I officially met Destiny at an Early Returned Missionary Conference that she told me about via Instagram. I am so grateful she told me about it because so many blessings have already unfolded from meeting her and going to that conference. I am so glad I got to meet her. She is radiant and doing so much to bless others’ lives!
Destiny grew up in a speck of a town called Paulden, Arizona. She had the privilege to graduate from Academia Juárez in the Mormon Colonies. Her time in Mexico sparked her travel addiction over the last ten years, attending branch meetings on nearly every continent. She had the sweet blessing to serve two missions, one in Budapest, Hungary, and the other as an online Indexing Support Missionary. She had the miraculous opportunity to write “Home Early…Now What?” to help other early returned missionaries. She keeps busy as a social entrepreneur and is currently writing her third book. Her Instagram is @ldsnomad.
I remember coming home early from my mission and struggling when members would say, “the Lord protects His missionaries.”
I couldn’t help but wonder why, in my perspective, I hadn’t been protected. Why did some missionaries have miraculous healings in the field, but I had to come home despite all my prayers, priesthood blessings, and righteous desires?
These questions pulled at my heartstrings for a long time after my return.
It was back in 2009 that I was called to the Hungary Budapest Mission. I was absolutely ecstatic! My parents had both served missions and I had grown up listening to their stories of preaching the gospel, walking until their feet ached, teaching families prepared to receive, and even my mom’s story of when a little boy peed on my mom’s head from a second story of a home. I just could not wait to have my own stories like theirs!
As I neared the end of my time in the MTC, my health acted up for the first time in my life. I was sent home to see if we could find some answers. When the results came back clean, all symptoms had disappeared, and I had proven myself in physical therapy. I was re-assigned to the Hungary mission again. I was told I would fly back to the MTC the next day. I had never really unpacked, so packing was a cinch!
When I arrived in Budapest, I was assigned to the most incredible trainer and we were sent to the city of Pest. The first weeks were absolutely incredible. We got rained on, my feet had blisters, we rarely taught past the first lesson, and we prayed for the Hungarian’s hearts to be open to the gospel. It was hard, but I was in heaven! It was the mission I always wanted and I was extra grateful after my short stint at home.
At some point, though, I started having significant health problems again. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that if a miracle didn’t happen soon, I’d have to go home. My trainer was wonderful – she saw my heart’s desire to continue working even when I wasn’t feeling well when it definitely would have been safer if I just stayed at our apartment.
Eventually, my health became so serious that I went to live in the mission home for a week. When even complete rest did not help, my mission president said I would go home in the next day or so. My incredible trainer called as many members as she could and asked them to visit the mission home the night before I left so I could say goodbye. I cannot think of a kinder gift she could offer.
I do not remember much about the flight home and next to nothing about the 12-hour drive home with my parents. The next few months were a blur of doctor visits and unanswered questions. My emotions were “off” most of the time because it hurt too badly to think about the mission. I felt like my relationship with my Heavenly Father no longer existed and I struggled to find any kind of peace.
Where was the protection He promised? I often thought that I had let my Heavenly Father down; that there were Hungarians who wouldn’t hear the gospel because “I couldn’t cut it.”
And to add insult to injury, I found that not only would I struggle with physical problems during this time, but also with mental and spiritual problems. I am so grateful for those family members and friends who supported me and provided me with the spiritual opportunities to keep me moving forward.
The experience of coming home early is different for every person. For me, it took a long time before I was able to talk (or even think) about the mission. Vital steps in my healing (even though they were sometimes painful) were:
1. Doing indexing online for Hungarian names
2. Volunteering at the MTC with future Hungarian missionaries
3. Rooming with one of the return sister missionaries from the mission
4. Hanging out with Hungarian mission RMs at BYU
5. Serving as an online Young Church-Service Missionary for 9 months
6. Working for the Church in the Priesthood Department and having many opportunities to share my experience with coming home early
Each little step in my healing has been a direct result of my Heavenly Father’s constant love and my Savior’s Atonement.
I have been able to speak with 100s and read the stories of 1000s of early RMs. My book was a wonderful culmination of 9 years of miracles (both large and small).
My desire has been to try and do what the Lord told Paul to do, “when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-33). I have the opportunity nearly every week to talk with and support other missionaries who came home earlier than they expected.
Never in 9 years would I have thought I could reach the point in my healing that I could use my experience for good. That is Jesus’ Atonement. That is Heavenly Father’s love.
I still have days when I wish I had a “normal” mission simply because it would have been an easier road in some ways – but now I am able to better judge my mission on the content and my desire, rather than the length of my service. And I would not change what I have learned about the Atonement, about grace, and about why this life is as hard as it is.
I know He is aware of my heart’s desires. And I now know that the Lord did protect me as a missionary, just in different ways than I expected. He protected my fragile testimony through this growing experience. He protected my heart through the terribly low points. I know the Lord truly does “protect His missionaries.”