The author lives in Utah, USA.
I’m one of many missionaries around the world whose service was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In sharing my story, I hope to reassure others who had to come home early that they are not alone. Whether you decide to return to full-time missionary service or not, remember that you can use your testimony to build the Lord’s kingdom wherever you are.
As we walked down the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia, my companion and I talked about how our mission was changing. A new virus was spreading around the world, and we were no longer allowed to use public transportation because of it. We were also told to buy a two-week supply of food in the case a quarantine was imposed. At the same time, we’d just had a wonderful sacrament meeting at a member’s home. We were excited to continue our work there!
The next day was preparation day, and we called our families. They told us a little bit about what was happening around the world. Even though so many things were unsettled, I felt at peace. I was ready to find creative ways to fulfill our missionary purpose despite the pandemic.
We got the phone call from our mission president when we were out walking. “Missionaries with less than three months left of service time are being sent home,” he said. My stomach flipped. “That means you, along with five other missionaries, will be leaving Wednesday.”
A wave of heartbreak washed over me as I tried to process what he was saying. How could I leave this beautiful country, and the people I had grown to love, in just two days? I was told to call my parents and then pack my bags.
The next few days passed in a blur. I was uncertain about my future but also excited to see my family again. And of course I felt deep sorrow from saying goodbye to those in Russia who had become so dear to me.
However, I can honestly say that, in addition to all of these emotions coursing through me, I also felt a powerful sense of peace. I knew that everything would be OK. I had taught people countless times about our loving Heavenly Father who has a perfect plan for us, and I decided to trust that what I had been teaching everyone else applied to me too. Everything would work together for my good, as long as I kept living the gospel. And so I headed home.
Since being back, I’ve been thinking a lot about the people, experiences, and blessings of my mission. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I had to serve the Lord.
I am also grateful for the ongoing hope and guidance our leaders offer during this crazy time. As President Russell M. Nelson recently reassured us:
“My dear friends, our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ know us, love us, and are watching over us. Of that we can be certain. These unique challenges will pass in due time. I remain optimistic for the future. I know the great and marvelous blessings that God has in store for those who love Him and serve Him. I see evidence of His hand in this holy work in so many ways.
“So, during these uncertain times, be comforted by this promise from the Savior. He said, ‘I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say.’ I promise you that joy is always within the reach of everyone who will hear Him and obey His laws.”1
I feel that many of the trials we are experiencing right now can actually be seen as blessings, if we look at them with an eternal perspective. Along with President Nelson, I am optimistic about the future.
Fellow former missionaries, let’s choose to focus on gratitude and hope! As the Lord Himself says, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36). If we stay true to the covenant path, all things will work together for our good.