In the last month or so I’ve been home, a lot of people have asked me “how was your mission? ” a simple question that I simply cannot answer. In my head it’s like..
Well. I rode a bike, in a skirt, through the jungle, in the rain, in Malaysia every day.
Ate more rice than anyone EVER should.
met and taught people from all over Asia and all over the world.
Never witnessed more miracles, experienced more heartbreak.
Never felt more inadequate and alone, never felt more loved by my Heavenly Father, never cared so much for people I barely knew while seeing such growth in myself
Never been SO TIRED
And did it all in a crazy language I didn’t even know existed a year ago. Nama Berita nuan. What?
But instead of saying all of that, I just respond with “my mission was SO goooood!“
And it was. The Singapore Mission also includes West and East Malaysia and each of those three places could not be more different. Every time I was transferred I felt I was on a new planet, not just a different country. I have never been so overwhelmed with the number of people surrounding me than when I first landed in Singapore. There are over five million people on that tiny little island.
There’s a quote by Abraham Lincoln that says “God must love the common man, for he made so many of them.” By that same token, Heavenly Father must really love his Asian children because there are a ton of them.
With over 35 million people in Singapore and Malaysia I saw a wide variety of struggles people face. We taught members in multi million dollar high rise apartments as well as families that live in kampung houses on stilts over the river with no electricity.
But no matter what their problems were, the solution we provided them was the same. We all need the Savior. However different our problems may be, that is what we specifically need to come closer to Him.
I learned for myself that all our experiences are for our good and often times exactly what we need to face in order to increase our faith.
Ether 12:27 (that’s my birthday so I love it extra) says come unto me and I will show you your weakness..and I think every missionary can feel me on that one. I’ve never been more aware more quickly of how inadequate I was than when I first started my mission.
Two years and one day before entering the Missionary Training Center, I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So I had NO idea what I was doing walking in there. But I did it anyway. Walk by faith or something right?
Day one I learned I knew nothing. What is scripture mastery, no I don’t have a favorite primary song, is it the Nephites or the Lamanites that are the good ones, we’re supposed to give them The Book of What? Sudah makan?
I was in last place before I even started.
I remember in my first week at the MTC I threw my pen down in frustration with language study and said “this is SO hard. How do you say struggle in bahasa?”
My teacher responded with
Right from the get go my name literally translated to Sister Struggle. I never win.
But it was good for me. It put the pressure on me to keep up with everybody else and at least act like I knew what I was doing. But I learned I didn’t need to keep up with anybody, I just needed to try my best and have faith that Christ would make up the rest for me. And He did.
I learned more about faith in the last eight months than I ever thought I could. We say our purpose as missionaries is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through FAITH in Jesus Christ and His atonement…
Helping people exercise their faith in the Savior and giving them opportunites to keep the Lords commandments and receive the blessings that come from it was amazing to watch. Faith transforms lives. It brings families closer, gives people a clean slate from sin and transgression. It is so good.
But even more than teaching, the experiences that taught me the most about the Savior’s love and His perfect plan for us..that all our afflictions WILL be for our good, He knows how to succor his people, He keeps his promises..was when I didn’t see the blessings that I spent all day promising to others.
I learned to take to heart 2 Nephi 26:24
He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.
I learned to internalize that. He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of Sister Bourgeois, for the Iban families I was teaching, for my family at home. Even if we can’t see it, he’s doing things for our good.
My faith was tested when I was serving in Kuching, East Malaysia with Sister LeBaron. We were in the biggest biking area for sisters in the mission, and we tore it up. We worked hard. We worked diligently and obediently and we saw so many miracles. We found people who the Lord had prepared, we taught them, and they were baptized. We would ask each other and ourselves almost every day “why are our lives so good? Why does God love us so much?” It was amazing.
And then it wasn’t. Then I was positive God hated me because everything went wrong.
My knee just suddenly could not. As they say in bahasa tak dapat tahan. Cannot lah. We couldn’t figure it out. Stopped taking hills, put a brace on it, nothing helped. No reason why it should be happening, I’ve danced my whole life and never had a problem, it was more annoying than anything it was making us miss appointments.
Then Sister Lebaron got lice. Which was hilarious and disgusting but we found out while quarantined for a few days that I was feeling much better when we were not biking.
In those days we were stuck inside, two amazing families that were going to get baptized called us and said they didn’t want to learn anymore.
We were finally able to leave the house and try to not let these families slip through the cracks when I got the craziest bug bite of all time that made my leg swell to the point I couldn’t walk for days.
Everything was a mess. I received a call from my mission president saying that I was going to be transferred to Singapore to see a doctor and I was done in East Malaysia. Rip my heart out why dontcha.
I got off the phone and began my last bike ride home and started yelling at God in my head. Yes I know I complain about helmet hair and being sweaty and riding a bike in a skirt is nonsense, but I love it here. My legs are fine I’ll get over it, we all get resurrected bodies anyway right? Just let me stay in Malaysia please.
