The passage of time never ceases to intrigue and baffle my brain. Is it possible that more than an entire month has gone by since we dropped off our daughter at the Missionary Training Center? It feels like just days ago that we were hoping to find the rare combination of durable and feminine in a pair of shoes. And yet at the same time, I wonder how it could be that only one month has passed. So much has happened.
After one week in the MTC in Provo, our daughter sent a letter in which she informed us that she had already learned “about a million things.” In her summary of a small portion of the million, she said she had been taught that focusing on Jesus Christ, loving investigators and speaking by the Spirit would get a missionary much further than would memorized doctrines, scripture chains or perfect speeches.
In one week she had met many new people, including instructors, investigators and, of course, other Mormon missionaries. She had been given opportunities to apply what she had learned in teaching and role-playing. She had been studying hard and praying harder. She described her heart as feeling twice as big and enveloped in light.
In just one very long short week, our valiant missionary daughter said she had just begun to realize what sacrifices she is making and just how hard a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be.
In April’s general conference, Elder Paul E. Loelliker of the Seventy, in his talk titled "He Truly Loves Us," said, “I love being with the full-time missionaries. They are full of faith, hope and genuine charity. Their missionary experience is like a minilife packaged in 18 to 24 months. They arrive as spiritual infants with a serious appetite to learn, and they leave as mature adults, seemingly ready to conquer any and all challenges placed before them.”
At the end of week two in the LDS Church's MTC, our daughter was counting the days until she could leave for the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission. The MTC is a brief period of time to smooth out some youthful rough edges before sending tender-aged missionaries into the refiner’s fire of dedicating themselves to representing Jesus Christ. Our daughter was experiencing a spiritual growth spurt there that brought tears of both pain and joy. She felt anxious to leave but not sure she was ready.
In my previous article, I talked about mothers and waiting. I have a tendency to worry while I wait. You can imagine my delight when I saw the email from our daughter’s mission president and his wife letting me know that our new missionary had safely arrived.
My daughter is well aware of my pastime of worrying and reassures me frequently of her safety. When our children are new to the world we, as their mothers, take on the roles of protector and guide. We set aside our own fears and insecurities to become bigger, braver and smarter than we sometimes feel in order to take our children by the hand and lead them into the journey of life. We don’t fool them for long. They soon discover that we don’t know everything and that some things are very hard for us, so sometimes they take us by the hand and show us the way. As I hear how my daughter is maturing spiritually, I can’t help but be motivated by her courage and faith.
Author Elizabeth Stone said, “To have a child is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body.”
This quote resonates with mothers because it describes the journey of a mother’s heart while sharing with her child all the pain and joy of growing up and away from a mother’s arms. It implies at least discomfort and at most outright pain, but I think it also carries the meaning of discovery as our hearts follow our children.
Right now an important piece of my heart is in New Jersey sharing the good news that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our daughter’s first email from "the field" was lengthy and glorious to read. She said she will probably never again write one that long but she had so much to tell. She is meeting more new people and in her words, “experiencing more of the real world than anything else she has experienced.”
Prayers offered for missionaries are much more personal now. I am deeply thankful for all of the new people in my daughter’s life who help calm the part of my heart that is with her by watching over her, guiding her, feeding her and loving her. I am especially thankful for a wise and loving Father in Heaven who knows our hearts and exactly where they are.
Penny Bowler has considered herself to be a writer almost ever since she discovered the power of words. So far she is an unknown writer but looks forward to changing that. Her family can attest to the fact that she is rarely at a loss for words.