I want to tell a story of something that happened while I was a missionary. At the time, I didn’t know really what to make of it, but as time and life have gone by it has made a little more sense…
A little background first: Every 6 weeks missions and missionaries have “transfers”. That’s when new missionaries come, old missionaries go home, and more get shuffled around. The mission president assigns missionaries to places and companions prayerfully. He does his best to follow the promptings of the Spirit in these assignments. Often, as transfers are approaching, missionaries will often get an inkling of a coming change. (Similar to the feeling you get when you just KNOW the bishop is going to call you into the primary.) Rarely do big changes at transfers come as a complete surprise. At least, they never did for me, except for this one time…
In the last months of my mission, I knew that a change was coming at transfers. There was no way I was staying in the same place with the same companion. We just had too much fun together! We got along wonderfully and had several promising people and families we were teaching. It was springtime and the area (although quite poor) was beautiful. Flowers were blooming and the air was warm and we could smell the ocean in the mornings. When things are going perfectly they just can’t stay that way for too long. 🙂 In the last week or so before transfers my companion and I would laugh ourselves to tears at some joke and then exclaim “Man, we are SO getting split up at transfers!” As we thought about it and talked about it, I felt like I would likely go to another area and she would stay. She felt the same way, and usually when both companions get the same impression, it is pretty reliable. It was only because I didn’t want to seem presumptuous that I didn’t start packing my bags a few days before. I was that sure.
Transfer day came and the call seemed to take for-EVER. Any returned missionary can tell you that transfer day is kind of nervous and somebody always leaps for the phone when it finally rings. When the call came, another missionary talked to the mission president then passed the phone to my companion. Her face fell as she listened. Then she said good-bye and hung up. Wait, why did she hang up? The mission president was supposed to give me my new assignment! My companion told us she was being transferred to a new city with a new companion to serve in a different language! President hadn’t needed to talk to me, which meant no changes for me. WHAT?!? I couldn’t comprehend it for a minute. This is not what was supposed to happen! This was all WRONG!
There had been times before where I felt something should go one way, but then it had gone another, but always in those times I had soon felt a calm assurance or an impression that all was well and things would work out. I didn’t feel that way at all. I didn’t feel calm or assured. It felt wrong. It felt like sick stomach feeling. It felt like “rug pulled out from under me” feeling. It felt like a big mistake. I had been so sure of it! Me leaving and my companion staying felt right – not this crazy assignment she was being given and me just sitting tight! It may seem silly to you now, but for me it was huge.
I had been taught to trust spiritual impressions and I had tried hard to learn to listen to the Spirit, but now I just felt upset and confused. How could what I had been so sure of be so different than what was now happening? I debated for a few minutes, then gathered my courage and called the mission president back. I fully expected him to say something like, “Oh, I’m sorry. There has been a mistake. That assignment was supposed to be for YOU and your companion will stay.” I explained to the mission president how I felt and what I had been so sure of. I immediately felt embarrassed and a little ashamed for second-guessing the mission president…but what the heck?? He told me calmly and kindly that no, there was no mistake and that he had prayed and thought about it in the past days and felt strongly impressed that this was how it was supposed to be. When I hung up I was confused and frustrated to tears. I ran and hid in the bathroom. When I emerged my fellow sister missionaries were sympathetic, but we saw nothing else to do but follow instructions help my companion pack for her departure.
As I prayed and did my scripture study that day I kept waiting for some confirmation to come. It didn’t. When my companion left and my new companion arrived, I looked for it. Still nothing. As I planned out our day with my new companion, I hoped for it. Still no. I still felt confused and wrong, although at least not as hotly. It felt forced and awkward to go back to places and people I had been sure I was leaving. I was going through the motions when my heart wasn’t really in it; I was just doing the best I could for the work and my new companion’s sake.
When I knelt down to say my prayers that night, I felt sad mixed with a little guilt and frustration. I don’t remember what words, exactly, I prayed that night, but I remember saying, with resignation, something along the lines of, “Lord…just help me. Just help me know what You want me to do and I will do it.”
The next morning was gray and overcast. I was the same way inside. It took some faith to step out the door that morning and begin to work. We went to our appointments and visits as planned and nothing really remarkable happened. In the early afternoon, my new companion and I went to see a woman named Silvia. She had been visiting with the missionaries for some time. Her oldest son had met the missionaries first and had joined the church a couple years before. He was currently serving a mission. Silvia liked many things about the Gospel, but there were others she just couldn’t resolve in her mind. As we talked with her about some of her worries, my companion began to speak to Silvia with words of comfort and wisdom that surprised me. This girl was remarkable!
Then I felt it. There it was. It was not a grand revelation or an overwhelming burning in the bosom, it was just a glimmer…just a gentle release of anxiety and a faint ray of peace from behind gloomy clouds. It was something I could hold on to.
As the days and weeks went on, my own worries began to be resolved. It was not all at once, but more like “the dews of heaven distilling” or the “gradual rising of the sun until it is day.” Everything was all right. I grew in appreciation for my new companion and the next time transfers came, I was happy that she and I would remain together in the same area till the end of my mission. There were people we met that only she and I could have reached together.
I have wondered, at times, why. If me being there was the right thing, why did it feel so wrong at first? Why was I so certain I was leaving? Why the confusion and the embarrassment and the frustration? There are probably many reasons, but one lesson I have begun to better understand, is that perhaps this experience was a microcosm for bigger things later on.
There likely will come a time when you will feel much the same way I did. Maybe it will be a policy or a leader or an event or something that just makes no sense. You might feel confused, offended, or just plain wrong. Sick in the stomach wrong. “Rug pulled out from under you” wrong. You will want to call them back and tell them there has been a mistake and maybe you will. Then you will have to decide what to do.
When you do, I hope that you will step out the door in faith. I hope that you will go back to the basics of your faith and follow the principles you know are true, even if it feels like your heart isn’t in them. The Lord will help you as you try to do what’s right and as you follow your faith in Him, even if it isn’t in anything else. I can’t promise you a grand revelation. In fact, you probably won’t get one. It won’t make sense all at one. Some things might not ever be fully resolved. But I can promise you that help, encouragement, understanding, and light with come “line upon line, precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30). So keep walking, and thinking, and praying, and trying, and all that is wrong WILL be made right. (Isaiah 54:10-13).