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Facing Health Challenges on the Mission

Friday, December 26, 2014






"I got this," I remember thinking to myself.

I'd been serving for about 4 months and was training a new missionary for the second time. I knew the ropes, I knew the area, I knew the people, I knew the work, and I thought I knew how the rest of my mission would go: I'd push hard, day in and day out, and in doing so I'd find immense success. I'd hit the ground running, and never look back.  
I wouldn't let anything stop me.


But God has a way of humbling us......especially on the mission.


Since the very beginning of my time serving in Chicago, I'd had episodes of blacking out. At first, I'd lose consciousness for only a few seconds and then moments later, I'd be back in business, on my feet and ready to go, as if nothing happened. However, as the months went on, the episodes became more frequent. They were longer in duration, I'd come around completely exhausted, and more symptoms and side effects began to set in quickly.


I've gone to more doctor's appointments and tests in 15 months than I have in 15 years. One after the other, they've ordered tests, offered opinions, and recommended me to yet more doctors. On top of the stressors of mission life, the added weight of medical challenges and physical difficulties pushed me to my limit.

I remember collapsing in the dressing room of the hospital one time, right before a test, and just sobbing. I kept asking Him, "Why me?? Why me?? I'm just trying to be the best missionary I can be.......why me?? Why do I have to go through this? Why aren't you allowing me to be well, when all I want is to be strong and successful??"


No tests and no doctors had any answers for me and I was frustrated. I was tired of feeling weak. I was tired of feeling stunted in my ability to work my hardest. I was tired of feeling like a failure. And I was tired of asking, "Why?"


It wasn't until I ended up in the ER for the third time, crying and agonizing, that I finally let go and asked, "What?.........What do you want me to learn from this??" Lying there with yet another IV in my arm, wires all over me, and amidst the bustle and clamor of the ER......it all sank in. For months, I'd wrestled with counsel from my mission president, parents, ward members, and the spirit to slow down....and let Him make up the difference.


I didn't want to hear that. I knew I needed Him, but I wanted to prove that I could do it.......by myself. Yes....call me a 2 year old:). I'd always felt that I just needed to push through the pain and weakness, and muster up enough true grit to get through it. 

My independence was getting in the way of my dependency on the Lord.


In the days that followed my visit to the ER, I began reflecting on my trials in a new light. I realized that the worse my condition became, the more I found myself in true heart-felt prayer with my Father in heaven. The more weak and frustrated I was, the more diligently I searched the scriptures for answers and peace. The more challenging my day-to-day life was, the more compassion I was able to feel for others in difficult circumstances. The more tears I cried, the more I felt His love surround me. And the more keenly aware I was of my own limitations, the more evident His power to strengthen and heal me became.


I was humble enough to push through the pain. I could grin and bear it. I was willing to go out and work even when I didn't feel like it. And I was humble enough to ask for His help to do what (I thought) I needed to do. BUT what requires more humility from me, I've discovered, is to say, "I can't do this. I have to take care of myself physically, before I can help others spiritually and emotionally. I can't do x, y, and z because I'm not physically well enough to do so."


It is SO hard!!!! I'd rather hold back tears through an entire lesson, shaking and weak because I passed out thirty minutes prior, than to reschedule the appointment.....and all because of my stupid pride. It's evident to me that the Lord knows me oh, so well, because that type of humility demands a lot more from me. I was in the mindset that if I didn't do it--if I didn't go to that appointment, if I didn't teach that lesson, if I didn't show up to that service project--that it wouldn't get done and the Lord would be disappointed. 

But the Lord, through His perfect wisdom and love, has shown me that this isn't about me. He's brought me low, so that I could realize that this isn't my work. If I can't do it because I'm physically weak, THAT is when the power of His atonement is realized, because HE makes up the difference.


What have I learned?? I can't do this alone. I'm not supposed to do this alone. The Lord is trying my faith, patience, and endurance, but it is leading me to new-found strength as I take His hand and rely on Him fully and completely. 

I've put it in His hands. 

He's humbling me (in a way SO tailored to my independent self) by asking me to acknowledge my weakness, let go, and recognize my need for His help every hour of every day. And the atonement is REAL. It is SO real. It strengthens, it sustains, and it makes up for my weakness whether spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental.


One of my new favorite scripture, I came across recently in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities...for when I am weak, then am I strong."


