From Soccer games to cross country meets, late night papers to guitar lessons, my parents have always been my biggest fans. I could see them in the stands cheering, they were at my side when I needed someone to edit my papers. They were a phone call away when I was in a different state attending college and needed to hear a friendly voice. They were there to hold my boys when each came into the world.
So when they told us of their decision to put their life on hold and serve a mission for our church, I knew loving and supporting them in their endeavours was the least I could do.
Early in July our entire family sat around a picnic table. Our annual camping trip is something we look forward to every year, but this time the air was thick with excitement and curiosity. For years my parents had planned, prepared, wondered about, and sacrificed for that moment, and here it was. The next two years of their lives waiting inside a large, white envelope. My parents opened the seal carefully and pulled out a thick packet. With a deep breath, my dad read.
“You are hearby called to serve as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Singapore Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months…”
(Choosing to serve a mission for our church typically means that you could serve anywhere in the world, and you don’t know beforehand where that may be.)
Singapore? My guess had been Arizona. Maybe Virginia. Canada was my wild guess, you know, something really out there. But Singapore? We were all shocked. Dad was holding the paper, and I could see his hand shaking. They might as well have been asked to fly to Mars. For 18 months they would live a 24 hour flight away, in an entirely different place than they had ever experienced. I call my mom frequently for questions about laundry and recipes, advice, and emotional support. Not only would they be gone for the next 18 months of their lives, but mine and my children’s –their grandchildren that they adore– as well. I immediately felt the pain I knew would come. I knew then more than ever I would miss them more than words.
But I felt peace.
In that moment I knew that this was right. They would be OK. I would be OK!
It has been a lifetime in the making. My parents are some of the purest examples of service I have ever seen. At the age of four I can vividly remember going to the nursing home up the road. I think her name was Mrs. Brooks, and her room smelled like old perfume and cats. She was wrinkly and sat in a wheelchair, and as we walked up the hall to her door, my mom would always whisper in my ear to remember to give her a hug when we walked in. I’d sit on her lap while my parents visited. It meant the world to her, and that was enough reason for my parents to keep going back. Their service has never been limited to visiting. It often includes manual labor, financial assistance, emotional help, and meals. Just a couple weeks ago my dad and a close friend of his spent two days (or more) helping a family in need with a plumbing issue, requiring digging, walking through sewage, and intensive labor. My parents’ devotion to their neighbors and the community has never been about being noticed or recognized, their service is simply an act of love.
The Singapore Mission includes parts of Malaysia, which we recently learned is where they will be, speaking some Malay, helping where needed. I truly believe they are needed in Malaysia. That they will serve the people there with just as much love and compassion as they have those in our small town for so many years.
My children might not get to play at the park or swim at the pool with their grandparents for 18 months, but they will get to see them sacrifice for something great. They will witness the devotion and love that my parents have for their Father in Heaven not just in word, but also in deed. My parents will serve and learn and grow, and share with us their experiences. The legacy of faith will be something that we, as a family, will always cherish. They will be in our thoughts and prayers more than ever before. What they will leave behind is something more powerful than we could express in words. It might not make much sense to the casual observer, but THAT is why I feel peace.
My parents will be boarding a plane next week, and while I will be praying for them, thinking of them, missing them, and wondering if there’s any way in the world we could fly the five of us the long 24 hours to see them, I will be thankful for their great example to my children and to myself of a lifetime of service and love.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)