The Honest Truth About Missions

Friday, October 24, 2014

"So are you getting paid to do this?"


"Are you getting some kind of school credit?"


"What about church promotion?"


"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… mission has transformed me and others into people we wouldn’t have been without it. Therefore, YES… 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:)

He is Aware

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The girls' break-out session at freshman orientation went something like this.....

 "Hey girls! So we're going to go around the room and introduce ourselves. Tell us your name, where you're from, some of your hobbies, and a little more about you."

"Ok....I'm Taylor. I'm from Ogden UT, I like drawing and watching chick flicks, and my major is elementary ed."
 "Hi, I'm Maddie. I'm from Draper, UT. My hobbies include sewing, playing the flute, and I also love cats."
"Hi, my name is Kate. I'm from Rexburg, ID. I like reading and cooking, and I'm hoping to get into the nursing program."

And then there's me......

 "Hey, I'm Anna. I probably the only person you'll ever meet from New Hampshire (most people don't even know where it is), I'm not an academic by any means, I have no idea what I want to do with my major, I like playing sports with my 6 brothers, off-roading, camping, fishing, shooting....and just getting plain dirty. "

Yea, our counselor just blinked a few times and then said, "oh.....that's nice...."


I've always had a special love for nature, the outdoors, and the beauty of the world in which we live (and being a tomboy…but that’s beside the point:). Some of my best memories growing up included climbing trees, building stick forts, and catching frogs with my brothers. I was also the only one that complained when I found out our living quarters for Girls Camp would be cabins and not tents.


The other night, when we were coming back from a long hard day, I looked up at the star-filled sky and my mind went flashing back to the nights when my brother, Joseph, and I would lay on our backs in the middle of summer and just watch the beauty of the night sky, and he'd point out to me the constellations while we admired God's creations. Or the time when, as a group of friends, we drove down to Goblin Valley in Utah, and spent the night in awe of how close the heavens felt with millions of stars and Milky Way patterns painted across the sky.

Some people have told me (especially on my mission) that trying to comprehend the universe has only reinforced their conviction that there is no god, and even if there was, He wouldn't be mindful of us mere mortals in the grand expanse of the universe. "We are too insignificant," a friend once told me,"to be counted and known by the Creator of all of this."

I beg to differ.

In a world of such incomprehensible beauty and wonder.......I stand all amazed at the reality of His goodness. He's given these things--these pleasures--to us, not because He has to, but because He wants us to take part in the beauty of His creations with Him. He wants us to find happiness in life, and 

He reinforces that purpose by surrounding us with those that can bring us joy.

I'm reminded of His awareness of me every time I see the twinkle of stars, the rolling of ocean waves, the brightness of colored leaves, and the warmth of a brilliant sunset.

He is aware.

He knows me and He knows you.

Look for Him, and you will find Him.

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