“They never told us any of this in the MTC,” was all I could think of as I followed my companion down a dismal Düsseldorf side street, shuffling my frozen feet through the dirty snow as I went.
Less than a week before, I had left the Missionary Training Center after two intense but glorious months filled with grammar and vocabulary, discussions and scriptures, and a growing recognition of the workings of the Spirit. Still ringing in my ears were countless stories from teachers and General Authorities of the immeasurable joy that awaited me in the mission field and of the way lives would change because of the message I carried.
As I tracted that day I felt betrayed. The only changed life I could see was my own: changed from the comfort of Arizona sunshine to the misery of a German winter and from the freedom of my pre-mission existence to a life-style of exhausting physical work and infinite restrictions.
I wondered where all the joy could be as we climbed endless staircases to talk to people who didn’t want to talk to us. I wondered too, how the truth could possibly make a difference in the lives of those who shut their doors before hearing a complete sentence. Most of all I wondered where the promised Spirit was: the Spirit that softened the hearts of men like Alma and Saul, that guided missionaries like Ammon and Aaron to proclaim the right words to the right people, and that gave messengers like Abinadi and Samuel the Lamanite the strength of conviction and love for the people to carry on despite all persecution and rejection.
I felt no love for the people, no joy in the work, and no Spirit to comfort or inspire me. All I felt was an ever-increasing, completely foreign bitterness, and an aloneness I never knew existed.
As I fought back steamy tears and silent, choking sobs, I turned my thoughts to home, hoping to ease my desperation for even a second. In that frustrated, confused moment, a single picture unfolded in my mind. I saw my parents kneeling at their bedside, heads bowed and brows furrowed in prayer. Their words were for me. “Dear Father, bless our daughter. Keep her from discouragement and lead her in thy paths.”
As that picture faded, a hundred others tumbled one after the other into its place—pictures of six brothers and a sister; of relatives, friends, and ward members all bowed in prayer for me. I glanced at my watch and realized that it was early morning at home and that those earnest prayers were being said right then. And I knew, with undeniable clarity, that they were being answered right then as a feeling of drenching love and warmth dissolved every negative emotion from my soul. I sensed a powerful, glowing triangle, linking home and heaven and me.
I knew then, with a witness that comes only from the Spirit I had sought, that I was a part of a work not my own, but that of an omniscient, loving Father who sent his Son to show me the way. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Snow still falls and doors still shut, but weekly letters bring a renewed assurance as I read “You are in our prayers,” for I know that each of those prayers ascends to the Source of all love and distills daily upon every servant in His vineyard.