Mission--North Carolina Greensboro--1974-1975

(from an address given at Women's Week at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, in 1984)


Given the challenge of addressing you today on “How a Mission Changed My Life,” I came to the conclusion after puzzling over if there were changes—few things short of visitations from heavenly messenger actually change you.  However, I must add that conversions convert or change people.  But for the most part changes are gradual, and in my case, it looks like an almost eternal project to bring about significant changes.  I, therefore, would prefer to entitle my remarks “The Lifelong Benefits of Serving a Mission.”

May I first express the pure joy that I have felt in re-opening the case of my mission.  Ten year ago when I left North Carolina, I boxed up all the pictures, shelved the journals, and decided that it would be more healthy to move along.  Of course, I have referred to it, thought about it consistently etc.  If has been very much a part of my life since then, but I had never indulged myself to the degree that I have the past week.  By unwrapping the mission experience, I have given my subconscious total freedom to muse, re-hash and even re-live that 18 month experience.  I pulled out the boxes of pictures, removed the journals from the bookcase and immersed myself once again in that experience which at the time was so very immersive and absorbing.

I chose to serve a mission solely on the grounds that I had a testimony of the restored gospel.  As someone had said, “You cannot receive more light until you are faithful to the light that you now possess.”  It was a logical step in my progression, I felt.   I also hoped to go unencumbered by too many personal problems.  I prepared myself physically, spiritually and emotionally.  I wanted to be a world-class missionary.  I knew of the prejudices that a sister would meet, and I never wanted to be accused of being weak or having impure motives in any way.  I other words, I didn’t want to take obstacles with me.  I wanted every minute for pure uncluttered missionary work.  Eighteen months is such a short time.  Ironically, when the whole experience was over, I realized that it had been a never-ending sequence of obstacles to that pure “teach ‘em and watch them get baptized!” mission that I wanted to serve!  What a jolt to me that my mission wasn’t a continual stream of experiences like those of the reporting missionaries over the pulpit.  B.H. Roberts found missionary work to be much the same as I did.  I quote from his biography:

“I am desperately in love with London, and if I were a man of the world, I would live here,” he wrote home.  But how difficult to teach the gospel at Hyde Park!  His efforts to teach the people of London were so bleak that he wrote home that he would like to “turn away from humanity with all its pride” and “play the hermit.”  Missionary work, he added, “is doubtless a noble work, but it is also a thankless task full of hardships and heartaches.  If anyone thinks it a pleasant thing to go into the world and combat the terrible prejudice existing against our faith, he by ALL means ought to try it.”

Of course, this is taken out of the whole context of his mission and doesn’t give equal time to the many elevating and celestial experiences he must have had.  But it is, nevertheless, a valid statement of missionary life.  Incidentally, Brother Roberts did  pray that the result of these experiences would be to “refine his rather cross-grained nature which was in sore need of godlike influences.”

In this sense a mission is not unlike a lifetime.  It may be called the best years of one’s life, but that is certainly due to the rewards of meeting its very unique challenges.  It is not an easy way to spend some time away from home.  A travel brochure luring one on a mission would have to be read between the lines!

I would never choose a different route could I reverse the clock.  I am grateful for the constant uphill-ness of my experience because I have since come to find out that marriage is uphill, motherhood goes up a very steep hill, and a life lived in a gospel setting is precipitous indeed.  Perfection is a pioneer trek and requires the stamina and stubbornness every bit of a strong-willed person and one who even has begun to relish uphill journeys!  I am grateful to a mission for having taught me that at a very young age.

With that introduction, I am now ready to share with you the supreme joys I have reaped from the time I spent serving the Lord.  Keep in mind that were you to interview ten different returned missionaries about their experiences you would receive ten very different and unique replies.  This is the beauty—it is custom-built!  But many of the benefits are universal, and those are the one I have chosen to focus on today.

#1  PHYSICAL BENEFITS

A mission is very physical.  It proved to me that I have stamina.  I had prefaced my mission with a B.Y.U. Survival course—thirty days of hiking, starving, and fighting the elements on the desert.  In comparison, Survival vs. Mission, a mission definitely proved the greater test.  But I could do it.  That’s good to know that where the spirit is willing the flesh can follow.  I know I can force myself to do strenuous things because on a mission I learned that about myself.  I felt the prayers of every little primary kid praying for the missionaries because that strength came when it was sorely needed.