I don't know that I'm to the point yet where I "take pleasure" in my trials, but I HAVE gained a new appreciation for the trials which I face. I am weak. But I am also strong......because of HIM. His grace IS sufficient. He lifts me up, time and time again.....

.......but most importantly.....He brings me low so that I can more fully appreciate and recognize His strength and His love.



"When I am weak, THEN am I strong."





Sis Anna Parker






 

Should I Serve a Mission??

Friday, November 21, 2014




A little while ago, a family member who was soon to submit mission papers wrote me and asked, "Tell me everything there is to LOVE about a mission. I've heard enough about the hard.....tell me what makes it all worth it."

I responded, and now, a few months later, I figured I'd upload my response for all of you who ask the same question


....And I gotta say, it totally threw me into de-ja-vu to before my mission....


Lemme just say, I wish I'd heard more about the good before I came out. The questions she asked made me reflect on both the the hard and the joy of mission life though. I realized there is much of mission life that I take for granted, which made me realize that there is even more joy to be found in this lifestyle than I sometimes realize.  Sooooo......this post--which is focused on the joys and blessings of missionary life--not as the 24/7-life-is-always-easy norm, but also remember to find joy in the small things, then that makes the work joyous.


Ok....'nuff said



 Here's really what you want to know! 



1st question: What makes me crazy happy? People.

 Love the people and you'll love your mission. 

Whether it's having someone accept the invitation to meet with you, be baptized, or report to you that they prayed for the first time ever....that is when I'm CRAZY HAPPY! Like get-back-into-the-car-and-just-scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs happy!!! Because it's about them!!! It's sometimes hard or unnatural to love, but invest your heart in e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. you meet and talk to.....and love (and happiness;) follows!


2nd question: What is fun about a mission? 

Being weird. 
Being crazy. 
Getting teased. 
Having adventures. 
Little kids loving you as "their missi-mary." 
Seeing new places.
Making life-long friends.
Eating new foods. 
Pranking friends. 
Comp selfies.
District lunches. 
Zone activities. 
Sightseeing. 
Transfer giddiness. 
Laughing at old church films (Legacy.....please). 
Teasing companions. 
Meeting strange people. 
Getting called funny names. 
Mission jokes. 
Taking pictures.
 Running back to the apartment at 8:55 p.m. 
Life bloopers. 
Putting up sticky notes of all our funny moments.
Slipping all over the sidewalk in the snow while tracting.
Singing along to EFY at the top of our lungs in the car.
Surprising ward members with cookies. 
Giving out "surprises" to kids on Sunday.
Christmas caroling in the snow. 
Inside jokes with investigators and members.
Comp selfies.
Getting asked if we're nuns.

A lot of things, really. But a lot of times, you have to make the funGet creative and learn to laugh at yourself;)



3rd question: What is rewarding about missionary life? 


SO MUCH. 

period. 

The Lord rewards His full-time missionaries in SO many ways! I see His tender mercies around me all. the. time.! It's rewarding in ways you also don't expect, though. 

After a long hard day, going to bed tired? 
Rewarding
An opportunity to do a random act of service? 
Rewarding
A prayer from an investigator thanking God for sending YOU to them?
Rewarding
A lesson so fulled with the spirit that you have no idea what you said, but it worked?
 Rewarding
The first time an investigator walks through the doors of the chapel in jeans and a t-shirt? 
Rewarding
Helping a new young missionary find the power of their testimony?
Rewarding

There is SO much reward in store for full-time representatives of the Lord! Like I said in a past post, there is NO way this is not the Lord's work, because NO such satisfaction and joy could come from work so hard! It truly is SO rewarding.



4th question: What is the power of being a missionary like? 
GAH!!! I L.O.V.E. it!!!! There is nothing like it!!  It's like being superhuman, really;)

Like, ya put on the tag and suddenly, there's no bars held--you can talk to anyone and everyone, people respect and admire you instantly, inviting yourself in and over to people's houses isn't weird at all, you open your mouth and no matter how stupid or incoherent you sound, your words somehow make it to their hearts.....and the list goes on! 
There's also unseen power from God which leaves you standing there in awe of HIS power. Check out Jacob 5:72. Nuff saidHe's in this work WITH US!! What more power could you ask for?? The power is unmatched but....you also have to work for it, look for it, love it, and appreciate it! Then IT COMES!!! Those are the days when you can't help but shout, "I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!"


