Okay...to preface this, about 2 months ago, I was randomly contacted by a woman who is an artist. She was wanting to do a painting of missionary shoes, and wanted to use my shoes for her project. I sent them to her, along with this story that I wrote. It's a little long, but so perfectly emphasizes how I feel about my mission. It's been almost 3 years since I decided to go, 2 1/2 years (tomorrow) since I got my call, just over 27 months since I left, and in one week it will be 10 months since I got home. I think of the mission every day, and miss it dearly. I just got her e-mail with copies of the finished product, which I am including, along with my shoes' story.
There we were, one spring day sitting all nice and comfortable in our box. We still smelled like new leather and were perfectly content. Then, without warning, our box was opened and a young woman took us out and put us on. She kind of stuck her nose up when she saw us on her feet, because she was used to the cute flats and heels that she always wore. “But,” she said, “I’m going to need a pair of comfortable shoes so I can go out and do my best work.” “Perfect,” we thought, “We’re going to be used as work shoes. That is our worst nightmare!”
The young woman took us home, and started wearing us wherever she went. She said it was because she didn’t want to get blisters when she got on her mission. But what did that mean? What is a mission? We were soon going to find out. She also took great care to polish us, and condition the leather so we would always look our very best. We could tell that, even though she didn’t particularly care for the way we looked, she loved us and would always care for us.
Well, the day finally came when we would learn what a mission was. Early one July morning, long before the sun rose, the young woman arose and reverently slipped us on as she walked out the door. This was the day when she would leave everything behind for a time to go be a missionary. A few hours later, the young woman tearfully said goodbye to her family. She stepped out of the car and gave them all a hug, and then, we were all alone. Everyone started calling the young woman who wore us “Hermana.” What did that mean? We later learned that it meant that she was a missionary.
For two months, she walked around a campus with us on her feet. She sat in a classroom where the teachers would say things that Hermana didn’t always understand. As soon as she got back to her room at night, Hermana would kick us off of her feet…not because she didn’t love us, but because she was tired and ready to go to bed. But regularly, Hermana would take care to polish us and always make sure that we looked our very best. Finally, one night, Hermana pulled out our polish and made us shine! As she talked with the others, who were also called Hermana, we found out that we would soon be leaving this place for “the field.” Where was this field?
Early the next morning, Hermana quietly slipped us onto her feet and walked out into the dark and walked across the campus one last time. She climbed onto a bus with many other people, all of whom seemed nervous, and a little excited. A few hours later, we were stepping off of an airplane (we learned that Hermana didn’t much care for airplanes) into a strange place. We found out that this place was New Mexico, and where we would be spending the next while. It was hot! Hermana had some meetings, then we went outside and visited several people. Lots of them didn’t seem very happy to see Hermana and the others she was with. It made us sad, yet she still seemed to be happy, even though it was so hot outside
We soon learned that this is what missionary work was. Hermana did lots of walking in the hot sun, down dusty roads. We got very dirty. It was nothing like our nice, comfortable box that had long since been left behind. But, every night, before she went to bed, Hermana made sure that she at least dusted us off so that we looked clean, and she polished us before she went to church each Sunday so we would look our very best.
We had a lot of adventures with Hermana. She spent her days walking along the streets of various towns. Areas, we think she called them. She spent different amounts of time in each area; some long periods of time and others short periods of time. But Hermana always seemed happy.
Hermana did something really silly one morning. It was a day that they went to church. Hermana and her companion were running a bit late, so she hurriedly grabbed 2 shoes out of the closet and ran to the car. When she got out of the car, she looked down and realized that she only had one of us on. On her other foot she had one of our friends, but that friend was a brown shoe. Hermana was mortified that she had to go all day wearing two different colored shoes. But we thought it was funny.
