Hisashi buri mina san! Long time no see.
I know that my mission is far from over, but when I got home, my mom asked me to write one last blog entry to finish up my mission experience. And of course I said I would. Then a week went by…. And another… and another. I started going back to school, I started dating the love of my life, I started working. I got thrown back into the world. And then I blinked my eyes, and realized that I have been home from my mission now for 6 months. Where did the time go?
I don’t quite know what I should write about, I wish I could say that I have missionary experiences every day, that I feel the Spirit every second, and that not a second goes by when I’m not praying for those people in Japan. I’m ashamed to say that’s not the truth. Coming home from my mission was the hardest thing that I ever did. In the moment I thought it was because I was leaving everything that I had learned to love. Now I see that leaving my mission was going to be one of the hardest experiences ever because I would have to learn how to do everything on my own again.
When you’re a missionary, you hear about something called “the slip”. A dreaded horrifying thing that every single person that goes on a mission will undergo. When you are released from your calling as a fulltime missionary, and you begin to live a normal life, you experience a slip in your testimony, a slip in feeling the Spirit, a slip in your routine that you developed as a missionary. And it’s not your fault. As a missionary you devote ALL your time to serving the Lord and his children. Coming home you don’t have that luxury. You do have to devote time to other things, even important things. And no matter how hard you try, you will feel a little distant from the Father, a little weaker in the faith. But this slip doesn’t matter. What really matters is how you fight against it.
I’ve seen too many friends, loved ones, and even family members let this little slip have a bigger impact on their lives than it should. That one little slip determines our futures. We have to decide to push forward in faith, rather than letting it drag us down. It’s hard, trust me, I know. I got so used to receiving answers to prayers, and feeling the presence of the Spirit that I honestly started taking it for granted. And then I started getting angry. Why wasn’t he listening after all the hard work and suffering that I went through on my mission, all of the dedication and devotion that I showed to my Heavenly Father? Was it even worth it to keep trying?
Looking back I’m ashamed I ever felt like that. I was extremely humbled the day I read this scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 84:
119 For I, the Lord, have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven; ye cannot see it now, yet a little while and ye shall see it, and know that I am, and that I will come and reign with my people.
I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t hear him, and because of my anger, it was becoming hard to feel him. Reading this I knew it would all be okay, and that I would be able to come back. I was still Sister H.
The memories of my mission are among the most cherished things I have. And it is those memories that helped me to get out of the hole that I was digging. The hole that all began with just a little “slip”. I will never forget how hard it was to serve a mission, especially in a place like Japan. I lost count of how many times people slammed doors in my face, or ran away when I tried to talk to them. I still cringe a little bit thinking about the nights I cried for hours to the Lord asking for his help, or when I had to do the work without a companion to help me. I still remember falling off my bike and scraping myself up, getting caught in rainstorms, and coming home in the winter with purple fingers and toes. But even more important than all those awful things, I remember how much I LOVED the people of Japan. How much I LOVED my companions. How hard I worked, how hard I tried, and how much effort I put in every single day of my mission to make sure that I was doing everything possible to help these people. After thinking about everything that I had gone through on my mission, the good and the bad, I realized that I owed it to myself to pull my act together and to try harder. I was not going to throw away those 18 months and go back to what I was before my mission.
The testimony I gained, the experiences I had, and the love I came to understand on my mission defines me. They are who I am. So yeah, unfortunately, being a returned missionary is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I wish I would have been able to pull it together sooner, but I know now that I can see all the blessings that the Lord has been giving me, even when I was pulling away from him. I have an amazing family, I have a job, a roof over my head, and the most loving fiancé I could have ever asked for.
Everything good that I have ever received has come because of my mission. I realize that now, and I will never forget it. And this is true of every single person that serves a mission. The slip that happens when we are released from our callings is real, and in all honesty, it can make us or break us. It all depends on how hard we fight, how much we nourish our testimonies, and how much we treasure our experiences in the mission field, the good and the bad. I know that the testimony I gained on my mission is the one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It will keep growing, and it is the testimony that I will share with my friends, acquaintances, and someday my future family. I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored on this earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that he translated the Book of Mormon, and that the words and prophecies and revelations written in it are everything that we need find answers in life. I know that God is my Heavenly Father. I know that he loves me, even when I turn away. I know that he answers my prayers. I know that his Only Begotten Son is Jesus Christ, who suffered for us, and who made it possible for us to overcome to trials that come our way. No matter how alone we may feel, there is always One who understands. I know that I changed on my mission. And I am forever grateful for that. In fact, I’m still changing, and I always will be. My time in Japan is over, but I still have a bigger mission to complete. I can’t wait to see the joys that lay in store as I embark on this next path and see what experiences are in store. The most important thing that I learned from my service as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints is that missions aren’t just 18 months, or 2 years. Missions are forever.