Interestingly enough, relating to the physical benefits of a mission, I feel it increased my femininity.  That’s largely due to the fact that a sister has to constantly struggle to maintain femininity!

#2 INTELLECTUAL BENEFITS

I felt huge strides in this area.  My mission assignments took me from the poorest, least-educated people in the United States tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains to the wonder Brains at some of the oldest and most scholarly universities on the opposite side of the state.  The diversity of cultures, habits, and priorities was so valuable.  I took time to ask questions and to study the history of those places.  I had a zest to know the why’s and how’s of everyone I met.  Since that time I have entered the music world of my husband, and we have traveled together to different places where he has performers or we have gone to school.  I have a natural curiosity which was fostered on my mission.

Serving a mission exposes one to the gospel in its written form.  Study expanded my horizons and my concept of truth.  In our mission, we read daily from tens  scrolls take from the book, The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino.  We learned secrets of success through mission conferences that not only apply in the Lord’s work but in all areas of success.  I was truly intellectually stimulated by my on-the-job training that no university class has yet to equal.

#3 SOCIAL BENEFITS

Missionaries are many times counselors without diplomas.  I learned to listen and to listen and to converse with anyone from ministers to divinity student to dusty old geezers on rickety porches.  Thrown into various social situations, finding myself at funerals, wedding, before civic clubs, and in association with a few hundred other missionaries, I grew into someone capable of pulling my own in almost any conversation or situation.  Once again that experience has proved invaluable in my marriage and my husband’s career.  We have lived in close proximity with other married students form all over the world.  I have been invited into their lives and the intimacies therein.  Just like a mission!  I learned my skills there.

#4 LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Yes even sisters get to experience that in their own way.  A new sister relying on you to show her the ropes and insecure new members looking for help are just two examples.  Other missionaries who were struggling to maintain also needed help form sisters.  Scantily-populated branches use missionaries to do everything until sometimes the services resemble one or two man bands!  It all serves to give one confidence that she can do anything!  Fantastic skills for work in the church.

#5  CREATIVITY GROWTH

I have never surpassed the creative ventures of my mission.  So creative were some of the missionaries I worked with!  We were given free rein many times to get the job done however it needed to be done.  I found myself in parades, talent shows, and even a 6 man re-enactment of the pioneer trek west on the 24thof July—“Salt Lake or Bust!”  At any rate, I learned to stretch my mind and consider all ways to solve a problem or meet an objective.  Our president taught us that we wanted to become Gods and Goddesses , and what did THEY do?  Create!  I have tried to base my life in part upon the principle of creativity.  A new approach to an old problem.

#6  PERSONAL BENEFITS

Missionaries are the great recipients of so much of a mission even though they bless the lives of others so much.  A mission taught me to like myself for the most part even though I am a veteran incurable self-whipper.  I learned to accentuate my differences and not to mirror other people.  All stops were pulled out as my ability to love grew and grew until it consumed me.  I shed buckets of tears over others’ problems and thus forgot my own.  I hugged and kissed good-bye what I felt were angels knowing we’d meet in another realm.  Those experiences have helped my heart grow.  My first real experiences with eternal feelings for people outside my family came during that time in my life.

I learned courage, gaul, and plan old pick-myself-up-and-get-out-there doggedness.  I learned to tie up strings on the current experience that I was so involved in and move on when a transfer came even though it would nearly kill me.  I, like Lot’s wife, couldn’t help but look back.  But I also learned the optimism of something unknown.  The freshness of beginning anew.  My married life has moved me six different times.  Each time I left, I shed the same tears and felt the heart pulls for many months and even do now, but I know my mission taught me to move in, hang up my hat, prepare to stay—mentally unpack, so to peak, but when the “transfer” comes—look to it as a new adventure.

#7  SPIRITUAL REWARDS

Unquestionably the greatest benefits one reaps from full-time service are those of spiritual growth.  One gains a testimony not only of the power of God but also of the power of the adversary.  One gains a testimony of prayer, fasting, and what not living the gospel does to people’s lives.  My Spirit was constantly being fed by the truth I was feeding it.

I have never felt a surge similar to the constant rushes I received knowing I was part of the great missionary cause.  I could feel myself bound to missionaries in the past, and I still feel a bond to those coming and going now.

