I had an interesting conversation the other day about having a fulfilling Senior Mission. It seems as though some senior missionaries struggle to find meaning and fulfillment in the work they are assigned during their mission!
It is understandable, in some sense: for example, those called on a mission to work in the mission office, or in other similar capacities, are simply doing the exact same thing they have been doing all their lives– only in the mission field.
An accountant does accounting–in the mission field; a doctor practices medicine–in the mission field; a farmer, a mechanic, or in my case, a contractor, simply does ‘their job’–in the mission field. As a result, it often does not seem like you are on a ‘mission’. One could easily become disheartened, and perhaps not see the good they are doing, simply because they are doing the same thing they have always done. For example, I find it quite difficult to become ‘inspired’ and be ‘filled with the spirit’ when I am fixing a clogged toilet or working on a septic system….
But fulfillment on a mission, like much of life in general, is all in the attitude one approaches the task with!
I have been a missionary for more than 20 years, but until now, have never understood the awesome responsibility and workload that comes with being a Mission President, and running the day-to-day operations of running a mission. I just had no clue. Let me give you just a few items to consider:
1. 200 missionaries (average) that must be trained, motivated, managed, etc.
2. 40-50 apartments (or more) must be found for missionaries to live in. They must be inspected, contracts negotiated and signed, furniture and cooking utensils, etc. purchased, monthly payments made, etc. etc.
3. Cars must be purchased, moved to the area in which they will serve (in the Congo this means putting the vehicle aboard an airplane to get there, since there are no roads!), gas purchased, maintenance scheduled, etc., etc.
4. Every month or so new missionaries arrive, and those who are finished depart. Training must be provided the new missionaries, as well as putting together a ‘package’ of stuff they will need to take with them to their area (training materials, mosquito netting, blanket, emergency light, etc.). The elders and sisters leaving must be honored with certificates and given travel money, etc. Food, lots of food, must be arranged for and prepared as they come and go.
5. Travel arrangements must be made– all the time. Those coming and going from the mission, those being transferred (about every 6 weeks or so at least some missionaries get transferred), and those with medical or other issues that are brought to the mission home– all this travel must be arranged for, paid for, and coordinated.
6. Bills and more bills (for those of you NOT serving missions, please put some extra money into the mission fund!). All of the travel, the apartments, the vehicles, etc., must be paid for and the money accounted for (a mission would die a very quick death without a good bookkeeper/accountant!). Here in the Congo things are even worse. Few people use banks– almost everything is done in cash… I will just let you stew on that one for a while…
Elder Wright, here in the mission home, has been working hard at trying to move the Congo into the new age– with electronic payments, etc. It has been difficult, but he is making great progress. They have what is called ‘m-pesa’ here, that is changing the face of Africa. It is a way to send money by phone. Everyone here in the Congo has a phone. M-pesa is a way to set-up an account with the phone company, and be able to send money over the phone, like one would send a money order, or other electronic transfer. One person puts in a code, and sends money, the other receives the code, goes to the local office, and receives money. Just like they can send and receive time on their phones! It is great, and will dramatically change, and improve, the finances here in the Congo.
All of these things go on ‘behind the scenes’ of a mission, just to facilitate the actual work of the Mission President and the missionaries. If any one of the people serving in the mission home stopped their work, the mission would come to a halt. Not paying your bills? Missionaries have no homes to live in, no cars to drive, nothing to eat. Not arranging transportation? Nothing moves, no one goes home, no new missionaries come, the Mission President does not travel to see and teach those he is responsible for. You get the picture!
So, back to my original topic: How does one get fulfillment on a senior mission? Very simple: by remembering that you are here to serve the Mission President and the missionaries. ONLY when you do your job, can they do theirs. And only when they can do their jobs without distraction, will the work go forward.
When I am kneeling on the floor of some apartment mopping up water, or un-clogging a toilet, or making sure the missionaries have water and power, etc., I just remind myself that by doing this, they are out working, teaching, and baptizing. Every person they bring to the waters of baptism brings credit to the work that I, and all the other senior missionaries have done behind the scenes. It is a group effort, and like the penny given to each worker in the parable by the Savior, we will all receive the same reward in the end!
For those who are thinking about coming on a mission, I have one simple philosophy for success: make up your mind right now that you are coming here to serve, and that you are willing to do ANYTHING that you are called upon to do!
If you come with that attitude, you will succeed. If you think that there is something beneath you, or work you refuse to do, or places you refuse to live… then don’t waste you time coming! Because unless you happen to ‘hit the lottery’ and receive the exact work and calling you desired, you will be disappointed and disheartened by the day-to-day, mundane work that must be done behind the scenes in every mission around the world.
For me, it is the same as callings in a local ward– we never know what we will be called to next, and should be willing to serve wherever we are called! One year I was the High Priest Group Leader, a few years later I was called to be in charge of cleaning the Chapel every week (my children called me ‘janitor bob’). Should I have turned down the second call because it was beneath me? Of course not–the work had to be done by someone, why not me? Believe me, if the only way I can make it to heaven is as a janitor in the Savior’s mansion, I will take the job! I will take my penny wage any way I can get it!
A NOTE FROM TERRI’S MOM
In reply to your posting abt what one does while serving a mission and how important it is. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. When we were back to Mongolia several weeks ago we were able to see what our seemingly small efforts did when we served 16 yrs. ago.
We had both taught English and my extra assignment was music. I led a small choir, introducing the people to harmony. They were singers but always in unison. I placed the young missionaries in between them so they could hear the harmony and pick it up. I also taught keyboard and directing. None of them became keyboard players but we developed a close relationship. One of my students now leads a large choir, and others still sing in the choir.
But mostly, it was the friendships we developed that kept them active and the opportunity to develop their own testimonies. Several of the former students came running up to us to give us a hug and their little ones came running behind. They are now married and have families who are benefitting from the blessings of the gospel.
An amazing experience came the last night we were there when a member of parliament came to a social function we were attending to seek us out. He had heard we were in country and wanted to greet us again. When we were there in 97-98 he was the Minister of Justice and we taught English to the employees of the ministry which made it possible for the new missionaries to get visas to enter the country and teach English. He had also had us to his home for dinner several times. To think that being teachers and doing what our college educations prepared us for made such an impact on this very important man and (at the time) keeping missionaries in the country came home to us when he not only made a special trip to where we were (making him late for his meeting) but also giving us hugs!
An email that came from one of my music students after we arrived home reads “you’re taught me many of things and I’m gladly for you forever. Thank you for coming to mission in Mongolia.”
Besides being a mother to five wonderful, talented children and married to an outstanding man, I consider the mission experience the cherry on the top.