Can you believe it? I sure can't.
I woke up on the 20th and realized I was 1/3 through the 18 months I'll serve as a missionary. Kinda panicked a little bit. This is it?? After 6 months, this is where I'm at? I quickly decided I needed to do something to change my attitude about this milestone. So I read my journal. Starting with the day I entered the MTC, I read 6 months worth of experiences and spiritual thoughts. Wow! It was so incredible to reflect on the person I was when I left and see how different I am now. I've sure learned a lot. And I've overcome a lot.
I've kind of come up with a list... "10 of the greatest lessons I've learned in the last 6 months as a missionary."
1.) Charity is a gift. It is the greatest of all spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 13.... I truly am nothing without charity.
2.) Working with members is the greatest work I've done as a missionary. When you involve the members, miracles happen.
3.) "Venir" is a Spanish word meaning "to come". It is grammatically incorrect to use this verb as a command unless you are already at the place you are telling some one to come to. I find this to be kind of profound. I have definitely learned that you cannot convert someone beyond your own conversion. In other words, you can not invite someone else to "come unto Christ" unless you have already come unto Christ yourself.
4.) Obedience brings blessings, EXACT obedience brings miracles. Alma 57: 19-27 explains the story of the Stripling Warriors. I LOVE verse 19. It explains it all. When you are obedient to the commandments of God you are protected and you can walk confidently before the Lord.
5.) As a missionary we tend to ask ourselves questions... Like, "Am I inspired?" "Did I do that right?" "Are they ready?" or "Do they like me?"
If I could go back to the beginning of my mission I would live by the following phrase... DON'T ASK DUMB QUESTIONS. I would go back and tell myself the following:
These questions simply aren't valid. And they lead to self-doubt and in essence, discourage you from sharing the gospel. Of course you're inspired! You have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost and He is your constant companion. If you truly believe that you are an instrument in the hands of God and the Holy Ghost will help you know what to say. You WILL BE inspired and guided as you try to share the gospel. That is a promise.
There is no right way to share the gospel... If you have only the needs of the individual you're sharing the gospel with in mind, you'll never go wrong.
Are they ready? Well, ALL people are ready to hear what you have to say... Are they ready to accept the gospel? Maybe not. But they ARE ready to have some sort of interaction with you regardless.
"Do they like me?" is not a valid question because it frankly doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if they like you, it only matters if you love them. If you're thinking about whether they like you or not then you're thinking about you. Forget yourself and go to work. :) So back to my first point, Sister Franklin, avoid the "dumb" questions and ask yourself "What can I do to help?" "What have I done to strengthen their faith?" or "Who could use a prayer, a visit or even a plate of cookies" today. You'll waste a lot less time and feel a whole lot better if you ask yourself questions like that.
Good to remind my greenie-self of some good lessons I've learned. Haha.
6.) Missions are an opportunity to change our lives and work toward becoming the best versions of ourselves we can be. Ether 12:27. If we submit our will to the Lord He will change us into someone far better than we could ever become on our own. Weak things will be made strong unto us.
When I finally just let go and realized this wasn't about me I saw myself becoming a little more patient, a little more capable, a lot more kindhearted and a whole lot more humble. It's been great to realize that I'm really not all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips. Haha. The Lord is the awesome one.
7.) Thanks to Elder Bednar's The Character of Christ and MANY experiences I've had on my mission I know that through the strength of the Lord natural men and women, like myself can become saints. It's only through the Atonement of Christ that we can be exalted. It doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, what language you speak, how much money you have, or what stage of life you are in... the atonement will heal you.
8.) Similar to number 6, from my mission president I have learned that the sooner you let go of your pride the sooner you enjoy your mission. As soon as I decided that LEARNING was more important to me than my fear of messing up... I learned ALL kinds of great things! (Imagine that... what a concept! Haha) "The greatest thing about making a mistake is that you can try again and do it right next time" --Pres. Calderwood
9.) NO EFFORT IS WASTED. Yes, "Success" is great I suppose... but what is SUCCESS, really? The most important thing is not necessarily that you were "successful"... the important thing is that you TRIED. Elder Hogge said something to me in my first transfer that has stuck with me the rest of my mission. And that is, "If you're not failing, you're not trying." Sometimes you just have to have failures. But hey, that means you put in some effort. And effort is where success comes in.
10.) Every soul is great in the sight of God. New York has taught me that it's pretty dang easy to write someone off as "a jerk who is just angry at the world". But in reality, their salvation is no less valuable than mine. Everyone deserves to be treated with the respect, kindness and love, because we are all children of a Heavenly Father who loves us equally. He sent us to the world to take care of one another... not judge each other. And you know what, some people don't realize that. So those of us who do understand this, should take that as an opportunity to practice what we preach.
I continue to learn things everyday. Yesterday for example:
I was talking with a sweet couple in our ward. They joined the church in El Salvador and have since had 2 children marry in the temple and have a son on a mission! I found out their second oldest daughter served a mission as well. I didn't actually know they had two daughters... She came back from her mission in 2010 and was diagnosed with cancer only months after returning. She died about a year later. Sister Vasquez explained to me that she couldn't be angry with God...how could she be angry with someone who had given her so much? She said, "She is His daughter too. And He needed a really great missionary to come to the other side of the veil. He chose the best there was."
I really needed that experience yesterday.
And so.... 11.) God truly has a plan. Though it may not make a lot of sense to us right now, we'll understand one day. When tragedies happen and when hard times come we can take comfort in the gospel. And in the fact that we have a loving Heavenly Father who has given us so much to be grateful for.
6 months down. 12 to go.
Love you all so much!
Hermana Tara Franklin