Greg has done the last few blog posts. He suggested today that maybe it was time for me to write about some of my experiences and feelings about this first 6 weeks as full-time missionaries.
I'm not sure what I expected, but I didn't expect it to be as difficult as it has been. The MTC was amazing! The Spirit there is so strong it's a tangible presence. And it's exhausting! We made great friends. We were pushed out of our comfort zone (especially me!) and we were forced to rely on the Spirit in ways I have never before experienced. We left there on a Thursday afternoon, drove to Rexburg, spent the next day packing our car, and then drove 12 hours to Eugene on Saturday. We arrived here on a cold, dark, rainy night. Unloaded our car with some help from young, energetic missionaries, went to Walmart to get necessaries supplies to make it through Monday and then fell into bed too tired to move. We hit the floor early the next morning since another mission couple was meeting us to take us to church for 9:00am meetings. As I think about it now, I wish we had been able to take a couple of days to get settled, that would have made the next 2 weeks much easier.
We reported to the mission office at 8:00 Monday morning for our first staff meeting. And then our training began with the couple we were replacing. They were dear people finishing their 5th mission! After just a couple of days, Greg was turned loose to do his job. My experience was much different.
We started our first week with transfers, departures and arrivals. The former mission secretary played a part in all of those activities - mostly letter writing. The first three weeks were not pleasant - I hesitate to even say that because there were bright spots but most of my day was stressful and frustrating. It wasn't the work, that was simple and straight forward. My trainer was slow, methodical, deliberate and ever-watchful of everything I did. I tend to be a high-energy person. I work fast and often knew of a quicker way to do what she was doing. She was not very computer literate so much of what she did was printed out with check-lists for EVERYTHING! I spent most days with an 80 year old woman hanging over my shoulder while I typed on the computer. I broke out in hives twice and left most days near tears.
Now the bright spots - the missionaries! They are wonderful. They have so much energy and enthusiasm for missionary service. Their testimonies shine on their faces and they work so hard. In this mission, President Russell has dubbed it an "Love you" mission. We say it to all the missionaries, they say it to each other and to us. I found out very early on that I do love them. They were my bright spots every day.
Greg just asked me if I knew what my first few weeks were going to be like, would it have changed anything before we put our papers in. "NO!" I would do it again, and again and again. I know without any doubt that this is where we are supposed to be. And working in the mission office is what we are supposed to be doing. Yes, the first few weeks were rough, unpleasant even at times, but the last 2 weeks have been fantastic. I look forward every day to going in to the office. I love answering the phone and hearing the voice of one of our dear missionaries, or sometimes one of their parents. I love hearing from the missionaries about the tender mercies of the Lord that they are experiencing as they serve Him.
We went to the Portland Temple last week for a mission temple trip. That was more than a bright spot, it was blinding sunshine! Going through a temple session with a room full of young missionaries was amazing. It was worth any frustration or stress I may have felt during my training period here. And that's why even if I knew how hard it was going to be, I would have done it. On even the hardest day, I experienced those tender mercies of the Lord that kept me going. My testimony of the Spirit has grown. My testimony of the truthfulness of this work is stronger than ever. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, the Book of Mormon is God's word as is the Bible. I have tasted the bitter and the sweet - I had to experience both so that I could know the difference. And I'm grateful for both experiences.