Guest Post: Redeeming My Soul, Part I
I was always a supporter of gender equality in the LDS church; any time women in my classes at church wanted to serve missions, I was all for it. However it wasn’t until my late teens that it occurred to me that I could serve a mission too. Since then I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I was going to serve a full-time mission, then I wasn’t, then I was. This battle would continue for the next 7 years. Finally at 26 years old I decided to follow the promptings that I had been feeling for years and submit mission papers. The process that would follow is one that I am still struggling to completely understand and accept.
From the mission call itself to incompatible companionships and experiencing bullying from the mission president and his wife, much of my full-time mission was weighted with loneliness, misunderstandings and mistrust of others. I continue to doubt the call itself even until today. Who was I supposed to meet? What was I supposed to learn? None of my answers to these questions have provided me with the lasting satisfaction that I have pleaded for in numberless prayers. When I first got the call to Billings Montana, U.S.A.; I was dumbfounded and embarrassed, then sad and finally angry. I trusted that God knew me and wouldn’t punish me for following His commandments which include following individual promptings.
However, this had to be evidence that the Gods didn’t know me at all. This is something else that I continue to struggle with as I am less likely to trust in Their hands now than I did before the call and mission occurred. I decided to follow through with my original plan, enter the missionary training center in a few months and serve full-time. Yet when I shared some of my unpleasant surprise at the call and fear over how I would be received in such a physically and socially isolated mission as a woman of color, I received feedback from friends that I found helpful and hopeful. They told me it was possible that I could be reassigned if I shared my thoughts and feelings and they were then considered valid enough by men in authority, so that I could be reassigned. I contacted my bishop, stake president, and the church mission department in Salt Lake City and wrote an e-mail to the mission president as well in an attempt to be heard, seen and then reassigned. This e-mail was answered by phone and only served to validate my fears; fears that I would serve around others who would not see or hear me when I needed them to the most.
In the mission field, I would be highly isolated from my support system and have fewer resources than before with which to manage a huge influx of new stress, anxiety, expectations and prejudices. In many ways, I would be alone. After this phone call from the wife of the Billings mission president, I grew even more disheartened because her words and reasoning were very dismissive and demeaning. She questioned my worthiness and desire to serve a mission because as she stated, “sometimes sisters don’t take missions very seriously and think they can just leave and do what they want.” I was already marked. Then despite my continuing feelings and thoughts of uncertainty, insecurity and that many things just weren’t right … I prepared myself as best I could and entered into the Provo, Utah missionary training center.
Following a frustrating and seemingly endless MTC stay of one week; I arrived at the Billings airport. I was met by the mission president and his wife at the bottom of the escalator. What then followed was a combination of uncomfortable weirdness that was a cross between a getting-to-know-you activity, worthiness interview and getting called in to your supervisor’s office to get fired. At its conclusion the president told me, “There are stupid people everywhere but if you’re sensitive and look for things everywhere, you’ll find them.” This was his response to my saying that I was worried someone might say or do something ugly to me because I am a person of color in my previous email. It’s not surprising that I didn’t feel supported or taken seriously. I thought things started to look up when I met other sister missionaries and was assigned to my first companion, a “sister” who was aware of the differences in perspectives, experiences and needs of missionaries like us serving in a super rural white place. She understood much of my anxiety about the location and disappointment in having a mission president whose attempts to support me were thinly veiled attempts to shut me up and convince me that adopting colorblindness would protect me from the world.
Part II will be published tomorrow morning.
Did you have difficult experiences on your mission? How did you deal with them? How do you now understand your feelings of God wanting you to go on a mission?
Sabra’s bio: A native Texan, I love Christ’s gospel, eating and beauty products. I love people and have served them in the capacity of a mentor, tutor, teacher, volunteer, intern, therapist and advocate over the course of 5 years.