Sometimes what is hard about making decisions is not deciding to choose between bad and good. It is more challenging to prioritize given a number of good choices – to choose the best among them. When I reached the age when I could serve as a full-time missionary, I was faced with a huge dilemma.
The journey towards the MTC was not an easy choice. I remember wrestling with myself whether I should go or not. I had wanted to serve a mission since I was a kid. But when the actual time came for me to turn in my application, I was at a crossroads and the other roads in front of me also lead to good destinations. At first, I was ashamed to share this experience. However, now that I hear of other young people who feel the same apprehensions, I hope that my experience will help them make the choice to serve full-time.
At the time I had just recently graduated from college, and classes and examinations were available to me that would give me opportunities to work abroad. It took a while for me to decide to let those opportunities go because at that time it sounded so urgent. But when I weighed things in my mind, I realized that serving on a full-time mission is also a great educational experience.
The mission field was 18 months of training and applying what I learned. It was an opportunity to gain greater people skills. Also, the schedule that we followed created a winner mentality. Most of all, we learned how to put the Gospel into action. All the things that I had read about missionary work and all the principles that I had been taught – all of them took on a deeper meaning when I was serving as a full-time missionary. I would not have appreciated it fully any other way.
I was working at that time, to help me save up for a mission fund. Although I had informed my employer that I would just be working there for a short period of time, it was really tempting to stay. I was making money and I could buy things for myself. I had also just passed the board exam and employment offers from big companies where luring me to take them. The compensations those jobs were offering were lucrative, but I chose to apply for a mission instead.
Serving as a full-time missionary does not give monetary compensation. Its pay is a higher form of remuneration. There was no grand applause or recognition. Nothing dramatic happened. I may even have been forgotten by those I met in the field but people’s lives were changed because of the Gospel that we shared with them. They found hope and new meaning in life. That is what my mission paid me – the opportunity to be part of their journey to be closer to Christ.
As a woman, serving a full-time mission is optional. Expectations for me to serve were not that high. At the time, I also had a boyfriend and we were planning to get married. One thing that came to my mind was that I would be able to better prepare financially for our wedding day if I stayed and earned more money. It would cost us a lot of money to travel to the Temple, in addition to the reception and the cost of starting a new family. Still I pushed that application together with the hope that a mission would somehow better prepare me for marriage.
Having served with a number of companions from different backgrounds, I have learned to love without preconceptions. Their family status, their educational attainment, their individual take on things – all of that did not define who they were and how I should treat them. I learned to see people through the eyes of a loving Father in Heaven. With that, I had a better understanding of why He sent his Son to atone for our sins. The love that He has for us is not because of where we came from or what we’ve done. He loves us because we are His children. Now that I am married, I see my husband the same way, that He is a son of God. I see my daughters as children of God. It makes all the difference in our family life.
Ten years ago, I was a full-time missionary in the Philippines Tacloban Mission. It was a time for me to grow while sharing the Gospel to the people of the provinces of Samar and Leyte.
Education, employment and marriage were not bad choices, they are very good, in fact. Of course we can choose what we feel is best for us at specific points in our lives. My road towards choosing to serve full-time involved constant communication with Heavenly Father. It was direction given to me as an answer to fasting and prayer. Personal revelation differs from one person to another. One thing is certain, as we seek the Lord’s help, He will guide us in making decisions that will put our lives in order.