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My husband has a fantasy of being called on a senior mission to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. I point out that he cannot snorkel or dive on such a mission, but the balmy breezes and tropical fruit are enough incentive for him. This is a bit like my childhood dream of being called on a mission to Disneyland. And we’ve all heard prospective missionaries who hope for an exciting foreign mission and the chance to learn another language.
But we all know that missions aren’t supposed to be like the free trips people win on game shows. They’re not foreign exchange student opportunities, nor are they language immersion cultural vacations. They aren’t to entertain us.
A mission is an actual call from the Lord, and the location is completely unimportant. It’s the specific people you’ll be meeting—it could be one particular investigator, or a certain companion, that you alone must meet. The reason could be to save them, or it could be to save you. But it’s about people, not travel brochures.
I have friends in the medical field whose dream mission was to serve as doctors and nurses in third world countries, and whose services have been invaluable. They have the right idea. The best mission could be in the last place you’d visit as a tourist. But it could be the pinnacle of your spiritual growth, and your opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of God’s children, every one of whom He wants home again.
And there are missions of all kinds, now—service missions, stay-at-home missions for those with health challenges, and missions of varying length for seniors. But my favorite mission—my dream mission—is the one I’m on right now.
Some might say it’s not an official calling, but when David O. McKay first spoke the famous words, “Every member a missionary,” I choose to see that as rather official. So I’ve amped up my boldness. I’ve written articles here in Meridian Magazine and in the Ensign, telling about some of the sweet experiences I’ve had, encountering total strangers who are searching for the truth. But these are moments anyone could have. You just have to dive in.
Two weeks ago my husband and I visited nearby San Francisco with some friends. While standing in line (there’s always a long line) at our favorite breakfast spot, I began chatting with the other people around us. There was a couple from Spain, and one from Germany. How easy it was to tell the first couple about our son, who went on an LDS mission to Argentina, and how much better his Spanish is now, than mine. We laughed together, we looked over menu items, we became momentary friends. And, being half German genetically, I felt a bit of kinship with the German woman, and shared a funny story about the one line of German I know, and how it got me into a pickle in Germany.
How easy it is to mention genealogy, Elder Uchtdorf who came from Germany, kids who’ve gone on European missions, children attending a church university, foods you like from that country and made for a ward event… there are a zillion ways to “change the conversation” and bring up the restored gospel.
Later I met a family from Manchester, England, and could tell them my dad’s family comes from Middlesborough. Even if you have no connection whatsoever to the strangers you meet, you can share countless areas of common ground— activities, kids, education, weather, movies, favorite cuisine—we are all so much more alike than we are different.
And if you keep a copy of the Book of Mormon on you (I always have a purse with a good pocket to protect it), you’re ready if their interest should progress. But just opening your mouth and being friendly has an amazing impact—because you’re willing to do God’s work, you feel immediately blessed. It’s the most fun you’ll have on your entire vacation, as your entire soul fills with joy. Even if all you do is let them know you’re LDS, they’ll see how enthusiastic and cheerful you are, and perhaps later might look into it, hoping they can have the level of happiness they saw in you.
Finally my husband and our friends agreed that I need to be called on a mission to the line at this restaurant. I can just see the call: “You have been called to the 300-square foot section of sidewalk in front of…” And I would love it. All day I would visit with people and think of ways to help them navigate San Francisco, enjoy their trip, and discover the gospel as well. In fact, I could do this anywhere there’s a line whatsoever. “Sister Hilton, you have been called to serve a Line Mission…”
Someday I may get a real calling to serve full time. But until then, I’m just jumping in and doing it at airports, in stadiums, wherever people are holding still. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. And you can’t help noticing a direct correlation to the peace and joy you feel, as well. You forget yourself and your own problems, and you realize you love the people around you. My dream mission is the one I’m on, and plan to stay on all my life.