Chapter 3: A Piece of Peace

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The final day of my mission dawned to ominous rain clouds and distant rumbling thunder, and I knew this was the day I would finally see my family again.  All of them (including my 6-months pregnant sister-in-law) had driven to Omaha to spend a couple of weeks going to a major historical church site, Nauvoo, Illinois, and touring my mission.  It was a full day, that last day of being a missionary.  I had had most of my stuff packed for days, so I just had to finish rounding up a couple of odd objects, a toothbrush here, a nearly forgotten sock, and a couple other random items.  Once all my stuff was in my suitcases and giant plastic storage box my two companions and I (that happens sometimes) loaded it into the truck the mission had provided for us, and started the long drive from the charming Irish capital of Nebraska to the third-largest city in the state, Grand Island.  We had made the two-hour drive several times during our time together.  The rolling hills and vast fields of corn were all too familiar to us, and both my companions were asleep in no time leaving me, the driver, to my thoughts.

I would see my family in a matter of hours, after not having seen them except in pictures for just over two years.  I knew that my now-13 year old sister would look much different from the 11-year-old little girl I had left.  I had seen it in the pictures my mother had sent me.  She was maturing and turning into a young lady, no longer the girl I had known.  My older brother and his wife would be there, too.  I had never really met his wife before, despite the fact that we went to the same high school and graduated the same year.  It would be very interesting to meet her and my baby nephew she was carrying in her womb.  My little brother and my parents hadn’t changed too much visibly, but my brother had definitely changed, as he was now in high school.  Things were different from how I had left them two years before.  But my family will always be my family, and we will never stop loving each other.  I was excited for the chance to get to know all of them again.

It had stopped raining by the time we finally rolled into Grand Island.  The clouds, now fluffy and grey, let some rays of sunshine through their gaps, and were drifting gracefully over our heads.  We were the first ones waiting for the transfer van (my connecting ride to Omaha) at the large truck stop just off the freeway where we always met if we had to change areas on transfer days, which came every 6 weeks.  My companions woke up briefly but then continued their slumber as I pulled to a stop in the parking lot and turned off the truck.  Music played softly in the background as I lay back and closed my eyes for a moment.  Although I was much too nervous and excited to fall asleep, this quiet rest provided much-needed relaxation as I began to reflect on my mission.

It had been absolutely the worst two years of my life.  I suffered from high levels of depression and anxiety during most of it.  I had seen a psychologist for several months, but my visits with him left me feeling more like a worthless failure than an empowered missionary, and eventually I stopped trying to do anything he told me to.  When he realized that my meetings with the psychologist were no longer doing me any good, my mission president sent me to see a psychiatrist, who put me on medication to help with my problems.  Although the medication did help a little, I was still miserable and useless.  I spent most of my days in my bed, unable to summon the energy to do so much as eat anything or talk to anyone.  The days blurred together and I loathed my companions who tried to get me to go do any missionary work with them.  My bed was my only sanctuary; sleep was my only escape from the hell I was living.  Nothing mattered to me.  I didn’t care about much of anything, and dreaded each morning when I woke up, still a missionary.  I should have gone home.  I wanted to go home.  Yet, for some reason I stayed.  I stuck it out.

After several weeks of this torture, I finally snapped out of it a little bit.  I even began to slightly enjoy what I was doing and where I was.  Things got better, though there was always the nagging depression, and the weight of anxiety, and always bad days.  I made some good friends during this time, friends I still keep in contact with to this day.  Things were going okay, and for the first time, I felt like I almost belonged on a mission.  Almost.  Then I had my transfer from hell.

I got put into a new area for the last 6 weeks of my mission.  The first 3 of these weeks were absolutely the worst 3 weeks of my life.  I had just left a wonderful area with amazing people, and the best companion I could have asked for.  This new area, O’Neill, was small, dull, and boring.  Everything that could possibly go wrong did.  My companion and I hated each other and were always fighting about the stupidest things.  The area we were in was dead; no one was interested in the gospel we were trying so desperately to bring them.  The branch (a small local congregation) there was small, less than 10 members came to meetings regularly.  The missionaries before I got there had used up all of the allotted miles allowed on our truck for the month, and I got there on the 3rd.  We couldn’t drive, my companion complained every time we had to walk, and he didn’t have a bike.  I have never been a violent person, but there had been several times that I was so angry I had to lock myself in the bathroom for fear of what I might do to people and things around me.  It was an extremely emotional time for me, every morning was world war three for me as I readied myself for another miserable day.  Finally, after 3 weeks of this hell of all hells, my companion and I, unable to work together or barely even look at each other without flying off the handle, called our mission president and asked to be separated.  My companion got put in a new area, and Elder Kraft was sent to be with Elder Johnson and me.

Elder Kraft and I had very little in common.  He was what I considered to be a “typical guy.”  He ate, slept, and breathed sports.  Every time we had nothing to do he wanted to go play basketball.  He kept tabs on all the latest sports news, and screamed whenever he found out that one of his teams had won.  I hate sports.  Despite our differences, however, we were able to work together and do some good before I had to go home.  I even began to love the little town of O’Neill.

As I sat in the car on my journey to Omaha and then home, with the soft music playing, thinking about the two years of misery I had experienced I found, incredibly, that I didn’t regret any of this.  Would I go back and do it again? Never.  In fact, having to go back on my mission still haunts my worst nightmares today.  But I had done it.  I had stuck it out.  I had finished my entire two years for the Lord.  And, much to my surprise, I didn’t regret it.  It made me the person I am today.  Despite my struggles, I managed to learn a lot.  About myself.  About other people.  About life.  As I sat in that truck at that moment, everything felt right.  I was at peace.



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