In the mission world your "trainer" or first companion is often referred to as your "mom." And when you are called to become a trainer you get a "baby."
A few months ago I had the privilege of training Sister Hart from Arizona. Flash forward several months to now. I'm running the last six months of my race in the mission field and just this week my "baby" was called to train a new missionary named Sister Staten.
Which makes me a "grandma."
Since I've been in the mission field for about a year I wanted to write down a few things that I wish someone would have told me at the beginning of my mission.
So this is a letter to grand baby Staten as well as every other missionary new to the field.
The first thing I want you to know is that it's okay not to know. In all honesty none of us really have it all figured out. When I first came out I looked up to those who have been out for a long time and wondered how I would ever get to where they are. What I came to realize is that we are all relatively new. There will be a time when you take over your first area without the direction from your trainer. For me even taking over an area for the second time I stressed because I didn't want to mess anything up. You will get transferred several times and may be called to serve as a trainer or an STL. Always look at it as an adventure. There are many fun times to be had, but if you stress to much over not knowing exactly what you're doing you might miss them. My Sunday school teacher would always tell us that "You may not know everything, but you know enough."
The second thing I learned is that obedience is so very necessary. I thought coming on a mission would make it easy to be obedient. But I've learned that even as a missionary there is temptation all around you. Sometimes it might be a companion that chooses not to keep all of the rules or a member who suggests something contrary to what your mission president has taught. The best thing to do is stick to the rules. Because we are promised in the scriptures that if we are obedient we will always be blessed. My trainer (your great grandma) Sister Guynn always used to say to me "never let anyone determine your obedience or your happiness." And Sister Berry, the Mission President's wife when I first came to Florida, always used to say "obedience brings blessings, but exact obedience brings miracles."
The third thing I learned is that joy is so very necessary in missionary work. I learned that sometimes happiness is a choice and it is also a challenge. Learn to laugh when you are uncomfortable and smile when you are stressed. Re-discover humor and remember that you have been called to this area because these people need your personality. So don't try to be anybody but yourself, and I know that if you do that you will touch the hearts of the people and you will be happy.
The fourth thing I don't think I really learned until I became an STL. Open your mouth and talk with everyone. And I mean everyone. When you are at a stoplight, roll down your window and tell the guy next to you that you know God loves him, pull over to the side of the road and ask the old lady watering her lawn if you can help her. Walk up to the grumpy man sitting on a lawn chair and ask him for directions you don't actually need. If the person you had an appointment with isn't home knock on their neighbor's house and ask if they know when their neighbor will be home. "Whatever your initial approach may be, refer quickly to the restoration." If you do this I can promise that you will always have a full teaching pool.
The fifth thing I learned is that you probably won't be best friends forever with every one of your companions. There will be some who will become like your siblings, and others who you will clash with. But with each companion you are given comes a reason for why you were given them. It may be something you will learn from them. It may be a Christlike attribute you need to develop. Maybe they need you and your example. Try your very best to get along with them even when it gets hard. If you are having a hard time feeling charity then clean your apartment and pray for charity.
The sixth thing I learned is that this time goes so fast. People always told me that at the beginning of my mission and I didn't believe them. Thirteen transfers are all you get to serve full time for the Lord. You will never have the opportunity to serve in this capacity ever again. Soak it all in and don't take any of it for granted.
A few weeks ago one of our investigators was interviewed for baptism. The missionary conducting the interview asked him about his experience working with us as missionaries. His response was "Those Sistas, they are the tools that God uses to fix broken souls."
You have the sacred opportunity to be one of those tools that God uses to fix broken souls.
I could keep going on with this list for another eighteen months but I'll leave it with this; you have been called to do the work of God the Eternal Father. You have been called to stand as a witness of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is not going to be easy, as Christ's life never was, but it will be the most fulfilling work you have ever done, and ever will do.
Go kick butt. Do good things and just know that you are changing the world one broken soul at a time.