Although she would have loved to have an in-person experience at the Missionary Training Center, Sister Tess Jones said Heavenly Father had a different plan for her as a missionary serving during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was difficult to miss out on traditional missionary experiences, she said, but she could see the miracles accomplished despite the changes.
“I totally see why Heavenly Father needed that to happen. ... I wouldn’t take that back, knowing what Heavenly Father needed.”
After she completed the MTC online, she said she was released for a month while she was preparing to go out and serve. “There was certain family members I got to build really good relationships with who lived far away but came for that month.”
She said another reason she felt Heavenly Father needed her to do the MTC from home is it helped her prepare for being inside a lot when she first arrived at her original assignment in Texas.
Sister Richmond, from Arizona, said she has been serving her mission in Laie for seven months, although her original calling was to Leeds, England.
Sister Jones, from Washington State, has been serving for 11 months in both Dallas, Texas and Laie. Both sisters attended the MTC online from their own homes.
Strength to serve
For Sister Sadie Richmond, she said serving a mission was not something she planned on doing. In her first semester at Arizona State University, she said she felt lost in choosing which path to follow. After attending a stake conference that discussed missions, she said she “felt this ultimate peace when they started talking about missions.
“I’ve never felt the Spirit that strongly, and I knew I had to go on a mission after that experience.” She said it was the “most sure feeling” she had ever had and she finally felt sure of what path to choose. “I finally felt like I wasn’t so lost,” she shared.
Sister Richmond said she enjoyed doing home MTC because she was with her family while having a missionary experience si-multaneously. She also was able to postpone saying goodbye to her family.
“It was really nice for me because I really love my family and that was the hardest part about leaving on the mission.”
One challenge she faced was the long hours in front of a computer doing trainings and Zoom calls. With a smile, she said staying awake was a challenge because the learning and growing was intense. Sister Richmond compared the online MTC to online school.
While at BYU–Idaho, Sister Jones said she was not planning to serve but received a prompting to put her papers in. She said she was unsure if she could be the missionary Heavenly Father called her to be.
However, she said as she focused on developing good habits and communicated with the Lord. She said she received strength to serve. She developed these habits as a student instructor for a college success class at BYU–Idaho, she explained.
While there, she said she learned to pray before preparing the lesson to know what the students might need. Attending a missionary preparation class, she added, helped balance her life and develop Christlike attributes. Doing “Come Follow Me” with good friends also helped her receive strength to serve, she said.
Sister Jones suggested anyone who is considering serving a mission should do so. “Just get started. I prepared and put in my papers with only the slight knowledge that nothing else felt good for me. You will not regret serving the Lord,” she said.
Sister Richmond advised future missionaries to go with no expectations of what serving will be like. “Just learn to trust the Lord. He knows what’s best for you. ... He loves us and we should learn to recognize His hand in our life.” She said it is always possible to find little miracles in your life.
Being a missionary in Laie is different than what both sisters imagined. Sister Richmond said it is a very different mission because they do not proselyte. Instead, missionaries work is mainly on the temple grounds, in the visitor’s center, at the PCC and on Facebook. They also work with inactive and new members by teaching them and inviting them to come to church.
Sister Richmond shared serving a mission has allowed her to feel the unconditional love of Heavenly Father for her and the people around her. She said there was a time when she was feeling low about herself and turned to the Lord for help and guidance.
That difficult time, she said, was mostly due to anxiety. Ultimately, she said accepting she was not a perfect person because Heavenly Father didn’t expect her to be perfect helped her the most. “For me, what I realized is I am not a perfect missionary, and I am not a perfect person, but the Lord expects growth little by little.” She said slow growth is for everyone because “we have an eternity to grow.” No matter what the challenge, she said turning to the Lord will help.
“Pray to have the faith to recognize his hand in your life because He is there. Everything that happens in your life is done for your benefit, ... good or bad.”
Since she has decided to serve a mission, Sister Jones said her relationship with the Savior has changed for the better. Serving a mission has allowed her to understand the places she feels the Holy Ghost, she added, and allows her to be closer to Heavenly Father.
She urged others to, “Go find the areas where you feel the Spirit and then just build up from there.” She said seeking a relationship with God through prayer, scripture study and pondering in a holy place is helpful even if you can only do it for five or 10 minutes each day.