5th question: What makes the mission amazing? Well, I guess the answer to that is just a summary of the last 4 questions;). It's amazing in many ways (probably most of which, I won't even fully appreciate or recognize until it's all past). One thing, I gotta say that is amazing about being a missionary is the incredible support system that you have access to. 

I'm constantly surrounded by people--the mission president, his wife, district leaders, zone leaders, the bishop, ward members, senior couple missionaries, fellow missionaries, etc.--who are my biggest fans and most constant supporters just because I wear the badge!! It's truly amazing being surrounded by incredibly young peple all the time, who are going through the exact same things you are. It's kinda like EFY on steroids;) hahaha!


Every now and then, I have those mind-blowing moments where I all of the sudden realize, "This is sick!" and I also have to realize how hard it will eventually be to have to resign from the ranks and go back to "normal life" (yea, whatever that is;).


6th Question: Why is a mission both amazing and hard? Yea, you hear about the hard, because it IS hard. It's an experience that teaches you so much! You will NEVER regret serving! 
The longer I'm out here, the more I realize, "Dang, idk how I would have every gotten married, had kids, raised a family, accepted church callings, etc. if I'd never served a mission!" You will learn SO much about yourself, other people, the world, the church, gospel doctrine, and most importantly, about the love of Christ and His atonement as you serve--more than you could learn anywhere else in so short a time! 

(If you want more on this, view my past post: The Honest Truth About Missions


You will develop incredible relationshipsmeet amazing peoplemake best friends out of companions, and see and do things you'd never dreamed of! haha! It's an a.d.v.e.n.t.u.r.e.! Take on the challenge! (And don't worry...you'll get used to people staring awkwardly at your chest until you remember that's where your tag is at;)  


Sometimes you'll feel like your badge is really a 10 foot pole with a sign tacked to the end "keep your distance and avoid eye contact at all costs otherwise, I'll be really friendly and try to convert you" 

hey it happens

 and again, at other times, your tag is what prompts SHOWERS of praise, questions, compliments, and requests for help and a listening ear......its b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l.! There are so. many. blessings. that come with the tag--protection, comfort, strength, discernment, power, etc.!




Ok so to wrap up......I was thinking about those emotions some of us feel.....specifically, not wanting to go. My word of advice:

make a list of the "why's"

......why you're going. Rack your brains if you have to:) As you go along, and throughout your mission, review it and add to it. It often brings things back into perspective for me when the going gets tough.


And just remember, a mission isn't meant to be easy all the time. But all the time, it's worth it! Go out and have a blast! Turn your heart and will over to the Lord and watch and see what amazing miracles He will work through and for you!  The work is hastening this last time! Don't let this incredible opportunity pass you by!  Join the ranks!

"We are as the armies of Helaman...in these latter days!"


You'll find (and re-find) the fire of missionary work! It WILL come, just wait and see! It doesn't come all at once and sometimes not as fast as you'd like, but it does come! Hold out and hold fast! Sacrifice truly does bring forth the blessings of heaven!


Keep walking--you're moving in the right direction and the Lord knows and understands how frightening and even painful that step into the darkness can be. Just think, even before the most important step in the history of mankind--the Atonement--Jesus Christ himself pled, "If it be thy will, let this cup pass from me."

 He knows what that's like! He knows exactly what you're feeling! 


"Never-the-less (think about what the word actually means!) glory be to the Father, and I partook!" (DC 19:9)  Your mission is a "never-the-less"! 



The blessings and miracles brought about both to you and to others will FAR out-weigh any sacrifice you make! 




Onward and upward!





Sister Anna Parker 








The Honest Truth About Missions

Friday, October 24, 2014







"So are you getting paid to do this?"

"Nope"

"Are you getting some kind of school credit?"

"No"

"What about church promotion?"

"Nope"

"Well how about community recognition?"


"Definitely not"


"Then why would you EVER choose to do what you're doing??"


He had a point. I'd been talking to one of our investigators about missions and how we work as missionaries, and his final question wasn't foreign in my mind. I'd asked myself that question many times. 


You asked for honest. Here's honest.

I believe many--my pre-mission self included--have a warped opinion of what it's like to be a missionary. Before I put on the tag, I had only a vague idea of what it was really like to actually be in those shoes.

