When I was 22 I attended the *mission farewell for one of my best girlfriends who was leaving on a mission. I had a great job I loved at the BYU Bookstore Sports Department, was almost ready to graduate from BYU and had been dating Shane already for a couple of years. As I sat there in the congregation as my friend spoke I had the feeling I should serve a mission. It wasn’t until that moment I recalled how, as a brand new 8-year-old I had enthusiastically exclaimed to my bishop: “And when I am 19 I am going to serve a mission!” I also remember feeling totally deflated when he told me “Girls can’t go until they’re 21.” And the thought completely left me until that day.
Once I made the decision I had my **papers in within just a couple of weeks and received a call to serve in the Belgium Brussells Mission. As I prepared to go and to leave my job, my boss called me in and mentioned to me that he would like to help support me on my mission. He committed to $25 a month towards my mission for the 18 months I would serve. It was a generous gift from a good man I had come to think of as family to me and I appreciated both his love and his support. I knew it wasn’t likely I could ever pay him back, but I hoped to be able to pay it forward someday.
About this time last year my friend Rachiel came to our house. “I finally got my answer!” she exclaimed. Rachiel had wanted to serve a mission, but also had a serious boyfriend to whom she was practically engaged. The (previous) “21″ age requirement had come and gone. She had been back and forth over her decision for the past year and had never felt completely sure of her choice. But just like that she had received the answer for which she had been waiting and she too submitted her papers in just a matter of a couple of weeks. Rachiel had been supporting herself through school and would be paying for her mission as well and at one point was planning her availability date around when she would have enough money to be able to go.
All at once I had the feeling that this was the opportunity for which I had been waiting. I made the same offer to Rachiel that my previous boss had made to me, in the hopes it would allow her to leave earlier rather than later. The timing was perfect–we had been paying for half of our sons’ missions for nearly four years, but she would leave just the month before Zack would return. Rachiel graciously accepted my offer. Some twenty-five years later I finally had the opportunity to pay forward the kindness that had been extended to me. It is a small and simple gift, but it does my heart good. I hope at some point I will find another opportunity to pay it forward again.
The true gift came from Rachiel, however, not from me. In the months before she left on her mission to Peru, Rachiel, a CNA, was hired by my mother to help provide care for my elderly grandmother. Rachiel loved and served my grandmother in so many ways that touched my heart–touched all our hearts. She loved my grandmother as her own and was a comfort and companion to my grandmother in her final days. One of my favorite stories, which I did not see for myself, but which I can see and feel in my heart as if I had, is of the time my mother arrived to find Rachiel curled up next to my Grandmother on her bed reading her the scriptures. My grandmother had mentioned that she could no longer read them due to her eyesight and that she missed that. So Rachiel was reading from the Book of Mormon to my grandmother. I know Rachiel’s heart and I love that she has this opportunity to share her loving heart and the testimony of Jesus Christ that is written upon it with the people of Peru.
*meeting at which a missionary who is leaving speaks in church (more correctly know as “that meeting formerly known as a farewell.”)
*application papers one submits when one decides to serve a full-time mission, which includes clearances by doctors, dentists and ecclesiastical leaders