Both of my parents served missions. At a young age I heard their mission stories and dreamt of the day when I would be able to serve the Lord as a full-time missionary.
Preparing for my mission was one of the most precious times of my life. I was closer to the Lord than ever before. I received my mission call to the Budapest Hungary Mission and entered the Provo Missionary Training Center (MTC), determined to give my all to my Heavenly Father.
Being at the MTC was an incredibly spiritual experience for me. As I grew closer to the Lord, I sincerely prayed that I was willing to do anything He asked and promised that I would love the Hungarians with my whole heart.
Near the end of my MTC experience, I became ill. After a short stint at home to recoup, I was given the opportunity to continue my mission to Hungary. I was placed with a wonderful trainer, Sister Sunshine Nestor, who taught me how to recognize the daily tender mercies and miracles of the Lord.
After a few months, I became ill again. Although Sister Nestor and I continued to work the best we could, I had to return home yet again.
In my mind I had let the Lord down because I had not served a “full” mission. I was convinced that there were still Hungarians that I “should have” taught if I hadn’t become sick. I wondered if I did not have enough faith to be healed because, after all, the Lord protects His missionaries. I had never considered that my sacrifice to the Lord would not be to give a year and a half of my life but rather to sacrifice the kind of mission that I had anticipated.
As I walked off the plane coming home, I couldn’t help but think that I had left the most important work of my life behind in the mission field. It took time, but I learned that there was work at home that would bring my life meaning as well.
No matter your reason for returning from your mission earlier than anticipated, decide today to make this experience a step forward in your progression, not a step back. I came home for medical reasons, but others come home for a variety of reasons, including transgression. As a result, some of the ideas below may not apply to your situation. Pray to the Lord to find ways to serve Him from home. For example, if you came home for transgression and are not yet worthy to attend the temple, you can still find meaning as you regularly walk around temple grounds and commit to one day return to His holy house.
Besides reading my scriptures, praying, and attending church, each of the following steps on my journey was vital to my healing.
My first step to finding meaning in my life was to stay connected with the Saints and missionaries in Hungary. For some time, I lived for preparation days when I would receive emails from Sister Nestor and my MTC companions. I have to admit, sometimes it wasn’t easy to read about my companions’ missions or to speak with the Hungarians that I missed so badly. But as I look back now, I realize that it was critical to my healing to hear about the miracles happening there.
My little brother, gently prompted by my intuitive mother, convinced me to start indexing. Initially I did batches of names to appease him, but one day a registry of Hungarian names popped up on my screen. The Spirit swept over me and taught me that I was still able to help bring Hungarian souls to Christ—just on the other side of the veil!
After the mission, all of my pre-mission life goals seemed unattainable with my new health condition. But with time I realized that there were goals I could accomplish while lying down. I called goals such as reading Jesus the Christ “horizontal goals” and worked on them daily.
One of my pre-mission life goals was to graduate from college. While attending classes would have been difficult with my illness and the constant doctor appointments, my dad encouraged me to take online classes from Brigham Young University Independent Study. Not only was this an achievable horizontal goal, but I also realized that maybe I was capable of doing more pre-mission goals than I had previously thought possible.
One day at church, a sister walked up to my mom and said, “Do you know that Destiny can serve an online indexing mission?” This unexpected question was an answer to my prayers. I was able to serve the Lord for nine months as an indexing support Church-service missionary. This was a mission I could do!*
As I became better at managing my health condition, I began studying at a community college while doing my online mission. I was asked to teach mission preparation at the nearby institute. Teaching helped me realize that my enthusiasm for missionary work had not waned and that even my short mission had provided me with many experiences that could be valuable for my students.
After successfully attending a semester of college near my home, I moved to Utah, USA, to attend BYU. At first, I could hardly walk by the Provo MTC without feeling a rush of conflicting emotions. But I started volunteering weekly at the MTC and found that it was healing to meet the wonderful missionaries being sent to my beloved Hungary.
A Hungarian sister, Edit, who has prepared nearly 150,000 names for the temple asked me to take some of her names to the temple. It was a joy to do the saving ordinances for these Hungarians!
Serving a mission was my most important life dream, and, understandably, I felt a loss when I came home earlier than anticipated. For a time, I struggled to talk about my mission. I had to work through feelings of failure. I had to learn how to judge the value of my mission by my desire to serve rather than the length. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, each of these steps toward meaning in my life also brought healing.
For years I was nervous that returning to Hungary would be difficult for me emotionally. When I eventually traveled there, it wasn’t until the second day that I realized that not only was I not feeling any pain, I was also feeling overwhelming joy to be back. I knew then that Heavenly Father had given me the opportunity to experience the healing power of the Savior’s Atonement. I now know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all things will be made right in the end.