As I was doing that in my head I was hit by a car. Whoops. Which made me knee pain a whole lot worse and added some hip pain to go with it. They ran a red light, I’m pretty sure I should be dead, but luckily Tuhan jagas his missionaries am I right?
I left my mangled bike in Kuching and headed to Singapore officially depressed.
I didn’t know how to be a missionary when I couldn’t walk up and down the stairs. I wanted to be out working more than anything but my body wasn’t allowing it. I felt like the brother of Jared trying to get across the water without light or air. How? Macam mana?
After studying his story, I realized it wasn’t air or light that they needed to get to the promised land, it was faith. They worked with what they had and the Savior helped them out with the rest.
I ended up not being allowed to go out and walk around the last six weeks of my mission and had the opportunity to serve with the senior couple in the mission office at a time they desperately needed it. Right after I was told I was going home, they had found a replacement in the office.
Everything might be falling apart from our point of view, but thank goodness there’s a bigger plan going on and we’re not in charge of it.
The Lord doesn’t need our scripture mastery or good knees on a bike in Malaysia to spread the gospel. He can do his own work I am certain of that.
I remember thinking a lot about the kids I used to nanny. They would always want to help me make dinner, but they were little and not much help. I could have made dinner much faster and much less of a mess had they not participated. But we got to dance around the kitchen and talk about their friends at school and hang out together. Sometimes they would burn themselves or mess up the recipe but I was always there to help them. And it was just more fun to do it together.
I think Heavenly Father must feel the same way about us as missionaries and all of us down here on earth in general. He loves us enough to give us opportunities to learn and grow and show our faith and mess up and hurt ourselves. He knows we aren’t perfect and that we’ll make a mess down here, but that is his plan for us. When we fall short we have the atonement of the Savior.
The atonement is so good. I have learned so much about it and still don’t even comprehend it.
I learned and internalized the cleansing power it can bring when I took lessons from the missionaries for myself a few years ago. I was able to put a lot of guilt and heartache behind me and truly be freed through repentance and continue to repent every day. It has changed me.
But I think it took me being on my own mission for me to start to grasp that there is more to the atonement of Jesus Christ, it can enable us to be more. I found a scripture while I was in Singapore, fasting and praying that my knees would be healed, that I could go be a real missionary again.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak then I am strong.
Jesus didn’t fix my knee. I know he could if he thought that would be what’s best for me, but my faith in the Savior -not my leg- is what kneeded to be strenghtened. HA
But seriously. I have come closer than ever to my Savior through the burden of this injury. My knees are not better yet and won’t be for a while. But my burden has been made light, His yoke is easy when we come unto Him.
But it is still a yoke. You still have to dig your heels in and press forward in faith, forever. It’s always going to be hard no matter what kind of challenges you face.
Back to Sister Berjuang for a second.
An Elder I served with recently emailed me saying that he had learned that berjuang didn’t mean struggle in the sense that we thought. We always pictured Bambi trying to stand up on his own, or sister missionaries trying to gracefully get on their bike in a skirt.
But it means struggle like a hero in a war, a struggle for victory.
It’s an empowering struggle that is part of all of our lives. Anything worth accomplishing requires humongous, tiring struggle. Take pride in it, that you fight for what is right. Don’t collapse when it’s hard. Christ is strong, take his arm. Berjuang terus even when you can’t see how you could possibly benefit from the struggle you face.
Remember the promise in 2 Nephi 26:24. He only does things for our benefit. He loves the world. That means all of us. It doesn’t matter how pretty you are, where you go to school, what church you belong to, how old you are, what mistakes you have made, he wants you. He loves you.
You are enough.
Everything you have is plenty and you lack nothing required to receive eternal exaltation.
The Lord sees your potential even if you don’t. Your soul has already been redeemed.
Christ has already paid the price, there’s milk and honey in the kitchen and it’s free.
He loves us.
He only does things for our benefit.
He gives good gifts, even if we don’t see them that way.
I know that is true. I know that God lives. I know he has a plan to make us happy. I know he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to save us and through faith in Him and His atonement we CAN, kita boleh, dapat kembali kepada Dia lagi.
I know God keeps his promises. I know through Joseph Smith, Christ’s true church was restored and we have it today on this earth. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God because I have read it. I have asked God for myself and felt the Holy Ghost testify to me of its truthfulness and truth is truth.
I know that Heavenly Father is an unchanging God of miracles and if we have faith in Christ we can partake of his goodness and be lifted higher than we could ever go on our own. Good knees or not, we cannot do it alone.
I am so thankful for the restored gospel and the joy it has brought into my life. My life has been transformed through faith in Jesus Christ over
the past few years. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity I have had to share that happiness the gospel has brought me with the amazing people of Singapore and Malaysia. Although it wasn’t eighteen months, and I don’t know if I will be able to return, I know that my mission was good.
Dalam nama Yesus Kristus, AMIN.