I’m sure that I’m not the only missionary who has dreamed about their mission for their whole life. I knew that challenges like going to a new place, possibly learning a new language, working day in and day out, and teaching others the gospel would push me beyond what I could imagine, but I also knew that I had a desire to serve, so I prepared the best I could.
Finally, after years of waiting, my mission call came, and I was assigned to labor in the Philippines Cebu East Mission. Months of preparation, including time in the missionary training center, took me to the much-anticipated first day in the mission field on March 15. Although it was one of the hardest days of my life as I sat in on gospel lessons in Cebuano that I only understood a fraction of, I was still thrilled to know that this would be my life for the next 16 months. I couldn’t help but smile as I walked the streets alongside my companion because I knew that, after all this time, I was finally where I was supposed to be.
But just two days later, I answered the phone to news that would change everything for me, as it would for missionaries all over the world. I was told to pack up everything immediately—I would be returning back to the United States as soon as possible.
I felt totally crushed as the news sunk in. After only two days, I was going to have to leave this new place I had been ready to call my home for the next year and a half. As I packed my suitcases, I couldn’t help but wonder, Why had I gone through all the work of getting here just to leave? Why had God guided me all the way to the Philippines just for me to get sent right back home? What was going to happen once I got home? Why had I already felt such love for the Philippines and its people if I wasn’t even going to be serving there? Why? Why? Why?
I expected a lot of challenges as a missionary, but this experience was definitely not on the list. My mind and heart were troubled, and I truly doubted that this could be God’s plan for me.
A couple of days later, one of my missionary training center teachers emailed me a scripture that helped shift my mindset: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
I thought about that scripture many times over the next few days. The scripture doesn’t say that only good things will happen to them who love God, it says that all things will work together for their good! In my mind, what was happening to me was not good—not even close! But I did love God, and as a missionary, I knew I was called according to His purpose. This meant that somehow all these crazy events would add up to be something good in my life. It seemed impossible, but I knew in my heart that it was true.
We can’t see God’s whole plan from where we are now, but if we could, I’m sure we would cheer for joy to see how He will shape us into who we need to become when we put our trust in Him. He wants to make our lives and our hearts good, but He requires us to give them to Him in faith first. I haven’t found all the answers to my questions yet, but I have found in peace in the knowledge that God’s plan is infinitely better than mine, and my trust in Him now will allow all things to work together for good in one way or another.