For anyone who has ever felt a twinge of disappointment or despair over their mission call, this one’s for you.
I was sitting in the San Francisco airport when my phone buzzed.
“Your mission call came,” the text message said.
Elation. After seven weeks of waiting, all that stood between me and Sister Buchanan was a connecting flight to Salt Lake and a shuttle to Rexburg.
The next 17 hours were filled with every emotion imaginable.
One moment I was drowning in my inadequacies, the next I was a pillar of faith. I contemplated all the incredible places I could be called to serve. I even prepared myself for the worst:
“I’m sure I would be happy if I got called to a place like … Wyoming, or Montana.”
While this thought left me worried with a big “what if,” I was positive I would be soon preaching the gospel on the cobble stone streets of Europe or the jungles of Brazil.
I got to my apartment at 2 a.m. on November 28, 2009. I was freezing, starving and exhausted. The trifecta. And anticipation was slowly starting to kill me.
Per my mother’s request, I woke her up so she could be on the phone with me when I opened my call.
I stood in my living room with my faithful roommate who waited up for me. Phone in one hand, mission call in the other, my freezing and trembling fingers ripped open the immortal white envelope.
You know that moment that everyone talks about when they open their mission call? You know, the one where they read “Dear Sister Buchanan, you are hereby called to serve…” and the spirit overcomes you and you start to cry because, oh-my-gosh you are a missionary!
That didn’t happen.
My eyes searched until they found what I really wanted to know.
Montana Billings Mission.
“What?!” I exclaimed on the phone to my mom.
“What? What’s the matter?” she asked in a groggy panic.
My heart sunk. They had a mission in Montana? I was sure this was a mistake. I couldn’t have been called there.
Where was that feeling of rightness everyone had told me about? It was not coming.
Not really knowing what to say, my Mom and I hung up.
I was suddenly furious. Montana? I got on my knees. I yelled at God. He was sending me here? I couldn’t believe it.
I took a shower. Cried. Went to bed.
Morning. Guilt. More prayer.
I got off my knees after thoroughly apologizing to the Lord for my reaction. But I still didn’t want to go to Montana. I was a city-loving-kind-of-gal and open fields, cattle and hunting season was not what I had in mind. How in the world was I supposed to connect with those people? We had nothing in common.
God kindly reminded me that “those people” were his children.
Filled with shame, I resigned myself to the inevitable fate of cowboys and meat and potatoes.
I went forward. It was the only thing I could do. I began to tell people I had received my call and tried not to mind when there was an obvious unimpressed inflection in their voice when they congratulated me on my call to Billings.
The weeks went by. I prepared. I prayed. February 10, 2010 came and I entered the MTC. I still didn’t want to go to Montana.
The MTC was incredible. It changed and prepared me for the greatest experience of my life. But I couldn’t ignore the feeling of impending doom when I thought of proselyting in Billings in a few short weeks.
Tuesday. Devotional. A member of the 70. Inspired.
He spoke about loving our mission. My district turned and looked at me. They knew my little secret.
He spoke of Ammon. Ammon was an incredible missionary because he became one of the people.
“Well, Ammon didn’t go to Montana,” I thought.
I studied Alma 17. I studied Ammon’s service as a missionary. I wanted to be just like him. I left the MTC. I sat on a plane flying to Billings on March 3.
I looked out the window. On our descent into Billings a sweet woman named DeLaine Ellis sitting next to me said this:
“I know it doesn’t look like much dear, but you’ll love it.”
She was right.
The dead, bare trees. The dirty snow. The overall brown look. It didn’t look like much at all.
“But think of its potential,” a still, small voice whispered to my heart.
Everything changed. I imagined it green, lush and thriving. I imagined spring. I imagined the faces of good people walking those dirty snow covered roads. I thought of the love God had for them. This place could be incredibly beautiful. Suddenly, it WAS incredibly beautiful.
My thoughts turned to myself and everything I was about to embark on. I wasn’t much of a missionary coming out of the MTC. I knew a few scriptures, I knew many truths. But I was as green as they came.
“But think of your potential,” that same voice whispered to me.
Chills. A lump formed in my throat. I promised myself I would love everything about my mission. I promised I would love everything about Montana.
And sweet DeLaine Ellis was right in every way. I did love Montana. I loved my mission more than I’ve ever loved anything. I would give anything to be sitting on a plane starting its decent into that dead, wintry town right now.
Spring came. The brown transformed into the most beautiful, lush green I have ever seen.
And just as winter transformed into spring, my pride transformed into gratitude. And not a day has gone by that I haven’t felt that same love for that sacred place: Montana.