So Long, Farewell …

Bob & Marilyn Farewell Pic

We ALL Can Serve

This is the farewell address I delivered in the Lindon 11th Ward, Sunday, June 26, 2016, and again in our home Cedar Hills 17th Ward, on July 10, 2016. A few friends asked that I share it, so here it is!

 We were asked to speak on the topic, We ALL can Serve. I think that means, “If I can do it, anyone can!”

I worried a fair amount about preparing and giving this talk. I’ll be honest: I never thought I would, but I have grumbled, murmured, complained, whined, and cried about going on this mission. We have always planned to go on a mission together. But as it has gotten real, I have come to truly understand what the Brethren mean when telling the senior sisters that it’s OK to leave their families for this time, and that everything really will be fine in their absence. (Let’s be honest with ourselves – we really don’t have that kind of control, anyway!)

Sometimes those perfect timetables and plans we set for ourselves don’t always fit into the broader picture of what life or the Lord presents to us. And as part of this process, I’ve also gained real empathy for those in Lehi’s family who struggled with leaving Jerusalem. I’ve probably murmured just as much, even though I don’t have to live for 8 years in the wilderness, and get to return back home in 2 years!

Leaving on a senior mission hasn’t been an easy thing for me to do. While most people don’t likely need this much time, we have been seriously preparing for this mission for over 2 years. The preparation has been much harder for us than it was sending out our sons. Our lives are simpler now in some respects, but there are certain aspects of our lives that have made leaving on a mission much more work than I had imagined it would be, and have taken a great deal of time as we have prepared to leave. Although we were surprised at how far out our call was at first, we have come to see the Lord’s wisdom in giving us a mission date seven months away. This was just one more way in which the Lord blessed us and helped us in our preparation.

Missions are not always cheap. Although senior couples are assigned according to their stated budget, a mission can sometimes cost much more than living at home. After being called to one of the most expensive missions in the church, I now look at the monthly amount we paid when our sons were out as a mere pittance! And instead of buying clothing for just one elder, we had to buy clothing for a sister, too. (Sisters, if you’ve been wanting a new wardrobe for a while, consider going on a mission!) J However, with some creativity, it can be less expensive. Brethren, think of it! You could actually come out financially ahead on your senior mission by choosing to go somewhere that her favorite stores and your Amazon Prime delivery are not available!

Why go now? Primarily due to some health concerns, we are going out at a younger age than most senior missionaries.  We’ve had friends say they wish they had gone out when they were our age, instead of when they were older. We still have plenty of energy, plenty of drive to get things done, AND can still remember where we put the car keys … most of the time!  😉

What kind of sacrifices does going on a senior mission entail? In an article in the February 2016 Ensign entitled, “We Chose to Serve,” Sister Irmgard Meissner was suddenly struck as they left on their temple mission with the actual sacrifice she was making: she said, “Suddenly I realized what I was giving up: my mother, my children, my grandchildren, my career, my house, and my garden.”  My mother is now gone, but I have been keenly aware of the remaining 5 items on her list from the very first steps in our mission plans, and sometimes painfully so the past few weeks. No one ever said leaving all you love behind is an easy thing to do. Although many left with their families, through this experience I have gained such a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices of the pioneers in my family, and the pioneers and early missionaries of the church.

A very dear friend of mine recently sent me the following scripture from Matthew, Chapter 19, verse 29, which has come to have new meaning and significance to me. It reads,

“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit eternal life.”

SO WHY ARE WE SERVING BY RUNNING OFF TO AUSTRALIA FOR TWO YEARS, ANYWAY? Here are just a few reasons:

We take so much for granted, so much of the time. Perhaps this is one of the best reasons to serve a mission. Like you, we love our family. You might not think it possible, and in some ways it may not even make sense, but my experience so far is that leaving on a mission makes one’s family more important than ever. For example, I’ve noticed that prayers for family members have become even more meaningful and heartfelt. Spending time with them before we leave, and figuring out means of communication with them while we’re gone is critical. Missions make priorities clearer, and life’s trivialities more apparent. With a greater focus on the Lord, we see things around us in a brighter light, and with more clarity.

We have so much to give, both monetarily and spiritually. That line, incidentally, came directly from the Lord; I think he wanted us all to hear that message. It is so easy to become attached to worldly things. I love a sign I once saw in a home that said, “Heaven: – don’t miss it for the world!” Like I’m sure many of you have done, we have traveled and seen appalling poverty and living conditions in other countries. Our son Brian served part of his mission in India a number of years ago. When he first came home, he remarked that he felt guilty living in our home, knowing the abject poverty so many would never escape in India. Can we not sacrifice some of our time and means to help lift and serve our fellow beings here on this earth? My fear is that we are not doing nearly enough, and will be held accountable some day before the Lord for our greed and selfishness. In the greater scheme of things, serving a mission is one way to break free from the materialistic world for a time and experience the joy that comes from connecting with, learning to love, and serving and learning from those who may be suffering from physical or spiritual want.

