The day before conference I had the amazing opportunity to go up to Bountiful for my second annual mission reunion. I’m always excited to see companions (all two of them), missionaries I served around, my mission president, and his wife. However, both years I’ve also had fear. Not fear of how I’d be seen, since hardly anyone there knew me. In fact… that’s the fear I had, not being known. Being lonely. A fear that carries over into other parts of my life as well.
Fortunately, that fear was not realized at the reunion.
First, before I tell you about that fear, let me tell you about our celebrity guest: Elder M. Russell Ballard. Yup. We had an apostle at our reunion. Why? Well one reason is that he loves Toronto missionaries. And the other reason is that his daughter was our mission mom (mission president’s wife). Just a few of my notes from what Elder Ballard said to us, which would apply to any of us, no matter where or if you served: (1) We have to stand up for what’s right, even if it’s not culturally acceptable. (2) Who are you? And do you really know that? (3) John 15:13… He has called you His friend—D&C 93:45. (4) The Lord has chosen you and who are YOU to doubt Him? (5) If He were here tonight, He would call you His friend. (6) The apostles pray for you each week. (7) Nothing is as important as your testimony of the Savior.
Now for some notes from what my mission mom said… I don’t remember if she actually said this or if I just had this impression, but this is what I wrote down: “Your work was not wasted. You were not a waste in the Toronto Mission.” She was speaking of when she’d been able to speak to a group of Toronto missionaries at her father’s mission reunion and was able to tell them of how the church as grown since they were there, decades ago. However, I was also reminded of the few lives that I was able to touch while I was there.
Now words from my hero… President Brower: Continue to study Preach My Gospel. Be a Latter-day Saint; don’t just do Latter-day Saint things. Continually repent; so what if you slip up? Get up, remember where you’re going, and move on. EVERY righteous thing you do is an opportunity to be sanctified. Stay converted and PROVE it!
Instead of feeling fear and loneliness, I was fed spiritually by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and my mission president and his wife. Besides, that it was just amazing to be there with a house full of missionaries that love Ontario just like I do. I was able to see Elder Call, my beloved trainer and the first person I could confide ANYTHING in—and he was my brother. And that was only the beginning. I was able to see so many signs of my Father’s love, just like my stars, giving me hope and peace.
A tender moment came to me when I was able to talk to Elder Olmstead, the missionary who took my place after I left Heart Lake, about the investigators that I had left with him. It was the first time I’d spoken to Elder Olmstead, other than a brief phone call just before I got to the airport on September 15, 2010. I thanked him for getting Tek and Fuman ready for baptism. I thanked him for helping Dale get the rest of the way into the fold of God. This missionary who I barely knew took care of the people I love dearly when I was broken and forced to return home.
I was also blessed to talk to one of my old zone leaders, Elder McKee. A couple weeks before, I’d briefly seen him on campus during my intense episode of depression. I was with David at the time and not in the emotional state to chat, so I very briefly waved and walked on by. He remembered that day though at the reunion. The kind spirit that he is, he made sure that I was doing okay, because he’d seen the despair on my face.
In addition to Elder Olmstead, I was also privileged to meet Elder Rumsey, the missionary that Elder Call had trained after me and Elder Olmstead. These two men would be my “brothers” in mission slang (“father” and “son” would be “trainer” and “greenie”). Somehow just the common bond I felt with them, having both served and strived with Elder Call just like I had tried my best to do. This “family reunion” hit somewhere special in my heart.
Somehow I ended up meeting a missionary there who had come home early, like me. He’d had similar fears of feeling alone and lonely. The commonality I felt with that missionary and his desire to do what is right, despite how hard it is coming home early (and it could have been SO easy to have left the church after I came home), was inspiring. Similar to my experiences with SSA, my experiences with other missionaries who have come home early has been a way of being able to find support. They understand the pain I feel when people say “Oh, you did what the Lord required” or “You’re still an RM”. They understand the pains I feel when I wonder if it would have been better for me not to go in the first place. This support system is invaluable to me.
Finally my brief one-on-one talk with President Brower… the things he said to me are too sacred to share, but I know I am so blessed to have had a mission president who cares about me, even now, over 2.5 years later. I love him and I am grateful for all he continues to do for me.
To close, I just want to close with 1 John 4:18: Perfect love (like my mission president and those missionaries showed to me) casteth out fear. And the ultimate source of that love is the Savior, Jesus Christ.