G'day from the Down Under!
For the last time...
In the words of Helaman to Captain Moroni, "They [the Nephites] were determined to conquer in this place or die." Now that may sound morbid to start out with what I'd like to say, and I've yet to decide how much I have to say, but know this: I came to Australia determined to "conquer in this place or die (whatever that entails)" and I have conquered. I was not a perfect missionary. I was not always the most obedient missionary. But I worked as hard and as smart as I could and now I stand at that great and conflicted intersection of desiring to serve the Lord to no end, yet longing for the comforts of home that have been so carefully neglected in thought.
For the past 24 months I have been serving the Lord our God to the fullest of what I perceived to be possible. What I have done in the mission field will, I have a feeling, be judged for better or worse. Hopefully there's more that think it was all for the better. I know that it was for the better, and no one could convince me otherwise. There's a lot of scattered thoughts going around in my mind at this time so you'll just have to forgive my lack of a cohesive thought process (I'm not even sure that's the right word to use but it sounds sophisticated and I like it).
I'll put it to you straight; I don't remember very clearly who I used to be back home. I recall the activities I used to be involved in and the friends I had, the life I lived... but that seems very foreign to me, and it's not something I want to return to. Though returning home is something that I am greatly excited for, I daresay that I have fixed it in my mind that I will not go back to living life the way I once did.
My Mum wrote me and mentioned that it seems like my mission and I have become one, so I thought I might speak to my Mum in particular. I know exactly what you mean! It's difficult to describe, but I feel very integrated into this life and this country and my "missionary-self" for lack of better words. Because of this, I feel very disconnected with my past life and thus have no desire to return to it. What I have become in the mission field is who I now am, and to be honest I'm very worried about the family not really knowing me when I get back. Lots of things are the same, but so much is different that it's fair to say you might all need to get to know me again, just as I'll have to get to know all of you!
This is so very surreal. I keep asking missionaries who are in my intake if we've miscounted and actually have a transfer or so left. To my dismay, we've not miscounted. Don't mistake me- I'm not dismal about coming home. The only thing I might be remotely dismal about is that the change in lifestyle and culture and everything I have known for the past two years presents challenges that I've not had to face as a missionary. Despite my service including touring every stake and district in the entire mission, from Darwin down to Adelaide and almost everywhere in between, I was still doing the same thing; preaching the gospel as an ordained representative of Jesus Christ. Now I will wear one less badge, put on a tie only once a week (unless I want to be 'classy'), and you won't see me going door-to-door or entering into others homes to teach them from the Words of Life. Such is the great conflict faced by every missionary.
What have I learned? I'd have to write a book in order to communicate even a fraction of that, and I intend to. That's something I still remember- writing again will be good for me.
I've decided that the overall idea that I have selected to share with the missionaries as I part ways is this: live after the manner of happiness.
I've had ample opportunity to see lots of missionaries struggle in finding any kind of joy or happiness on their missions. Some that I've talked to are, despite their false smiles, are discouraged, concerned, worried, insecure, unmotivated, lacking enthusiasm, and constantly doubting, and all this for a plethora of reasons.
Yet I know that several examples of happy missionaries were Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah. We're talking about people who, at first, were so discouraged they thought to abandon their missions just in trying to reach the Lamanites. After they finally got there, they were taken prisoner, subjected to violence such as stoning and expulsion by force at the hands of angry mobs, threatened with death on occasion... yet the only thing that brought them any kind of sorrow was that of the people's wickedness and sin. The only thing that kept them from smiling was the wickedness of those they had gone to teach. For whatever reason, we let many things prevent us from living after the manner of happiness.
Doing so doesn't mean we will never feel stressed, anxious, uncomfortable, uneasy, or anything along those lines. It doesn't mean that life will be easy- happy people still have to work for the bread on their tables. It doesn't mean that we'll always have it easy or anything along those lines. It means that, despite our situations, we are still able to find the good in life, find the joy, and view things with a God-like eye. That's how we live after the manner of happiness- live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and look at everything with a God-like eye.
Missions are too short to be spent brooding in unhappiness, frowning, mourning for that which isn't happening according to our schedules (God's timing is usually better, anyways), and allowing trivial matters or matters that are out of our control to lower our spirits and dampen our moods. I'm glad that I've learned to smile, to have a laugh and make light of a seemingly difficult or troublesome situations (and I only do so with my situations, because it's rude to do that to others). It doesn't hurt to be a bit witty, and the good can always be found in every situation a missionary can be subjected to, at least in my experience.
On that note, I have also chosen to fulfil a commitment given to me by President Carter. On occasion, as we spoke one with another about how both of our time in the field is waning and as I expressed my conflicted feelings, and feelings of things that I wish I had done better or that I could have done more effectively, he asked, "Elder, will you teach the younger missionaries the doctrine of going home?" That's a challenge I could accept, but doing so in a manner that would not cause anyone homesickness would be the trick.
I chose a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 58:15 or 16, I can't remember which. Though the Lord is speaking to one who is not a missionary, I believe He used His chosen words for a divine purpose, because they are entirely applicable to us as missionaries:
"Behold, his mission is given him, and it shall not be given again." [D&C 58:16]
One really only has to read it once, with a sober mind, before the gravity of such a sentence becomes real. At least, such was true for myself. I have served my mission, though I dare not quote what Paul wrote about, "Fighting the good fight" as I believe my "fight" has yet to end. But I will say that I feel good about my service. It is finished and it is what it is- God Himself cannot change time from continuing as it does, thus why should I concern myself with brooding over all of the "what I could have done" questions? What I have done as a missionary has been done, and nothing will change it now. I recognize there were segments where I should have been more obedient, where I should have been less stern, when I should have been more loving, but I also recognize that I did some good in the world (literally). Despite my imperfection, I managed to do some good things, and I managed to learn a thing or two that I will take home with me. I am satisfied with that; my prayer is that the Lord will be at least pleased.
But in saying that, I should probably be heading. We're going to the Gorge today (a wildlife park) where I will get to cuddle koalas and teach kangaroos about the Book of Mormon. What better send off?
I love the ZAAM. I love the Lord. I love my family and I cannot wait to see them. I know that many churches have truth, but only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a fullness, as far as it has been revealed to us, and that the invitation to find out for one's self is extended to all. I know that going on a mission is good. I know that if we let the Lord direct us, we will always come out the better because of it. There is a God, His Son is Jesus the Christ, and He has accomplished the Atonement. All of the tools for Salvation have been given to Man; all we need to do is access them. This I testify of in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
LOVE YOU HEAPS AND SEE YOU SOONER THAN LATTER!!!
-Elder Jeffrey Scott Schomburg
Zion Australia Adelaide Mission
|President and Sister Armstrong|
Elder Schomburg and Elder Duabe