My dad was not thrilled that I would be reporting to the Guatemala Missionary Training Center.
I was the first person in my family to serve a mission, and he was looking forward to the traditional Provo MTC send-off. Instead, he had to settle for seeing me off at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
I remember sitting anxiously at the gate, looking out the window at a beautiful sunset. I wondered when I would see a Phoenix sunset again. I expected to not see one for 18 months, but I ended up seeing one much sooner than that.
Approximately 1.5 percent of Latter-day Saint missionaries come home early due to health reasons, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The Church has more than 82,000 missionaries out in the mission field, meaning about 1,200 missionaries return early.
I was one of those 1,200.
I spent just over a month in the Guatemala MTC before returning home to my family. My illness was unforeseen, undiagnosable and untreatable.
I spent several months going from doctor to doctor. I was poked and prodded with more needles than I could count. The hundreds of tests I underwent were all inconclusive.
It was time to move on.
The only open door I saw was heading back to BYU-Idaho, so that’s what I did. My family was loving and supportive, but many well-intentioned friends did not understand.
“If you just had more faith, you could be healed,” they told me.
I truly believed that. Was it my fault I came home? Was this a punishment for lack of faith?
I knew I wasn’t a perfect missionary, and my faith definitely had its faults, was that why I came home?
I was a failure, a disappointment in God’s eyes. A leper cast out from the Savior’s presence. At least, that’s what the adversary wanted me to think. The Savior told us if we have faith like a mustard seed, we can move mountains.
Yes, our faith will be tested. We will be given mountains to climb and weather to cross. We will doubt our purpose, our divinity and the Lord’s plan and love for us. But if we can kneel down and say, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief,” he will carry us through it all. It’s not about my faith. It’s about my endurance.
Satan wants us to give up. He knows that enduring to the end will result in unequivocal joy, and he will do everything he can to keep us from obtaining that. He will make us doubt our self-worth. He will make us doubt God’s love for us. He will make us believe that we have failed.
My mission was not a failure. It may have been a surprise to me, but it was not a surprise to Heavenly Father.
After coming home, I knelt for hours at a time, begging Heavenly Father to send me back to Guatemala. I promised to push through the illness, I promised to talk to every person in the street, I promised to never sleep if it meant wearing my name tag again. I promised to fix my faith—the faith I believed had let Him down.
I wasn’t healed. But it wasn’t because I didn’t have enough faith, or that Heavenly Father didn’t love me. It was because I had more to learn with that trial — more to do with that trial.
Heavenly Father knows we will have questions. He knows we will struggle. Our faith is not the question. As we take on the trials God has given us, our faith will be added upon exponentially. That has been promised to us.
I have been home for over 19 months and I miss my mission every day. I have realized while those five weeks in Guatemala taught me more than I can express, it is the experience of coming home that has made me who I am today and I wouldn’t change that for the world.