An Island, Away
"We love you! We'll miss you! And remember that if you ever need anything, we're only an island away," President MacDonald said as I loaded up all my luggage at the mission home in Edinburgh on Thursday.
What was I doing at the mission home, in another country, you may be asking yourself right now? Don't ask me! I was just as surprised as you were.
But to back up a couple days, my week started off something like this:
1. I went to the rugby store with my dear companion Sister Pugmire, who plays front hook for BYU. No biggie.
2. I wrote an email to you, stating that I am not, in fact, under isolation.
3. I pushed send on said email.
4. I received a text no more than 10 minutes later telling me that I am, effective immediately, to return to my flat and not leave until further notice.
5. I spent Tuesday at the church, alternating between cleaning the church, playing the piano, and "Facebook Finding," all the whlie singing hymns (and Bohemian Rahpsody with a few lyrical alterations) at the top of my lungs.
6. Groundhog day except this time with an earthquake, and I recieved a call at 1:30 informing me I was to pack my bags and fly to Edinburgh in 4 hours. Which kind of involved crossing the Irish sea, but no biggie.
7. Rather than packing I played the piano for 45 minutes, which linearly decreased my stress while exponentially increased the odds of me forgetting things as I packed.
8. I packed, managing to only forget my favorite hat, my green highlighter, and a couple other prized possessions.
9. Said goodbye to Sister Pugmire for the 2nd time (R.I.P. MTC companion) and to Northern Ireland for the last time as a missionary.
10. Flew to mission home in Scotland, said a contactless goodbye to my dear mission mommy Sister Powell, who is now home safe and sound in Utah, and flew to CORK, IRELAND Thursday afternoon with the one and only Sister Wilson. Not that Cork is my new area, or that Sister Wilson is my new companion, but I wanted to give her a shoutout because she's the best.
We had been craving chicken nuggets because comfort food is the best food when you're moving to a new country, so when we rendezvoued with our new companions we went to McDonald's. Clearly nobody else was craving chicken nuggets, because the city center was deserted. But we got our COVID-Free chicken nuggets and bbq sauce and hightailed it out of civilization as fast as we could and Sister Boss and I set off on the 2 hour car ride to my new area! Aaaaand that's the story of how I managed to visit 3 countries in 24 hours while under a strict mission mandated self isolation policy.
So don't you worry, I'm not home, but I am in my new home away from home in Tralee, Ireland! Funnily enough, County Kerry, and more specifically Tralee is home to many of my ancestors, and sometimes I swear I hear them whispering encouragement as we sit on the couch finding and teaching over Facebook.
Tralee is beautiful and wonderful and so is Sister Boss. The branch president and his wife were senior missionaries from Bluffdale, UT, which means they tragically left Tralee about a week before I got here. It's a wee branch, with 10 or maybe even 12 members on a good Sunday. The good news is, we inherited their food, their car, their flat, and their wifi when they left! Which means isolation hasn't felt too isolating since we are able to bounce between their flat, our flat, and the church which is just down the street.
Now let me tell you a little bit about my life as an isolated missionary (not to make you jealous or anything): I wake up. I exersise. I eat frosted flakes. I plan out how I'm going to share the joy of the gospel with as many people as possible that day. I spend an hour in the scriptures. Then I open up facebook and I try to find and teach as many people as possible. Easy? Nah. Exciting? Heck nah. But does it bring me joy to share my purpose and God's work and glory with others, whether they are receptive or not? You know it. We call returning members, we call our friends we are teaching and read scriptures with them, we have Come Follow Me lessons over facetime. We make a REAL dinner every night, and we're usually in bed by 9 with our hot water bottles and journals and kinda feel like an old married couple. Yesterday we made peanut butter cookies to doorbell ditch on people's porches, and on Friday we had a picnic by the sea. We delivered a Book of Mormon + bible to someone after they said on Facebook that they're looking for a bible, so keep the faith! This facebook thing works! I'm the most organized I've been my whole mission. I'm getting to know myself better and the missionary / person I want to become better, and I'm...happy! I mean, c'mon people! I GOT A SUNDAY NAP YESTERDAY.
Brothers and Elders and Sisters and family and friends and cats and dogs, let me tell you a little secret. A little pro tip that I stole from living prophets and the scriptures: YOU CAN BE HAPPY TOO, AND THAT HAPPINESS COMES IN AND THROUGH JESUS CHRIST AND JESUS CHRIST ONLY! I know there's a lot happening in the world right now but I think I'm feeling that happy little hum of joy that Nephi mentioned when he said they were "living after the manner of happiness, because this is probably the time i've been the most focused on Jesus Christ my whole mission. Let's go back to Nephi. He seems a little mental at times, doesn't he? Literally as he penned those words he was living in the wilderness...eating raw meat for dinner and probably insects/bitter shrubs for breakfast...and he was getting beaten up by his brothers on the daily? And yet, in spite of it all, the word he used to describe himself was HAPPY?!?!? He didn't even have toilet paper, for crying out loud!
I know we can feel that kind of happiness too, as we 'cut the fluff' and focus on Him. I have felt the cleansing power of that this week.
About 3 months ago I recieved a priesthood blessing from my district leader and in it I was counseled to "make my mission my own" and find unique and creative ways to do that. I was exhausted, and I was trying to live up to standards set by others for what a "successful" or "fulfilling" mission looked like, and as a result I never felt like I was doing enough. I was like that horse in Animal Farm that just kept saying "I will work harder" ya feel?
But alas, self isolation has helped me take a step back and think about what MY personal mission here is. What I personally need to do to personally feel like I am fulfilling my purpose and finding joy. It's different for every single person on Earth, which is why simply imitating others can be and is often lethal. I'd like to extend an invitation to each of you to write down your own "quarantine vision" of who you hope to by when this is all over. What do you want to have done with your extra time? Who do you want to have become? What christlike attributes would you like to exemplify? This time is precious. It's a gift from God, really. A bonus hour to prepare for general conference and indeed so much more when the time comes. If we waste it, we will each be held accountable.
And if you're worried about everything happening right now, remember that when Joseph Smith entered the sacred grove he was hit with a wave of darkness before seeing the light. That's why the six months before leaving on a mission are so hard, why we are faced with so much opposition right before making the right decision, and why Lehi told us about the mist of darkness that comes right before you arrive at the tree of life. Just remember that whenever something really good is about to happen, Satan steps up his game.
Which is why honestly this is just making me even more excited for general conference in 12 days! I do not know what these next 12 days will bring for me and each of you, but I do know this: if we look to God, we will live. If we trust not in the arm of flesh and lean not on our own understanding, he will direct our paths and we will be A-OK. Even better than A-OK. We'll be GIDDY WITH JOY. So stock up on conference snacks, immerse yourself in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and make some time to paint your toenails and write down your thoughts this week.
End rant. And if you need anything at all, I'm just an email away. ;) <3
ps. Sorry this is so long, but at least you have time to read it now, am i right or am i right? ;)
pps. I have aged about 70 years in the past 7 days with everything going on. (attach face mask picture)
ppps. It does get a little lonely at time. Almost feels like a really AM on an island if you know what I mean. So if you find yourself with an extra second this week to send a sentence or a meme my way, I'd love you forever.
pppps. Today I was let out of my cage and we went on an adventure to the Ballymalis Castle, where my ancestors lived for 4 generations back in the 16/1700s! Family history is COOL. 12/10 highly recommended isolation activity. Also resharing missionary posts on Facebook aka mine. 13/10 recommend isolation activity! Thanks y'all for helping spread the good word and not germs!!!!!!