“Sent Back, but Facing Forward,” Liahona, May 2020.
The author lives in Utah, USA.
There was an exact moment in March when I knew my missionary service had been accepted by the Lord. It didn’t lessen the heartache I felt at leaving a country I had grown to love. But it did reassure me of a pattern I’ve seen throughout my life: the Lord’s guidance and protection are always available to us as we walk the covenant path, even when life is full of more questions than answers. As a favorite quote by the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson states, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen” (Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson , 540.)
After my husband died several years ago, I went through a bumpy, soul-searching time. I prayed and pled with Heavenly Father for help with many decisions. Although there were plenty of rough patches, I never lacked for anything. My mantra became, “Trust more, doubt less.”
Time went by, and I developed a deep desire to serve a temple mission. I felt that it was a way I could walk hand-in-hand with my husband—we could both be constantly engaged in the same work, just on different sides of the veil. So last year, I got my affairs in order and submitted my mission papers. I was thrilled to receive a call to serve in the London England Temple, in the land of my ancestry. With my children, their spouses, and grandchildren cheering me on, I welcomed the new year by starting my mission and heading overseas.
When I arrived in England, my heart told me I was home. I loved waking up to the inspiring sight of the majestic temple. The house of the Lord was only 97 steps from my flat on the temple complex! The lush green grass, trimmed hedges, and purple heather all testified of abundance.
I soon learned that although I was familiar with temple work as a patron, I had a lot to learn about being a temple missionary. Even though it was a steep learning curve, I felt there were angels sent to buoy me up and accompany me on my journey. I was never truly alone. I felt like I was exactly where I should be.
Then, in early March 2020, COVID-19 started to become a serious issue in Europe. Some missionaries were worried that it might affect our service, and they turned out to be right. On March 12, the temple president received a message. President Russell M. Nelson had instructed him to gather everyone from other countries and send us home immediately.
I don’t think I will ever forget watching him share that news with us. Tears filled his eyes and ours. There was a palpable feeling of love and fellowship among the ordinance workers. And, simultaneously, my heart felt crushed. Serving there had been a dream come true!
But then I received an impression from the Spirit. It came just as vividly as the direction I had received to go on this mission in the first place. I was told that my offering was accepted by the Lord. My soul was comforted. I realized that—like so many other times in my life—I should not doubt but trust in God.
With a heart still in London, I said goodbye to England two days later. Fellow missionaries from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and elsewhere in the United States were also heading home. It seemed like such a sad, abrupt ending to what I thought was going to be a much longer season of life.
Now I’m back in the United States, and I don’t know what the future holds. But this I do know: God’s purposes will not be thwarted by anything, including a pandemic. Somehow, temple and missionary work will keep moving forward. I feel confident that the Lord is far from done with me or anyone else who has a willing heart and mind. And so I’m facing forward, trying to trust more and doubt less, with faith that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).