Another day, we walked to a woman’s house to go visit her. It wasn’t a very long walk, but it was down a dirt road. Hermana and her companions had a nice visit with the woman, and when they got ready to leave, the nice woman asked Hermana and her companions if they would like a bottle of water for the walk. They asked her how she knew that they were walking. She told them it was because their shoes were filthy! We already knew that we were dirty, but Hermana and her companions were kind of embarrassed that someone had noticed their dirty shoes. If we remember correctly, we got a nice polishing that night…
We still remember one night that was kind of scary. It was late at night, and kind of cold. Hermana had thought about wearing her boots that morning, but decided that it would be more comfortable to put us on instead. We wish she had put on her boots because of what happened. Hermana and her companions were going to visit a family. They didn’t usually go to this house after dark, because they had a big, scary dog. But, Hermana called the family and asked them to make sure the dog was locked up so they could go in. When the family told them the dog was locked up, Hermana’s companions walked in the gate and up the stairs. Hermana was last, so she shut the gate. As she was walking up the stairs, something so scary happened! The dog somehow got out and started running toward Hermana. Being nothing more than a pair of shoes, we couldn’t warn her, and the dog jumped on her and bit her leg! Hermana was so brave! It must have hurt when that big dog bit her and ripped a piece out of her leg, but all that Hermana said was that she would have been really mad if the dog had ripped her skirt. She was so forgiving to that dog!
Shortly after that event, Hermana told her companions about something that her family does for Christmas each year. Each year they take a picture of their shoes under the Christmas tree so they can see how much each person has grown each year. Hermana thought that would be fun to do to see how her shoes look with her companions’ shoes each year, so we took a picture. We looked so pretty underneath the tree, freshly polished, with Hermana’s name tag lying on top of us. One Sunday morning, Hermana and her companions woke up super excited. We weren’t quite sure why, but we could tell it was going to be an extra-special day. They went to church, but it wasn’t where they usually had church. And there were a lot more people in that meeting than were usually at church. When we got to the meeting, we found out that it was because a new branch was going to be created. We had learned that a branch is an organization of the church in the geographical area. But this branch was special, because it was the first one for people who speak Spanish in that area. There were a lot of people who were so happy and who felt that this was such a special blessing.
Not very long after that special day, Hermana received a call that she was going to be transferred to a new area. She seemed sad to be leaving. We had been here in the same place for a long time, and she loved so many of the people. The days before she left were spent saying goodbye. It was hard for her to make those visits and say goodbye. But, she did seem excited for her next adventure. We could tell that she felt at peace with this transfer. On the day that she was transferred, she drove to Colorado. Hermana said that it reminded her a lot of home, because there were lots of farms and mountains. She was happy to be there and to meet new people.
In this area, Hermana did lots of walking in trailer parks. She seemed to enjoy that. She always had a smile on her face as she talked to these people who she said were so sweet. Of course, walking in the trailer parks that just had dirt roads, we got really dirty, but we didn’t mind anymore. We had learned that missionary work is so important to Hermana, so we are more than happy to help. After Hermana was in Colorado, she went to Santa Fe. It was really pretty and green in Santa Fe. Just a few days after we got there it was Hermana’s birthday. Her mom sent her a pretty new skirt. There was a special meeting for the missionaries that day. Hermana played the piano for that meeting and it sounded so pretty. After the meeting, Hermana and her companion walked and visited more people to share the special message that they have about Christ. It was sad that more people didn’t want to listen.
Hermana didn’t stay in Santa Fe for very long—only one transfer. She got a phone call early one Saturday morning telling her that she would be leaving the following Tuesday to go to El Paso and train a new missionary who was coming. We remember that she was very scared. And she was sad. All day long people kept asking her if she was okay because she looked sad, but she couldn’t tell anyone that she was leaving yet. That night, Hermana and her companion went to a baptism of some people they taught. Hermana played the piano, and it was hard for her to not cry. But she didn’t want the people to know there was anything wrong when she gave the talk that the sisters being baptized asked her to give.
Hermana was scared to go to El Paso. It wasn’t because of the location, but rather the fact that she didn’t know anything about the area and that she would have a brand new missionary to teach. But she decided that she was going to be happy and go out and work as always. The first day that Hermana and her new companion went out to talk to people it was so hot! And there weren’t very many people at home. Hermana and her new companion were a little down, but they soon found lots of people to teach and lots of work to do.
There were lots of cockroaches in the apartment where Hermana lived in El Paso. She and her companions just laughed at that…after they got used to the idea that there were cockroaches. They kept a can of Raid close so they could kill the cockroaches. One day, Hermana opened a door and one fell on her head. It startled her, but it made her laugh. That was another experience that they were able to add to their list of “cockroach encounters.”
Hermana really loved her time in El Paso. She was able to train another missionary during that time. This new missionary had so much energy. Hermana kept saying that it was a good thing, because her time as a missionary was growing short and it kept her feeling young. Hermana and this new missionary were able to visit and help lots of people learn about the Savior. It made her so happy to be able to share that message with people.
