The Blessings of Being Called to Serve
Guest Post by Sister Meg Redner, blogger at >A Peculiar Girl<. She has recently been called to serve in the California San Fernando Mission.
A few nights ago, Dain asked me if I'd like to guest post here at OYSMF, and suggested I talk about my worries before I received my call. I thought about it, and realized that I had a few things I thought might be helpful to others in the same boat. This is a bit of a long story, but hopefully it will help someone.
A little about me – I was raised in the Methodist church until I was baptized in Connecticut when I was ten years old. My dad was a lay minister in the Methodist church while we lived in southern Pennsylvania (he didn't do it as his job, but he worked with the congregation the same ways that the pastor did and was a leader of the men in the church), and all of my extended family on his side identified with different denominations: my grandmother is Baptist, my papa is Methodist, my uncle and his family are Pentecostals (my uncle is also a minister), and my dad's twin brother doesn't talk about what he believes at all, short of expressing thanks to God for getting him out of Iraq alive during Desert Storm.
My mom's family isn't super religious either – they don't talk about it much at all. My stepmom's family is much the same.
My mom, little sister, and I are the only members in my family except for a long-lost cousin somewhere in Eastern Canada that might have served a mission somewhere in Peru (we're still trying to figure that one out ourselves).
I wanted to receive my mission call at school, so that I could open it among friends who had helped me to prepare and had been so supportive throughout the process. I was determined to get everything in order so that I could open it in the last few weeks of school before I headed home. I worried about how my divorced parents would take it if I opened it at one house or another (my dad lives in Connecticut and my mom in Virginia), and felt that it would be much less stressful for me if I could open it in a neutral spot.
The Lord had other plans for me, and ultimately I was to receive my call after returning home to Connecticut from school. I was frustrated, a little angry, and extremely anxious about it. I wanted everyone to be happy for me, and to understand how important it was to me.
I won't say that some family members were completely and utterly antagonistic, but I will say that there was some serious tension concerning my beliefs and the Church and that they were less than supportive of my decision. Living in a part member family can be lonely and heartbreaking. You can see why I wanted to receive it at SVU.
To give you a further idea of my anxiety, I talked with my bishop in Virginia about my concerns, and of how I was considering cutting ties, so to speak, with certain family members in order that I could focus on what I needed to, and not be pulled down by them as I tried to remain positive in the field. Imagine my surprise when this soft-spoken man looked me in the eye, used my full name, and told me firmly that I was not to cut ties with certain members of my family and deny them the blessings of my mission. I walked out of his office feeling confused and a little frustrated that he didn't agree with me on the matter. I had thought that he would agree, given we have very similar backgrounds in terms of being converts and having part-member families (our stories are almost eerily similar).
Why am I telling you this?
Because I want you to know that even receiving a call to serve as a missionary blesses families.
We hear all the time about the blessings that rain down upon the families of faithful missionaries who have left home to serve. President Eyring talked about those blessings in the most recent General Conference, and we hear parents and siblings testify of the blessings that they have received while their sons, daughters, sisters, and brothers are away from home serving people that they personally do not know.
I was banking on receiving those blessings, because heaven knows my family needs a little help (literally, heaven).
I didn't expect for them to come even before I received my call. So many hearts have been softened, conversations have been had, and I have been able to draw closer to my family than I thought I could.
Of course, receiving my call was a big deal to me, but I wasn't sure it would be a big deal to anyone in my family except my younger sister and mom. Never in a thousand years did I expect to have my dad be as anxious as I to see where I was to be called, to have my stepsisters (who have never been exposed to any sort of religion – when I first met them they didn't even know who Moses was) ask me genuine questions, and to have my grandparents tell me that they were proud of me for my decision. My stepmom even started planning a party so that people could be there when I opened it (she kept calling it the "opening ceremony" like she was hosting the Olympics).
Family members who I expected to not care ask me questions, and tell me that they are proud of me. Their hearts are softening beyond what I could have expected. Friends have already asked what they can do to help me prepare for California, and insist on doing so.
Missions bless families.
Hearts that once were cold are being softened. Questions are being asked. Conversations that are deep and meaningful are being had and better yet, appreciated.
Since I joined the Church, I have wanted nothing more than my family to join me. I have spent hours on my knees and in the temple talking with my Heavenly Father, pleading with Him to soften their hearts, to give me the words to say, to bless them to know that He loves them.
I felt like it was going nowhere. Then I received my call. I saw the look in my grandparent's eyes, I saw the excitement in the faces of my step-family, and saw my dad sneak off with my call packet (he now knows more than I do about San Fernando, I think) and read it. It felt to me like rain in a field stricken with doubt, the most wonderful and precious feeling to see them visibly soften, to see them have come so far from where they once were.
Little miracles have happened in our lives that some would brush aside as insignificant, but have meant so much to me as I watch them happen. It is hard to believe, but I know it is because of my call to serve. Because I am devoting 18 months of my life to help other people better their own lives, the lives of my family members have been blessed.
These blessings, they are practically chasing my family down!
So sisters, I know you will miss your family as much as I will miss mine while we serve. But I also know that simply because you have been called – you don’t have to be in the field yet – your family can and will be blessed. If they are being blessed now, imagine the blessings that will come once you arrive in your mission and start knocking on those doors. As you work to strengthen families, so will your family be strengthened. God didn't promise that the task would be easy, but only that it would be well worth it. Never doubt the power of the blessings He rains down on us – they are little miracles that are so very precious and have a greater impact than we can realize right now.
Keep on, sisters, and fear not. The blessings are coming!