Saturday, November 30, 2013

Here It Is: The Real Truth About Senior Missions

With the announcement in the Church News a few weeks ago that Elder Mike and Sister Rebecca Pinegar will serve as the new directors of the London Temple Visitors' Centre beginning January 2014, we are realizing that the sweet opportunity and magnificent blessing of serving as missionaries in the England London South Mission will soon be coming to a close. Though we are truly trying to remain focused to the end, we are beginning to reflect on the last two years and what an amazing experience it has been. It has been a time of joy, growth (sometimes fun, sometimes painful), love, hard work, more hard work, and many, many miracles and blessings. What a grand privilege!

Recently, one of our good friends, a senior missionary serving here on the temple grounds with her husband, commented that she wasn't prepared for how hard some of the adjustments would be when she came on a mission. She said she had really only heard about the joys and blessings when others she knows had come home and reported about their missions. She had never thought about the difficulties she might encounter. I'm  quite sure that's a very common experience, and she's not alone. Many, if not most, young elders and sisters, as well as seniors, come into the mission field with lofty expectations based on the reports they've heard before they came. But in defense of all those past missionaries (seniors and otherwise) who may have been a bit Pollyanna-ish in their reports, missions are a lot like giving birth. Once you are gazing at that beautiful new baby in your arms, all the morning sickness, fatigue and pain of childbirth becomes a distant - and gladly borne - memory. All you remember is your sense of accomplishment and great joy at being allowed such a privilege. Serving a mission is a similar experience.

Because Don and I are still currently serving, our memories of the hard times haven't been dispersed by the euphoria of success quite yet! So we thought this would be a great time to offer our official/unofficial list of truths about senior missions. I can't say that we are experts about senior missions. We have friends here on the temple grounds who are serving their third and even fourth missions. However, after being away from home for nearly 2 1/2 years now, Don and I have learned a few things we'd like to share. I also took the liberty of questioning several of our fellow senior missionaries about their experiences and have included some of their thought in the following list, too.

(Most of the) Senior missionaries in the England London South Mission
October 2013
Senior Missionaries:  Couples who leave their families for 
a little while so that others can be with theirs forever.

(or) What We Wish We'd Known Before We Came
  1. No matter how much you love your spouse, there will be times when being together 24/7 for a couple of years is just too much!  After jobs, children, grandchildren, church callings and other responsibilities have sent you in different directions for most of your married life, it is an adjustment to spend all your time together in much closer quarters than you are probably used to. Almost always, however, this leads to greater unity and a stronger, closer marriage than you ever thought possible. You will learn new ways to work together. This has certainly been true for us.
  2. No matter how old you are, or how much you think you've learned, you will have to learn new things.
  3. Just because you are called to serve in an English speaking country, do not assume you will know what is going on around you - especially if you serve outside your country of birth. There is always a learning curve. New places, new customs, new living conditions, new foods, new products, new words and accents, new traditions, and new ways of doing things will all take some getting used to. No matter where you serve, it is not going to seem like home for awhile. You are going to have to adjust and be flexible!
  4. You are going to get sick of the two suitcases full of clothes that you brought!
  5. Senior bodies sometimes have a hard time adapting to new climates and surroundings and you will most likely deal with some health issues (usually annoying, but not life threatening) that you didn't expect.
  6. There are no vacations on missions. Let go of any "Cruise" mentality you have - but that doesn't mean you won't have fun. You will have opportunities for some sight-seeing and free time.
  7. If you serve with all your heart, might, mind and strength, you will be tired -- often! And you will be busy - really busy.
  8. Serving a mission is a sacrifice. Sacrifices can be hard. You will have people who are depending on you to carry out what you have committed to do, even when you don't feel like it. It's all about service.
  9. You'll have to have the faith and courage to try things you've never done before.
  10. No matter what you thought it would be like, you will be surprised.
  11. There will be times when you miss your family - but this challenge is going to be easier than you think. Even though you won't be physically present for family gatherings and milestones, you can almost always Skype, and Skype can be just as good as being there!  Really!!!  And when you see how the Lord watches out for your family in your absence, it's going to seem more like a blessing than a sacrifice.

(or) Why You're Going To Cry When You Go Home
  1. You are going to learn and grow, and so is your family.
  2. You will receive divine help and strength as you turn to the Lord and ask for His help. You will also feel the strength of other peoples' prayers for you.
  3. You will be an inspiration to your children and grandchildren. You will have opportunities to build their faith through sharing your missionary experiences with them.
  4. Your knowledge and understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ will increase.
  5. Your faith in God and trust in His plan for you will increase. 
  6. Endless tender mercies will help you achieve success in your assignments.
  7. Working with a variety of people and personalities will provide you with a great opportunity to expand your comfort zone and your confidence. You will meet and make some fabulous new friends - and establish eternal friendships. 
  8. You will feel great peace and joy at times.You will recognize God's presence in your work.
  9. You will find out that your family can manage their own lives!
  10. The world will get smaller as you make friends from many nations. You will have compassion for the circumstances of others.
  11. Spiritual gifts will strengthen you - such as a greater ability to discern needs, to memorize, to speak in public, to love, or to endure.
  12. You will have the time you want to study the scriptures and focus on spiritual things.
  13. You will marvel at the effect that the gospel of Jesus Christ has on the lives of those who find it and embrace it.
  14. You will learn the worth of a soul.
  15. You will learn to love the people you serve and work with - deeply. You will wrap your heart around the people and places where you serve.
  16. You will feel God's loving arms around you as you serve Him.

Elder & Sister Anderson with the two of us and Elder & Sister Horsley.

Meet Elder (Tom) and Sister (Joan) Anderson from Smithfield, Utah. They arrived in London just this week. Their journey as senior missionaries is just beginning! They will serve here at the London Temple Visitors' Centre for eighteen months. They have sacrificed much to come and serve the people of England. They will work hard, they will even struggle, they will find joy, and they will be blessed. Of this I am certain. What an privilege and opportunity awaits them!                                ~Pat~

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