Usually, full-time missionary service gives one a perfect excuse to completely forget the outside world.
Not this one. The past two weeks have reminded me that I’m still a person, and I still live here on earth. Sometimes, missionaries tend to think that we’re living in a dream, and after this 18-24 month dream, we go back to the “real” world. But as Elder Holland says, “Your mission is real life. You should never be normal again.”
I’ve seen ward members, cousins and friends here on my mission, just because of the location we’re at. We always get asked the question, “doesn’t that distract you from the work?” Well, if I let it, absolutely it could! The beauty of it, however, is that I use it to make me stronger. These people know me from home, from my old self, and now they’re seeing me at the most spiritual high that I’ve ever been. I could go back home and pretend none of this even happened, I could easily fall back into my old self, and my mission experience would have been a waste. But seeing these people from my “old” life, in my “new” life, forces me to incorporate the two lives together. I’ll forever be Sister Hawkes, but starting in a few months, most everyone will just call me Monica. This mission has just given me the training wheels to know how who to be.
I also have no room to be rude–ever–now, and in the future. Number one, because of the name(s) on my name tag. (Number two, because I try not to be a rude person anyway.) The two names I wear over my heart each day are Sister Hawkes, and Jesus Christ. The latter, obviously important, because I’m a representative of Jesus Christ. I am required to live chapter six of Preach My Gospel (Christlike Attributes) every single day. But with my Hawkes name, it gets recognized quite a few times. I think I’ve talked to about fifty of my dad’s patients this year alone! In fact, sometimes it’s not even the name. Yesterday, while working at the Book of Mormon Publication site, a woman walked in and said, “Are you related to Janet Wells, (usually, I get Sharlene) because you just look like a Wells to me! You’ve got to be one of their daughters!” Experiences like that remind me that I can’t “have a bad day.” I’ve got to always be on top of my game, regardless of what’s going on in my head. I’ve even noticed that the church is run on men who are exhausted, but led by a Savior who has already overcome it for all of us. In Luke 9, I know the Savior was completely exhausted, and probably just wanted ten minutes to Himself to regroup. But look at what happened:
“And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing. And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. But He said unto them, Give ye them to eat…” -Luke 9:10-13
I’ve identified with that passage in more ways than one the past couple weeks. Pageant came and went really quickly. The cast worked so hard, on stage and off, to be the best examples of the light of Christ. We had so much success when we forgot out about ourselves. And not just while proselyting in the bowl! I’m not sure if you all have seen Deseret News lately, but the man who plays Abinadi has a fascinating story about how his journey to Hill Cumorah. Parry Winder, or “PeeWee,” as they call him, worked as a fighter pilot and a test pilot for the Air Force. He’s been in test planes where 43 different things have gone wrong, including losing an engine and going subsonic straight towards the ground at Hill Air Force Base. He’s even seen all of the four corners of the earth, all while serving our country. However, in October, right after he and his wife applied to be in Pageant 2013, he was in a horrific car accident that left him with a broken back, never ending pain, nerve damage throughout his body…you get the idea. He couldn’t tolerate light or noise and it left him basically paralyzed. He received a priesthood blessing that specifically told him, “there would be a time that you will have relief.” He went on through the months, still determined to participate in the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Turns out, his son is an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN that could get him a front row seat. After much testing, poking, prying, and skipping waiting lines that were years long (literally), he got a small computer implant in his back that goes straight to his brain in just five days. Long story short, he healed more than just enough to run up and down the stairs on the ancient Mayan temple stages, and (pretend) to burn to death. “I’ve got the best seat in the house,” he said, “I see what Alma looks like, what King Noah looks like…I will never read the Book of Mormon the same again.” But PeeWee also gave us his testimony he’s been molding since his piloting days, “As a fellow warrior, I’ve been on the tip of the sword a lot. I know these guys felt like I did. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to try.”
My Pageant stories don’t stop there…I wish I could go into more detail. I’ve met so many incredible people, including a man who passed his “friends” at the anti-booths to walk in and see what it’s really like. “Sister Hawkes, I used to be one of them,” he told me as he pointed beyond the gate, almost with tears in his eyes. “But I need to come here to see who you really are. You do it right. You really are servants of Christ.”
Miracles are born all the time, and it just takes some time to stop and recognize them. Your character is defined on how much you give credit to God every single day for those little moments. Even though these past two weeks took a lot out of me, I am positive I got more out of it than anyone else.