A while back, the Church Newsroom had a nice write-up about how missionary work shape the lives of missionaries. I know that this is put out by the Church, so people could say it was just PR work, but having served a mission myself, I definitely agree with the general premise of the article.
I served a mission in Taiwan back in the 90’s. I remember clearly sitting on the plane as I flew out of the Buffalo airport to go to the MTC, crying like I’d never cried before. It was the first time I had been away, and I was scared to death. Obviously I survived. The mission turned out to be one of the great experiences of my life.
Without getting into too much detail, I learned:
- independence – from being away from home
- respect for Church leadership – like many missionaries, I loved my mission presidents
- respect for other cultures – at the time, Taiwan was still quite insulated from Western culture, so it was great to learn about and experience a culture so different from ours
- hard work – if you want to be happy as a missionary, you’ve got to get to work
- dealing with conflicts – dealing with a companion that you’ve never met before can be hard
- trusting the Lord – it is His work, so we need to trust in Him
- defining success – if it is based on the number of baptisms, I was pretty much a failure (a few people I taught were baptized, but not many). However, I feel like I had a very successful mission.
I can’t say serving a mission was the best decision I’ve ever made… my wife and my children might argue about that. However, at the time, it was definitely the right decision, and has helped shape who I am today. For that I will be eternally grateful.