someones entire world & eternal future forever! This episode will be so powerful, and bring so much joy, happiness and satisfaction, that you will forget all prior misery. From this moment forward, you will live just for the hope of being chosen for that opportunity again. You will endure all of the nasty episodes, teammates with bad attitudes and deprivations that the ‘Network’ can possibly concoct to throw at you, and you will stand strong.
When you finally prepare to leave the show, and it is time to come home to your family and friends, you will be so excited to “get back to normal again”! But when you return, nothing will be normal. In fact, by a cruel twist of fate, you will feel lost in a foreign country all over again. You will become homesick for the people and things that used to make you sick. You will miss the “voice-overs” of insight and wisdom, and the feeling of great joy and excitement when helping people in such dramatic ways. You will think that perhaps all of that joy has ended forever, and this will lead to soul searching, praying, and wondering if what you sacrificed and suffered through actually made a difference… One day, a small “voice-over” will happen again. This time the voice will be whispering very quietly just to you, almost in that grand finale effect…”the most important difference DID happen. Just look into the mirror!” You will look. You will see that the person staring back at you has become “The Swan”. You, in fact, experienced a Total Soul Makeover. It was quietly happening all the time, inside, and you never even knew it. You will weep with gratitude, and realize that helping others experience these same amazing changes has not ended, it has only just begun. Nothing will ever quite compare to your mission. It is a once in a lifetime experience. But as years go by, you realize that those intense two years were actually a dress rehearsal for the ULTIMATE reality show entitled ‘The Rest of your Life’.
Treasure the challenge that lies ahead of you on this mission. Embrace the team you are placed with, the trials, the exhaustion and even the misery as best you can. You are not going through it alone. You have someone on your side 24/7 that will help you if you get into trouble, or need a shoulder to cry on. This is someone in addition to your assigned companion, and it is our Savior Jesus Christ. He is the writer, author and producer of this program. If you keep the rules of the game, He will always be on your team, and you can never fail.
I send my love and prayers for an “Amazing Race“!