So many times I turned my face towards eternity and felt mortality recede into the background as my spirit was taught new answers.  That is still my striving.

I must confess that my life does not resemble this discipline I once knew.  I have kept, however, my testimony.

May I conclude by expressing how grateful I am for serving a mission.  All of the aforementioned benefits are independent of the good that comes into the lives of those touched in any way by a missionary.  And, of course, I’m sure we limit our perception of the benefits of a mission.  My prayer is that I may be worthy to be with those who have gained a testimony of this gospel and put that testimony into living works.--


Back in 1974, the mission frenzy enticing girls to enter the mission field did not exist like it has in the past few years.  Girls married at a younger age generally, and the Equal Rights Amendment was just coming of age--it peaked and then was defeated the year Shelly was born.  Nevertheless, I decided in my early teens that perhaps a mission could be in my future.  My best friend at the time I went, Shirlene, was serving in Switzerland.  She influenced me GREATLY in dozens of ways--a mission being one of them.  My parents were divided on the issue.  Dad--gung-ho.  Mom--not so much.  She worried I would "mission" myself right out of the marriage pool.  When I returned, interestingly enough, she discouraged me from toting scriptures to church!!! "You'll scare off the men!"  Antiquated thinking, but something I had to deal with.

Before I got my call (because I seemed to be waiting a long long time for it to come--delayed sending of application, but I didn't know that!), I had a dream one night wherein I received my entire application back in the mail!  Ugh!  I leafed through what seemed like hundreds of pages, and on the last page in a corner in a tiny stamp, I read "REJECTED".  Vivid dream.  But when my call DID come my father read it to me over the phone.  It was a surprise.  But it turned out to be a perfect fit.  Nevertheless, some of the responses I got were:  "I thought you said you did well on the language aptitude test!"  "And THEN where do you go?"  (from non member friends)

Interested parties can read through my journals.  My brother-in-law, Theron, is writing his story too, and in it he INCLUDES his missionary journal in Spanish, no less!  I am not inclined to do that.  I have included pictures which will give a flavor of my time in NC.  My faith pilgrimage (included as part of my story) gives more details of the spiritual growth of my mission, but a mission is so much more than meets the eye.

When I entered the mission field I did so with very pure motives.  It seemed obvious to me that when you receive a testimony, sharing that becomes an objective.  I didn't leave behind any baggage from which I was escaping.  I had financial support and adequate emotional support.  I discovered when I arrived that a mission wasn't exactly as it had been depicted in all of the mission reports I had ever taken in.  I learned that I had flaws, and those flaws stuck out like zits on prom night.  I lacked patience--not with the North Carolinians I encountered, but with a couple of my companions.  I had some claustrophobia living in such small quarters--and in one case even sharing a bed!--with another girl.  Some of them just plain annoyed me.  I have regrets that I wasn't more kind.  I would change that.  



A mission taught  me very creative problem solving.  We ALWAYS had problems to solve!  From sun up to sun down!  Navigational--where in the heck is this place we're looking for??  Organizational--Any leaders in this branch???  Situational--We need to increase tracting hours by how many???  Come again????  Every day was new and unique and full of its own quirks and challenges.  We were left pretty much to our own devices to figure out how to get the word spread!  Oftentimes that translated into  projects I would never have associated with missionary work.  In the first six weeks of my mission I saw movies, attended a Jose Feliciano concert, accompanied a companion as she appeared on a talk show, marched in a parade dressed as a pioneer, golfed (first and last time in my life) at the famed Pinehurst, and most magnificent of ALL--wrote, co-directed, and starred in a spectacular 24th of July "pagaent" with my companion Sister Johnsen and our district elders, Elders Zollinger and Dunn.  We called it "Zolly's Folly", and it was complete with our version of several pioneer stories acted out by the four of us.   It was an OPUS GRANDE!!  Putting it all together took days and day, but they were days of the most energetic flow of creativity!  We laughed until we were absolutely weak.  The branch LOVED it, some investigators saw us in a new light, and it was deemed a smashing--if not, unconventional--success.  I left Southern Pines with an expanded view of missions AND the bonus of teaching a young man and another young woman who were both baptized a few weeks after we left.  Such a joy to reconnect with both of them in the last six months.  Such joy.  Two stalwarts.