We receive blessings from our Heavenly Father when we serve Him by serving others. The gospel really IS the Plan of Happiness. And there are so many types of missionary service. Have you ever noticed how happy serving others makes you? I love the Primary song that goes, “When we’re helping, we’re Happy, and we sing as we go!” (If you don’t believe that, just think of the people you know that are always serving others. Aren’t they the happiest people you know?) Anyway, while there are many things in life we can be sad about, the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is the Good News. It is a joyful message. A message of hope, a message of peace, and a most tender message about the gifts of love, forgiveness and support of the Savior in our lives when we offer him our gift of a broken heart and a contrite (that means humble & repentant) spirit.

It creates an opportunity for couples to learn & grow together; to become more patient with one another; to draw closer to each other as they grow closer to the Lord.  Bob and I are both pretty strong personalities. When our last child left home and we became empty-nesters, there was a little concern about how we would relate and get along with all the kids gone. As you can see, it turned out to be a needless concern, but now we are stepping out into the next new frontier! How will we handle being and doing EVERYTHING together 24/7 for 23 straight months? Well, if we can’t handle THAT, how on earth can we do ETERNITY together? Anyway, I think it will be a great opportunity to grow even closer and increase our humility, patience, tact, … and probably our sense of humor!

The Lord needs us. I love what President Gordon B. Hinckley said about senior missionaries: “As this work rolls forward … let us, in our richest years of experience, maturity, wisdom, and most of all, our faith, rise to meet that need as only we can.” While there are so many fun activities we can spend our time on (and if you are like me, probably a few that we waste our time on) serving a mission and literally being on the Lord’s errand provides an opportunity for a lot of meaningful, heartfelt service each and every day. And as stated beautifully by King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:17, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

 Dedicated missionary service creates spiritual growth. Even the process of preparing to go, in spite of the challenges, has been a powerful spiritual experience. In myriads of ways, I have seen and felt the Lord’s hands on the reigns, guiding us through and around all sorts of formidable obstacles. I have received new insights from the scriptures. Our bishop, Paul Lewis, challenged us to attend the temple once a week, which has been an amazing spiritual experience for me. For example, I wanted to take my own ancestral names to the temple, and three different times had many family names figuratively fall into my lap from someone I had never met before. Financial blessings have also come. Experiences like these have strengthened my testimony that the Lord is there to support us in our difficulties, and to smooth our paths when they are headed in the direction He would have us go. And if we are receiving these kinds of blessings as we prepare to go, I can’t wait to see what we will experience while actually serving in Australia!

In conclusion: Remember Sister Meissner? She went on to say that the very next day when they began their service in the Frankfort Temple, that dark night became a bright new day for them. “All of the stress of everyday life left us,” she said. (Doesn’t that alone make a mission sound wonderful?) Her husband, who was expected to soon die of cancer when they were called, actually lived a couple of months beyond the two years of their mission commitment, she shared, “carried by the spirit of the temple and the strength of God.”

Brothers and sisters, I propose that not only does the Lord need us in the mission field, but we need both Him and the growth that comes through this particular form of sacrifice & service. While Bob has been chomping at the mission bit and raring to go for a quite a while, I’ve sometimes been seen digging in my heels; other times I’ve felt like I’ve been seated backwards behind him in the saddle, hanging on to the horse’s tail for dear life while he spurred it on.

However, through all my bouts of resistance and tears, I really have felt deep down inside that it the right time to serve, with the best companion I could ever have, to the best place imaginable for us. Missions are never, and were never meant to be convenient. The Lord loves us too much to have ever set it up that way. Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven, it says in “Come, Come Ye Saints.” I truly believe that. Ease does not hold a candle to creating the growth that challenge does. In fact, in the Book of Mormon it repeatedly produced just the opposite: the decay of faith, obedience, and blessings.

I have a testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ: not only that that he lived and died for us, but that he now lives, loves us, and is guiding this work on earth, and that our Heavenly Father lives and loves us. I have a testimony that this church was founded by the Lord and is the best and most effective earthly vehicle for furthering the work of the Lord here upon this earth he created.

May the blessings of heaven rain down upon us as we go forth, and upon you as well in whatever capacity the Lord directs you to serve. May we all be inspired and sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit; may we be patient and kind with one another, and be prayerful, willing and obedient to the Lord’s guidance, that our joy may be full, our burdens may be light, and our blessings be abundant, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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