When I was younger, probably around ten years old or so, I met a missionary that changed my life.
If I remember right, the missionaries were over at our house for my little sister’s birthday party. We adored her companion, who was fun and funny and maybe just a little but crazy. We were playing with some of the balloons and I bragged about how I’d read all the Harry Potter books over a dozen times. This amazing sister missionary looked at me and challenged me to read the Book of Mormon more times than I read Harry Potter.
At the time, I think the first four or five books were out. I remember trying to do the math in my head (and struggling because I’m really bad at math). Figuring that I’d read each about a dozen times, I panicked a little when I realized it meant that I needed to read the Book of Mormon 60 times before I caught up, and that was only if I stopped reading Harry Potter (not going to happen). So I was like, ha, not happening.
But that challenge changed my life. I couldn’t get her challenge out of my head. And so I got to work, occasionally adding more times that I needed to read it as new Harry Potter books came out or when I reread the old ones. And right before I left on my mission, I finished that challenge, and I’ve kept the times I’ve read the Book of Mormon ahead of Harry Potter or any other book ever since. This challenge helped me gain a conversion to the teachings of and a love for the Book of Mormon. That simple sentence changed my life forever because it helped me establish spiritual priorities.
That challenge was exactly what I personally needed. Most people would need something very different. But this inspired sister challenged me to something a little unusual, but completely needed.
I don’t know that sister missionary’s name. I can’t remember where she was from. All I can think of was that she had pretty long blonde hair. But she changed my life.
And you know what? She probably doesn’t even remember the little nerdy girl she talked to that day. For her, it was probably a simple thing that she never thought of again.
When I came home, I felt like my mission did nothing for the people I served. I felt like those seven and a half months had been awesome for me personally, but that I hadn’t helped a single person. I know many missionaries, whether they came home a day out or had two years, that have felt the same way.
I wonder if the missionary who gave me that challenge feels that way.
I wanted to share this because so often, we think our missions didn’t matter. Maybe no one got baptized or none of your investigators ever came to church or you were in the MTC when you came home and you feel like you didn’t ever influence someone for good. Maybe you struggled so much that you weren’t as an effective teacher as you wanted to be.
But you did matter. Your efforts matter! Sometimes when I’m writing these posts, I feel the Spirit overpower me with love for you, the people who read this with hurting hearts. And I can tell you that I know with all of my heart that this is true. Your mission mattered. My mission mattered. You did more good than you know. Your influence may have led someone to get baptized—or might still lead there in the future even if it has not happened yet. Or maybe your unique personality helped someone have more positive feelings for the church. Or maybe you gave a simple challenge that changed a little girl’s life and she stopped reading Harry Potter so much and went on to serve a mission herself because she learned to put the Lord first.
One more story. There was a sister missionary in my mission that I didn’t know very well, but I thought was incredible. She had served in my second area right before I did and trained my companion. One day at dinner with some members, the member mentioned a challenge that this sister had given them to think of the Atonement for five minutes a day. I took on that challenge and had incredible experience from it. All from a dinnertime challenge that impacted a member enough to tell me about it, then I had the opportunity to do it. And that sister likely never knew that her challenge that day made a difference in at least two lives.
In those times when you aren’t sure that the good you have done has blessed anyone or made any difference, I plead with you to remember that the Lord is aware of your unique sacrifices and efforts. Even if you never see the influence you had, Christ does. The Lord has a way of taking our smallest, humblest efforts and expanding them so that they have a huge impact. My brother told me in the MTC that “God can do mighty miracles, but He works with thousands of small ones.” Little words you said. Smiles you gave. Just being there. I promise you that there are people who have thanked God for sending you to them, maybe even because of a comment you never thought about again.
Your mission mattered. And it still does.