Our mission was located in the heart of the Bible Belt.  We learned to use our Bibles consequently.  I loved the study time.  I loved the interaction with complete strangers--especially ministers.  I loved the constant stream of characters that came my way as I knocked on doors.  And perhaps my greatest love of all was tracting.  I was made to tract.  It taught me to stand on my own two feet and profess the deepest emotions of my heart to complete (and mostly disinterested) strangers.  Sometimes dogs nipped at us.  Sometimes the smells coming from the house blew us away.  Sometimes we encountered animosity or pure love or just plain curiosity.  I loved it all.  In the heat, in the cold, in the rain.    One of my keen memories is of attending a revival in the mountains above Marian.  As it was heating up, I looked behind me and saw a little family--with one child.  Something moved me to get up off the bench, and in the midst of clapping and loud gospel singing, I signaled to the family to follow me out.  When I got them out on the lawn, I explained who I was and why I had come to North Carolina.  They were pretty dumb-founded.  During follow-up visits my companion and I bore our hearts out over and over, but the Barriers had barriers.  Pretty common ones.  I wonder about them and sometimes pray for them.  Maybe they'll have another encounter with missionaries of some sort, or that Book of Mormon will glow on their bookcase someday.

I had incredible companions who taught me so much.  I learned so many things from the elders whom I respected and adored from afar.  I served for seven months with a senior couple, the Fishers, who changed me in dramatic ways.  They were so over the top wonderful.  I met members who inspired me.  I encountered people with barely grade school educations and people in the east who carried long credentials and were some of the brightest minds in medicine at Duke University.  I traipsed up mountain roads and down millionaire avenues.  I bore simple testimony to toothless grandmas rocking on rickety front porches with tobacco hanging to dry from the porch roofs and to groups of divinity students.  It was all the same truth, and on that truth I leaned every day.  My heart swells and my emotions run deep when I remember my mission.  It shaped my story for the rest of my life.

(President Charles Alexander family)

(my family when I returned, Christmas 1975)


(tight-roping on a billboard we put up)

Sisters Olsen, Green and Bateman--Lake Junaluska)

                                                                        (Elder Byron Fisher from Orderville, UT)

(meeting house in Marian)

(Sister Olsen, Clyde)

(with Grandma Holowell)





