One of our daughters who served a full-time mission several years ago was recently asked to put on a fireside for the youth in their stake about how to prepare to serve missions. It's good information to share with those who are preparing so they may understand the value of lessons learned from the experiences of others.
Please feel free to "draft" off these ideas and add more of your own at the bottom in the Comments section. Enjoy!
Some Lessons Learned as a Missionary
Melanie Goates Sharp
One of the benefits of having 12 siblings is that you have a big pool of people to ask for ideas when you get a talk assignment. In preparation for a fireside with the youth about serving missions, I asked my family members and a few friends to share three things they’d learned as missionaries. In no particular order, here’s what they had to say:
I learned that I will never be strong enough on my own. I am totally dependant upon Christ to help me to be who God needs me to be. He is my Savior and through Him all things are possible.
I learned that things are not always as they seem. Things have a long history before and after you, and you are just part of the process. The Lord is in charge, and you are just required to do your best and follow the Spirit. If you do that, then you have succeeded.
I learned that everything worthwhile requires love, work, and sacrifice.
We are not alone in anything that we do.
I learned that the work of the Lord is its own reward and has a purifying, elevating effect on my life. This helps me to seek and delight in opportunities to serve (even when it isn't convenient or easy), and not be tempted to measure the "results" or "success" of my efforts in a worldly manner.
I learned that the Lord is anxious to speak to His children. This reminds me that His guidance isn't far away, and helps me to have faith and patience to cultivate an ear to hear Him. He will guide me in small, but significant (to me) aspects of my life.
I learned that miracles are abundant and are the fruit of obedience, faith in Jesus Christ, and Christ-like love. Knowing this makes me want to be better at loving the people around me, qualify for heaven's help through my obedience, and gives me hope knowing that God is willing to get to work in my life.
I learned that waking up, making your bed, praying, exercising and reading scriptures is by far the best way to start your day.
I mastered ironing a white shirt, and learned the importance of first impressions and looking good.
I gained such an appreciation for the value of goal-setting. A hope without action is in vain, faith without works is dead.
I learned that the true motives behind why we serve/obey is our love of God vs. fear of man.
I learned that agency is such a remarkable gift, to "choose liberty and eternal life or captivity and death." (2 Nephi 2:27).
I learned that the capacity to love is multiplied times infinity:) when we are serving.
I gained a love of the scriptures which was inspired by the visit by President Harold B. Lee to my mission -- his ease and familiarity with the word of the Lord in a hotel room, answering every question he was asked with a reference, inspired me in the early stages of my lifelong love affair with the scriptures.
I learned the will to work, to knock on doors in the middle of a cold penetrating night with a new missionary for no other reason than it was a life lesson I was trying to teach him at great discomfort to both of us. Hard work is a spiritual necessity, whether it's the work of the Lord or your life's work in a profession. Hard work overcomes a lot of obvious weaknesses. I learned how to work before my mission, but I learned to work hard in the mission field.
I learned the best spiritual experiences are yet to come. A lesson learned in the mission field should never be in a category labeled "my most spiritual experience," because the best ones will always be the ones that haven't happened yet, not the ones you had in the mission field.
I learned that service to the Lord and to others makes me feel happy and fulfilled.
I learned that I have a strong and independent testimony that nobody can take away from me.
I learned that I have a strong and independent testimony that nobody can take away from me.
I learned that God knows and loves me.
I learned that I can work with any personality. I had a lot of companions who were very, very different than me (e.g. my 80 year-old comp) and were very difficult to get along with. When I prayed for help and when I chose to have a good attitude and look for the good in that other person and see them as God sees them, I developed some wonderful relationships that I otherwise would not have ever had to the opportunity to have or wouldn't have ever pursued. This also taught me that the most powerful relationships that you can have develop from serving together.
I learned how quickly the Lord responds to give me a needed blessing if I but ask.
I learned how important "the one" is in the eyes of the Lord.
I learned that when I think I'm too tired to go on, I can.
I learned that dedicating my life to service in Christ's kingdom brings happiness and purpose. That focus carries me through when it would otherwise be easy to lose sight of my goals.
A mission gives opportunities to spend large amounts of time with many different personalities. This not only helps me to understand my spouse, but helps when she comes seeking advice about someone she is having a conflict with.
I learned a lot about myself and how I prefer to be approached when issues need to be resolved.
I had important, open, honest relationships with companions that stemmed from our ability to help each other to do our best…. Sounds like marriage to me.
On a daily basis, missionaries can observe many different families. I was able to see great examples, and “less than ideal” examples of how to raise children, treat your spouse, magnify a calling, balance home/work/church.
I learned to put off temptations for girls and dating. This discipline helps me to be a better husband.
Missionaries who understand and value the symbol of their name tag will understand and value the symbol of a wedding ring. As I put on my name tag everyday, I thought about whom I was representing (the Lord, the Church, my family) and it changed the way I approached my day. Now as I put on my wedding ring, I realize it represents my commitment to my wife, and I strive to act in a way that would make her happy.
A mission is an important way to learn to prioritize and plan time.
I learned to stick to a budget and spend money wisely.
Companionship study taught me how to effectively testify about and discuss scriptures. That impacts my comfort with and ability to study effectively with my family.
I learned that nothing makes me happier than service in the kingdom of God. I want to be anxiously engaged in God’s work my whole life.
In order to feel true joy, we have to experience deep disappointment. Both strengthen our character and help us to become more like our Savior.
I learned that love and sacrifice go hand in hand.
From working with various companions, I learned more about what it means to love and serve a spouse and to put someone else’s comfort and well-being before my own.
I learned that Satan’s deceptions are subtle and powerful, but they only have as much power as we give them.
I learned that agency is more important to God than obedience. That changes the way I interact with and teach my children.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is hard and it is supposed to be. When we struggle, we are reminded of our dependence upon God and our need to trust in His perfection.
I learned to see people as God sees them. I loved deeply and saw people as they could become.
I learned that as you practice loving and serving people you get better at it.
I learned that God knows and loves His children personally. We are not a nameless mass of humanity to Him and our individual struggles and triumphs matter.
We must live for the approval of God, not others.
I learned that living by the spirit is more about consistency than intensity.
Pride attacks in all the nooks and crannies of our character. It festers and expresses itself in the details. It destroys our sympathies and sensitivities to others and to the spirit.
We all need the opportunity to serve in meaningful ways.
I learned that no matter how rough, exhausting, tiring, or frustrating it was, it was the most rewarding thing I ever did.
I learned that anything worthwhile in life takes an amazing amount of effort to achieve.
You don't have to know it all, you just need a testimony.
Missions are awesome because it really is the one time in my life that all my time could be dedicated to others.
I loved being able to truly see people the way that Christ sees each of us; that alone gives me hope for myself and family as we fail in our quest for perfection and as we progress.
The closeness to the Spirit is a treasure.
As you extend a hand in help, what you bring back is a hand filled with immeasurable blessings, experiences, and treasured relationships. No matter how much you give, what you gain will always be greater.