I am coming up on the anniversary of when I left to serve a full-time mission for the LDS church in Germany. I remember thinking while I was at the missionary training facility what an eternity eighteen months felt like. Now, looking back these several years, those eighteen months flew by like a blink of an eye.
I remember my first day in Germany. The weather was cold, foggy, overcast and rainy. I was so homesick and so very tired from jet-lag. If someone had offered me a nickle and said I could turn around and go home, I probably would have taken it. I wondered what had EVER possessed me to make such a decision to leave home and serve a mission. And, in a foreign country, no less.
I remember also very well my last day in the mission field, having completed my Church mission. I was the only sister missionary flying home, so I was completely by myself for the first time in a year and a half. In the Frankfurt Airport, I wanted to buy some small gifts to take home to family members. The salesclerk tried talking to me in English but I wanted only to speak German. By this time, I was fluent in the language and had no need nor desire to speak English. I made my purchases, then waited for my flight home.
I flew into New York. Upon landing, I felt such an overwhelming feeling of emotion at being back in the United States. I was so grateful to be again on American soil. I called home, as I had been 'structed to do. My mom picked up the phone. She was so excited, relieved and happy to hear that I was in New York, U.S.A., and that, in a matter of hours, I would be home.
As I sat in the airport, I reflected on my mission, the people and country I had come to love so dearly. Now, I felt homesick for Germany. If someone had offered me a nickel and said I did not have to return home, but could instead stay on my mission, I would have surely taken it. I wanted to go back and I thought my heart would now surely break, acknowledging that my mission was complete and over.
On the plane ride from New York to Salt Lake City, I sat by an older woman. We got to visiting and she wondered what I had been doing in Germany. I told her about my mission and some of my experiences there. She listened with great attention. Towards the end of the flight, she sweetly told me that she knew my family would be so proud of the work I had done, and how happy they were going to be to have me home. She told me she could tell I had done an excellent work in Germany. Her words touched me greatly, and I remember that they made me cry.
Getting off of the airplane and walking into the terminal from the tarmac, I saw my father standing at the glass door waiting for me. I walked up to him and said hello. He responded back, then continued looking out the door. I said, "I'm home!" He looked at me, took a second look, then warmly and strongly embraced me. I was not sure why the initial reaction until I saw my twin sister. Unbeknownst to either of us, we had had our hair cut in similar cuts, and had on similar coats. He apparently thought I was her and it took him that extra look to determine that it was really me, his missionary daughter coming home.
By the time we arrived home from the airport, it was quite late. It had been a long day with the change in time zones and all of the flying. I was very tired and wanted to go to bed. But, my family was a buzz with excitement and no one seemed content to quiet down or stop visiting. I arrived home early February and because of inclement weather, that night we were without electricity. We sat at the dinner table, eating to candles.
My mother could tell I was very tired, very worn out from the day, and finally insisted that I go to bed. I was very thankful to do so. As I lay in bed that night, I was ever so grateful that I had had the opportunity to serve the Savior as one of His missionaries in Germany. I had grown to love, appreciate, and depend on Him so much while serving and teaching. My life has been forever blessed because of my decision to serve an honest, full and complete mission. I am so grateful for my parents, for supporting me and allowing me to have that life-altering experience.
While on my mission, I experienced many trying and difficult times. One of the things that kept me going day after day was the following poem that my mom sent me often in her letters. I do not know if it is my mother's favorite poem- I rather suspect that it is.
She was such a stalwart for me while I was on my mission. She wrote every week, and sometimes more than just once. Her letters were newsy, supportive, and she was always so gracious in letting me know how proud she was of the work I was doing in the mission field. I credit my mother with any and all successes I had on my mission (in addition, of course, to Heaven's support). All missionaries should have a mother like mine when they go out in to the field.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but never quit.
Life is strange, with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won, had he stuck it out.
Don't give up, though the pace seems slow:
You may succeed with one more blow.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver lining in the cloud of doubt.
And you can never tell how close you are.
It may be nearer, when it seems so far.
So stick to the fight when you're the hardest hit.
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.