Our Pearls of Great Price 

  
1.  Willing to learn
2.  Open-minded
3.  Get along well with others
4.  Have novel ideas
5.  Have the guts to do them!
6.  Listening ear
7.  Don't live for the future, but for the moment
8.  Have goals
9.  Good taste
10. Tactful and concerned for others
11. Live within our means
12. Don't like to borrow money
13. Do our best work at night
14. Live colorful lives
15. Accept people for what they are
16. Are good company
17. Don't condemn
18. Always put our best foot forward
19. Happy!
20. Good listeners
21. Make and keep promises
22. Good colorers
23. Musical
24. Can be serious as well as light-hearted and funny
25. Accept collect phone calls
26. Patient
27. Like to travel
28. Respect for authority
29. Our present is a result of understanding our past and anticipating our future!
30. Treat each day freshly
31. Listen to counsel of those above us
32. Willing to sacrifice
33. Not out to compete with people--only ourselves
34. Capable of having a good spiritual experience and then recovering back into normal life
35. Anticipate the best out of every situation (refer to our P's of G.P.)
36. Even tempered
37. Expect more of ourselves than we now are
38. Understand our origin and destiny
39. Give freely
40. Seek helpful advice and knowledge from experts in their fields
41. Don't dwell on the past
42. Contemplate things before we commit ourselves
43. Uphold good traditions
44. Glory in the success of others
45. Like to pray
46. Enjoy games and childhood things
47. Can endure pain and hardships
48. Have a wide variety of interests
49. Can give massages
50. Have a nose for bargains
51. Dress quickly
52. Good record keepers
53. Understand the need for human individuality
54. Appreciate beauty
55. Generous
56. Don't spend money on vain things
57. Very perceptive
58. Good cooks
59. Have pull with people in high places
60. Well-rounded--enjoy all kinds of music
61. Seek the finer things in life
62. Like animals
63. Love sports and outdoor activities
64. Good value system
65. Do the Lord's work always
66. Refreshingly naiive
67. Know the scriptures
68. Are the same type of person consistently
69. Good organizers
70. Have success committments
71. Very creative
72. Don't want to be average--Hiss!  Boo!
73. Content within our realm
74. Possess green thumbs
75. Have good driving records
76. Adequate sewing abilities
77. Learning homemaking skills
78. Well-versed in subjects of the day
79. Frugal
80. Cordial--can meet and talk to people easily
81. Gracious hostessing is a talent of ours!
82. Can adapt to any situation--casual or dignified
83. Can hold our own in any conversation
84. Love kids
85. Desire to be the best mothers
86. Desire for self-improvement
87. Appreciative
88. Have potential for leadership
89. Humble!!!
90. We are NOT perfect, but we are aware that we possess that potential
91. WE ARE REAL
92. Artistic
93. Optimistic, don't get depressed easily
94. Honest with others
95. Modest
96. Spontaneous
97. Able to make something out of nothing (note: refer to #'s 1-155)
98. Forgiving
99. Adorn ourselves simply
100. Life-time missionaries
101. Like to study...zzzzzzzzzzzzz
102. Have noble desires
103. Love life
104. Understand our role as women and have no desire to rise above it
105. Enthusiastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
106. Loyal
107. Thrifty
108. Clean, neat and tidy
109. Don't complain or nag
110. Lovers NOT fighters!!
111. Warm and affectionate
112. Are capturing the art of Southern hospitality
113. Great love for family and friends
114. We let people know how we feel
115. We are very much individuals
116. Workers, not drones
117. Health conscious
118. We live the commandments
119. Clean thoughts
120. We seek riches only to further our brethren (no clue what this meant)
121. Cultured--seek good entertainment
122. Doers of the word, not hearers only
123. Sense of humor--can yuck it up!
124. Desire for education--soon to be college graduates
125. Love books
126. Down to earth
127. Deep thinkers--SHALLOW thoughts NEVER!
128. Have a wide variety of friends
129. Clever
130. Confident
131. High-spirited.  Sheesh!!
132. Great pals
133. Not demanding
134. Determination of a salesman
135. Faithful
136. Determinidly independent in our realm
137. Sentimental
138. Not jealous
139. Expressive
140. Admire people in high places
141. Not argumentative
142. Fair
143. Not collectors of junk
144. Have respect for wisdom and age
145. Own business minders
146. Ego builders!
147. Sensible, for the most part
148. Like perfection but not overly so
149. Emily post or Post Graduates!
150. Know first aid
151. A Man's Woman!!!
152. People can relax around us
153. Remember others' special occasions
154. Learning self control
155. WELL-ROUNDED, WHICH INCLUDES HOUSEWIFE, MOTHER, PSYCHOLOGIST, FRIEND, LOVER, NEIGHBOR, FINANCIER, ETERNAL PARTNER, YOU NAME IT ETC. ETC. ETC.!!!!!!!

Being of sound mind (#64, #71, #123, #127, #147) and happy countenance (#19),
we, the undersigned, do herby submit this document for the world to view, 
testifying to its truthfulness and authenticity, being compiled
with blunt frankness and unwavering virtue, save only slight
elasticity of facts due to our own inability to perceive without
prejudice.

"And when ye shall receive these things, (if by a stroke of luck you do) 
remember that TRUTH is knowledge of things in the Past, Present,
and FUTURE.  Therefore, forget them not, neither tarry, but seek to publish these tidings of
GREAT joy...Pass it on!

August 1, 1974 A.D.


C.J.:  Rt. 1 Box 135
         Askov, Minn.  55704

M.T.: 151 Canyon Rd.
          Montpelier, Ida. 83254

(This was written by my companion and me.  She was due to go home.  We wanted some sort of unique "calling card" for her.  Our humility is displayed quite obviously here...)


(with Sister Fisher at Hickory District Conference)

(Durham)

(with Marta and Colettes in Pinehurst)

(Durham)

(Marian)

(Elder Schmutz in the middle just got sustained as a general authority)

Pearson family, Marian)

(Sister Andersen, Kinston)

MY FAVORITES!  George and Bibbi, Durham)

(Aunt Kate, Marian)

(Sister Flandro--now on a mission in Chile--Durham)

(President Alexander, Elder Nelson)

(Sister Olsen, Clyde)

(Sisters Burton and Johnsen, Southern Pines)

(Sister Olsen, Orin and Violet Hall.  Love these people!)

(Clyde)

(Elder Dunn, Southern Pines, 4th of July Parade)



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