I loved my mission. I loved the people, the food, the culture, and the unmatched beauty of the Netherlands and Belgium. I was blessed to teach the gospel to amazing people and to see some of those people decide to be baptized. Up until that point in my life, my mission was the best thing that I had ever done.
But it was also one of the hardest things that I had ever done. I faced struggles with mental illness, constant rejection, loneliness, and homesickness, not to mention the infamous Dutch and Belgian cold and rain.
At the beginning of my mission, I was sure that other missionaries had to be struggling too, but everyone seemed to be having the time of their lives. Some missionaries told me that they loved being constantly pushed out of their comfort zone by approaching people on the street. Others said they never wanted to go home and would serve indefinitely if they could.
I thought they were crazy.
How could someone like these things? I knew that serving a mission would stretch me and test my faith, but I began to worry that I wasn’t a good missionary for not loving every second of my struggles in the field.
But as I continued to serve my mission and get to know the missionaries and members around me, I began to see that I was not the only one who was struggling or who had struggled in missionary service.
As I would go on exchanges with the sister training leaders and ask other sisters for advice, I saw some very human moments of struggle and vulnerability in other sisters that I also saw in myself. Many of these sisters had been serving longer than I had, and though they were more comfortable with missionary work than I was, they still had their own challenges.
More importantly, though, I saw how these sisters would put their trust in the Lord. Even on the coldest days or when all the teaching appointments fell through, I saw these sisters put on their name tags with purpose and step out the door with Christ as their strength, which often inspired me to do the same.
The members where I served strengthened me as well. As I got to know them, many would ask me how I was doing in my missionary service. Some days were harder than others, and their simple question would sometimes break my fragile resolve. At first, I felt embarrassed to cry in front of the members. I felt like missionaries were supposed to be strong and be the ones who strengthened the members, not the other way around.
But as I would open up to them, they would share their both funny and heartbreaking stories from their past missions as well as the struggles that they were currently facing on a regular basis.
I was able to feel the Savior’s love through the members as they ministered to me. They helped me know that it was not unusual to struggle but that I could find strength through Jesus Christ to keep going.
As I got more comfortable with my daily life as a missionary, I began to wonder if my efforts were enough to make a difference. I worried that my Dutch wasn’t good enough or that my efforts to teach gospel principles wouldn’t touch the hearts of those who were seeking the truth. Though I strived to be obedient and follow all the mission rules, I wasn’t always perfect. I would slip up and feel like I needed to somehow repay the Lord for my shortcomings.
These feelings of inadequacy became a constant source of stress for me, so much so that they affected how I worked. I worried about how I spoke in Dutch, so I would sometimes just keep my mouth shut in lessons. I would sheepishly ask my companion to teach a certain part of a lesson when I didn’t feel I could articulate it clearly. I would chastise myself when I made mistakes in hopes that doing so would keep me from making the same mistakes again.
In these times, I was only trusting in my own strength to be the missionary that I wanted to be. I was stubborn and refused to hand my struggles with Dutch, teaching, and occasional disobedience over to the Lord. Without trusting in the Savior and the power of His Atonement, I couldn’t be the missionary that I wanted to be. I also couldn’t be the missionary that the Lord wanted and needed me to be. But as Ether 12:27 teaches, the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient for all “that humble themselves before [Him].”
As a missionary, I taught others every day that we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ through His Atonement, but did I actually believe that was true for myself? Did I trust that the Lord would send His Spirit to guide my words in a lesson? Did I have faith that the Lord would help me learn the language and culture of my mission? Did I make a plan with the Lord to be better after I made mistakes?
I’ve learned that it is through the grace of Jesus Christ that all these things are made possible.
I encourage missionaries everywhere to practice what they preach. Let the Savior’s healing balm soothe you in your struggles, sins, and insecurities. Let the Savior’s grace make you whole. I am so thankful for Jesus Christ, who gives me the strength I need every day and has paid the price for my sins.