A Letter For the Struggling Missionary

Dear Elder/Sister,

First, I am incredibly sorry that this is your burden to bear, especially whilst serving a mission. I just want you to know that it is OKAY to have hard days and to take time to take care of yourself. My mom always told me that I have to take care of myself before I can take care of anyone else and it’s so true, probably especially true for missionaries. If you aren’t your best then you can’t do much good for others. So talk about what you need with your companion and/or leaders and hopefully, you can make something work that will help you and not cause guilt. Heavenly Father and our Savior understand what you are going through, and They love you for your service and doing what you are ABLE. Don’t force yourself to do more because it could only make matters worse.

“‘But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’”
Isa. 40:31

Second, it is OKAY to ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak or a bad missionary, something that I wish someone had told me. Remember, even our Savior Himself asked for His burden to be removed. Looking back now I am actually grateful that my illness manifest itself while I was on my mission because it forced me to get the helped I needed. If I wasn’t constantly with someone, my companion, then I could have more easily slipped farther into that dreary pit and may never have gotten out. You have someone who is there for you 24/7 and who wants the best for you. Let them help you. And tell your mission president what you’re experiencing, let him help you too. Another regret I have is not filling my mission president in on everything that I felt and thought. I could’ve gotten help faster and possibly served for longer.

“For those of you who earnestly seek to bear another’s burdens, it is important that you refortify yourself and build yourself back up when others expect so much of you and indeed take so much out of you. No one is so strong that he or she does not ever feel fatigued or frustrated or recognize the need to care for themselves.
Jesus certainly experienced that fatigue, felt the drain on His strength. He gave and gave, but there was a cost attached to that, and He felt the effects of so many relying on Him. When the woman with an issue of blood touched Him in the crowd, He healed her, but He also noted that “virtue had gone out of him.”
I have always been amazed that He could sleep through a storm on the Sea of Galilee so serious and severe that His experienced fishermen disciples thought the ship was going down. How tired is that? How many sermons can you give and blessings can you administer without being absolutely exhausted? The caregivers have to have care too. You have to have something in the tank before you can give it to others.”
– Jeffrey R. Holland

Third, you are not alone. Please always remember that and that you are SO loved. It’s hard to feel love when you’re going through what you are but the people in your mission love you, your family loves you, your Savior loves you, and your Heavenly Father loves you. YOU CAN DO THIS!

In an effort to help me rest from missionary work and relieve some of my anxiety and depression, my Mission President sent me on a 3-day exchange with a Sister who had surgery. She was required to rest and heal from her surgery and so I got to rest with her. We didn’t leave the apartment for the entire 3 days. I spent quite a bit of my time watching The Living Scriptures and my temporary companion showed me this video: Missionary Work and The Atonement. I have no idea how she had it but looking back I feel like it was divine intervention that I saw this.

“I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation was never easy. We are the Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, He is Our Great Eternal Head. Why would we believe, why would we think, that it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? In turn, how could we possibly bear any moving, lasting testimony of the Atonement if we have never known or felt anything of such an experience? As missionaries we are proud to say we are disciples of Christ – and we are. But mark my word. That means you must be prepared to walk something of the path He walked, to feel something of the pain He felt, to at least occasionally some time during your mission shed one of the tears of sorrow that He shed…
I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness in the Church is. I believe it is supposed to require something of our soul. If Jesus could plead in the night, falling on His face, bleeding from every pore and crying, “Abba, Father, [Papa], … [remove] this cup from me” (Mark 14:36). Well little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or “easy” thing for a missionary. This is the Living Son of the Living God saying, “Isn’t there some other way?” So, presidents, if your missionaries wonder why this isn’t easy, they should remember they are not the first ones to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot better asked it a long time ago. He asked if there were not a less excruciating way – and for Him, there wasn’t. So, perhaps, for us in token and symbolism, there won’t be an entirely easy way either.”
– Jeffrey R. Holland

You are standing shoulder to shoulder with The Perfect Missionary when you experience the rejection, the struggle, and the pains of a mission. I know it’s hard to be grateful for those times but you are being blessed with the ability to see a little bit of what Christ went through for you, for us. You are His representative, so shouldn’t you know in the slightest what it feels like to be Him?

A mission is supposed to be hard.

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
– Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own

This is not the end. Another sun will rise and another day will have come and gone. You are stronger than you know and you have help from both sides of the veil. You have been called to this work for a purpose and it can be a challenge to find out what that purpose is, and sometimes it takes more time than we want to find out, but don’t lose sight of that. Remember why you decided to serve, remember how you felt receiving your call, remember that time that investigator finally understood or that family that needed the message you felt inspired to share. Again, you can do this!

But if you really can’t… He understands. And He still loves you. He knows your heart and how you feel and what you’re going through. He accepts what you have done and how hard you tried. You are still precious and valuable to Him.

“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly.”
– Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Remember your mission call said, “it is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18/24 months.” ANTICIPATED. I’m positive that word was specifically chosen for circumstances like yours and mine.

Stay close to this Gospel, for it will see you through the hard times ahead. Keep the faith and return with honor.

Xoxo, Ally

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