When the call came with news of where the missionaries would be for Hermana’s last transfer, she and her companion were surprised to learn that they would have a third companion. Hermana was excited! This would mean three missionaries at Christmas again, and three pair of shoes in front of the Christmas tree. Speaking of shoes in front of the Christmas tree…Hermana didn’t realize until she placed us underneath the tree next to the shoes of her companions how beat up we were starting to look. During her mission, she tried really hard to take good care of us. But when you’re out working as hard as she was, you can’t expect shoes to stay looking new. And you know, we couldn’t be happier to have had this opportunity to help her with her work, even if it does mean that we don’t look very pretty anymore.
Right after New Years, all of the sister missionaries went to Albuquerque for a special conference. Hermana was so excited to go and be able to see her missionary friends before she went home. She was able to take pictures with all of them and remember some good times they all had. But Hermana was sad. It was the last time she would see most of them as a missionary. And she was asked to share her departing testimony with the other sisters. That made her cry as she remembered all of the wonderful experiences that she had while she was on her mission.
The next night, Hermana got a letter from the mission office. As soon as she saw what it was she started to cry. It was what she called her “trunky papers.” Her flight plans and instructions for going home were in the envelope. She said that it really hit her that the end was near when she opened that envelope. Her companions both took her in their arms and hugged her. Hermana was really grateful for them and their love.
The next week, just one week before Hermana was supposed to go home, she and her companions were at the church one night when their phone rang. It was the mission president. He told Hermana that another sister had been attacked by a dog, and that he wanted her to leave her area a week early and go help that sister’s companion work again. Hermana was shocked. She hurried to say goodbye to a few people before they had to be in for the night. When she got home, Hermana started to pack. She was very sad. And scared. But she said that she felt peace.
On the last Saturday of Hermana’s mission, she went out with the sister she was with and had one last day of walking and knocking on doors. Hermana said that she felt like she had to talk to as many people as she could and share the message because she didn’t have much time left as a missionary. That made her really sad. The night before she left to return to Albuquerque, the other missionaries let her share the last message. It meant a lot to her to be able to share that message—one last message as a missionary. She had tears in her eyes, but a smile on her face as she shared her testimony of the Savior.
Finally, the day that Hermana thought would never come came. It was the day that she would go home. She was sad to be leaving the mission, that she wasn’t going to be a missionary any more. But she was so excited to see her family again. 18 months is a very long time to not see your family. As she said goodbye to her mission president, she turned around with a smile on her face knowing that she did all that she could. And she got on the airplane with the other missionaries. They all were so excited, looking out the windows. Hermana had a huge smile on her face. When they got to Salt Lake, Hermana said goodbye to all of the missionaries. Some of them were done with their trip, others had different flights to catch. But Hermana was all alone for the first time in 18 months. She tried to smile, but it was hard. It was really weird to be completely alone. When she got to where she was going to wait for her plane, she turned around and saw the familiar face of her Stake President from home. She was so happy to see him and to not be alone. That made her feel more comfortable. She talked to him until it was time to get on her plane to go home.
We will never forget that last flight. Hermana was so excited that her legs were bouncing up and down the whole way. That made us feel kind of dizzy. As they got closer to home, Hermana leaned toward the window and looked out at the things that were so familiar to her. She whispered over and over to herself, “I’m home!” The plane couldn’t land fast enough for Hermana. As soon as she could stand up, she grabbed her coat and her bag, and silently pleaded for the other people to move faster. Finally, she was able to get off of the plane. She walked as fast as she could to the escalators. She took a deep breath, and looked down. At the bottom of the escalator and through a glass door was her family waiting. Hermana started to cry. It was so good for her to see them again. As she got to the bottom of the escalator, Hermana started to run. She was pulling a suitcase behind her, and it wobbled and thumped down the last few steps. But Hermana didn’t care. As soon as she got to her mother, she dropped her suitcase and hugged her, and held on tight. And held on tight to her dad, each of her siblings, and her grandparents as well. She was so happy to be home.
That night, Hermana reported her mission to the Stake High Council. And she was released. As she walked out of that room, she tearfully pulled the name tag from her coat and stumbled through her tears. She was so sad to not be a missionary anymore.
Hermana worked hard as a missionary. And she says that every time she looks at us with our scuffs and worn-down soles that she remembers the many wonderful experiences that she had as a missionary. And we are so grateful to have been able to be a part of her mission.