I thought they were perfect.
I thought they were always happy.
I thought they loved every minute of their service.
I thought they were invincible.
I thought they didn't have a care in the world.
I thought it was probably hard work, but easy to love.
I thought they were almost always successful.
I thought that it was easy for them to sacrifice.

It seems like a lifetime away since I lived life not as a missionary. In the time that's followed--now 14 months into my mission--I've come to see missionaries and missions in a completely different light.

"Sister Parker, missions are 98% hard work, struggle, disappointment, difficulty, sorrow, and even pain. 2%.......2% is pure joy," my mission president told me during one of our first interviews together.

He was right. SO right.

Here's the honest truth: missionaries hide a lot. Sometimes it's behind a smile as someone slams the door in our face after cussing us out. Other times it's behind closed doors when we fall to our knees, sobbing and begging for the help of The Lord to carry us through. And at other times, it's only disclosed in a simple journal entry reading, "Why aren't we seeing more success?" or "Why is this so hard??" Investigators don't see the tears we cry the night they've told us they're no longer interested in meeting with us. The strangers on the street don't see our hearts sink when they refuse to listen and instead call us names. The family members back home don't see the long sleepless nights when we can't think of anything but the faces of those we miss. The members don't see our pain when ten minutes before church, an investigator calls to say he won't be able make it. And even our companions don't always see our exhaustion after a long and difficult day.




Let's get raw:

I'm not perfect.
I'm not always happy.
I don't always love every minute of it.
I'm not invincible.
I struggle.
It's hard back-breaking work, and not always easy to love.
I'm not always successful.


And it is HARD to sacrifice.

I've missed the weddings of two siblings.
I’ve missed the farewell of a brother leaving to serve in Russia and
I’ll soon miss the farewell of another brother leaving to serve in Portland, Oregon.
I've had more medical problems on the mission than I have my entire life.
I've been called every name in the book, and been harassed for what I believe.

I've struggled with difficult companions, areas, and people.
I've spent long and lonely nights, aching for help and comfort.
I miss home and family every. single. day.
I’ve cried more tears in the last 14 months than I have in the last 14 years.
I question my ability to succeed often.
I feel completely inadequate to meet the needs of those around me.
I often feel weak, lonely, exhausted, frustrated, disappointed, and homesick.


And yet…….my mission president continued, “Sister Parker, missions are 98% hard work, struggle, disappointment, difficulty, sorrow, and even pain. 2%.......2% is pure joy…….  

And somehow that 2% makes it ALL WORTH IT.


I don’t even know how it’s possible. Serving as a missionary is THE hardest thing I have ever done. By far. It’s more demanding, challenging, and draining than anything I’ve ever experienced.

And somehow…..somehow……it is all worth it.

Yes…I struggle.
Yes…I fall.
Yes...I long for home and family.
Yes…I miss the comforts I gave up.
Yes…I often wish people understood how much we sacrifice just to bring them the gospel and make their lives better.
Yes…I’m FAR from perfect.
Yes…I’m weak and inadequate.


And YES…..my mission has transformed me and others into people we wouldn’t have been without it. Therefore, YES…..it is worth it.

That pure joy—PURE JOY—that President told me about……I had no idea what that was like until I became a missionary and have seen the gospel change lives, including mine. Most of the time, the joy we experience as missionaries isn’t even our own. It’s the joy we feel seeing others experience the joy of the gospel……Yes, it doesn’t come often. It takes HARD work to get. But it is PURE. It’s a joy I’ve never felt before in my entire life. And I believe it is a type of joy that few will ever feel. And it comes only to those who are willing to sacrifice everything for the Lord in order to receive it.

So yes….. I’ve often thought and often been asked: "Why would I EVER choose to do what I do??"

It IS hard. It doesn’t even make since to the outside world why young missionaries like me would go out for 18-24 months, paying thousands of dollars to go, abide by such strict rules, live such a rigorous schedule, have such limited communication with family and friends, and all just to share a message about Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.

I do it because IT’S TRUE. I would not be here….doing this, sacrificing like this….if I didn’t know with all my heart that it is true. It has changed my life, and I continue to see it change others’ lives.

 That is undeniable.


I can’t even begin to describe to someone why, specifically, being a missionary is so incredibly difficult. 
It’s much harder than I’ll ever be able to express. But while, I don’t believe my mission will ever be easy…..nor that sacrifice or conversion will ever be easy…….I KNOW that with the help of God, it’s worth it.




 

Now go hug a missionary ……... they need it:)








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