The Heart of the Countdown
As a mom, I frequently find myself praying for each of my children. When they have final exams in school, I pray for them. When they have relationship struggles, I pray for them. When they are sick, I pray for them. When they serve church missions, I pray for them. Oh, how I pray for each of them. They are such a part of me, each with their own room in my heart. I know that their father feels the same. Mr. Hot Stuff is a “football pray-er”. He knows how to go long, praying for the spouses they haven’t met yet, and their future families, as well as the details in their daily lives. Where I pray for them in short sprints all the day long, he is the master of the touch-down pass or the long run at the end of the day. I think part of this is the nature of our days as well as mental differences that he and I have. Yet, whatever our differing methods, I know that praying for our children is something that he and I will never finish doing.
In eight days Hermana Miss Sassy will fly home to us from her mission in the foreign land of Irvine, California. I know that she will leave behind a large part of her heart. She has immersed herself in the work of sharing the message of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a natural consequence, she has fallen in love with the people she’s taught, served with, and those who’ve taught her. She’s learned to express herself in a second language, and she’s learned to rely more heavily on Heavenly Father’s love and answers to prayer. Because I know that her heart will feel pain to leave these people behind, my heart is extended even more frequently in prayer for her, that she will feel God’s comfort and peace at this time.
I’ve also been brought to the realization that we never really finish those things that are most worthwhile in life. We may finish with tasks, such as raking leaves, or planting gardens, or grocery shopping, but the overarching work of creating a home where people can feel at peace never really stops. Such it is with a mission. Miss Sassy will not be able to “finish,” though her mission will come to an end. There will always be investigators who need a little more time, companions who will need her trust in spite of their own weaknesses, and members who will continue to need reminding of how important their love and example to others is.
As I was thinking about how difficult this time must be for Hermana Miss Sassy as the end of her service rushes nearer, I felt prompted to send this email to her (below). Because I know this is a difficult thing for many missionaries, I’m sharing it here in hopes that someone else may benefit from it.
Dear Hermana Miss Sassy,
Though I’ve already sent you an email today, I feel like I’m supposed to say one more thing, about finishing.
I know that you will finish your mission strong, because that’s how you do things. I also know that you will try to “get everything done” before you come home. This is my reminder – That Heavenly Father’s work is eternal and we cannot measure it or our part in it by hours or calendar days. We measure our part in His work by how our hearts are turned to Him and how consistently we reach out in service and testimony to others. You have been able to saturate yourself in this service and testimony and there will be many people you will miss and who will miss you when you leave your mission. I encourage you to plan to stay in touch with these lovely and dear people. Your life and testimony will always have meaning to them and you will continue to influence their growth spiritually. However much you wish to “finish everything” before you come home, you will find it impossible. My counsel to you is to trust in that Spirit that has guided you all along, that He will continue the good things you have started, through His loving influence on others. Heavenly Father loves those who live in the California Irvine Mission even more than you do and He will see to it that His work moves forward. What a blessing you have that you will be able to stay in touch and observe His mighty love and the power of the atonement as it continues to influence the lives of those you have come to love.
Missionary work is like housework. Sometimes things can get really messy, and the work is never all done. But like housework, you can generally look around in whatever place you find yourself standing and see one or two things you can do where you are; one or two ways the Spirit will prompt and help you see ways to share Heavenly Father’s love with His children who might otherwise not feel it.
So trust Heavenly Father to lead you to accomplish the most important things as these last two weeks race by, and trust that He loves these dear people enough to see that His work continues on. He will guide you, even when you cannot see clearly what is always best, trust Him to turn your steps when they need to turn and exercise faith as you move forward. He is as mindful of you as he is of your companions, investigators, beloved members, and your family. He won’t let you go wrong when your heart is focused on Him, no matter where you are or how much you feel is left unfinished.
His work is eternal. He alone can call it finished. Our task is to seek those highest words of praise, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Parable of the Talents, Matt 25:21)
I love you. Peace, be still. The Lord is at the helm. This is His mighty work. He is not finished yet, and He will move you whithersoever He will that you will continue to be an influence to invite others to come unto Him.
There’s nothing quite like the shift in perspective when you realize God’s work is eternal, and we are a part of it. There is no finish line.
“Behold, we count them happy which endure”