Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Comin' Home..

This is taking every ounce of my courage to post this for some reason. This isn't easy for me. 
But...I feel strongly that this can help someone else. I didn't realize the percentage statistics of missionaries who come home early until today. This post is for them. %%%

-So I got up that morning, (without much sleep in my system, I mean, how can you sleep when all this is happening??) we picked up the Panorama Heights Sisters and drove, faster than I would have liked to the mission home...well, but then again I had a plane to catch. President was waiting. I snapped one last picture of the Sandias and kept the tears back as best as I could. Which was, not. "This. Isn't. Happening. At least.. Not. To. Me. This happens to other missionaries, but not to me."  Reality hit me hard, as real as the pain I'd been feeling for months now. I was actually getting on a plane. A plane to Idaho. Suddenly I hated Idaho. It was the most ironic thought that's probably ever entered my mind. That I could actually hate Idaho...Home. My home. Let it be known to all now...I'm proud of Idaho. I am a country girl and ask any one of my companions and they'll tell you how much I love being from that potato growing, hard working, humble community of a place. But all of a sudden I disliked every bit of that place. I wasn't ready. One question that we often plague ourselves with as imperfect human beings, kept running through my mind that morning. The classic "Why me?" "...What have I done to deserve this? I have tried all my life to be good, why has this happened to me? If I had done something different? If I had been more righteous maybe? Does the promise of Ephraim not apply to me anymore?
You see, I thought I had tried. Tried real hard. But it hadn't been enough.

The thoughts start hitting you then at rapid speed. Almost more than you can handle at first. Your minds on fire. You start thinking things like, "What will my family think? What will my friends think? What will my stake president and my bishop think about all of this? I just can't show my face on Sunday to the ward. Will anybody understand? This is going to ruin my whole dream of a nice homecoming. (I guarantee at some point, every missionary has thought about that day getting on the plane and rushing into their family's arms). But it's not supposed to happen yet. Not like this. This feels all wrong now. I might have to have surgery...I hate surgery. Will I get to come back? How can I just leave my companion...we've been struggling in this area as it is. Not exactly the best send off. This just had to happen RIGHT NOW?! Seriously Father...GREAT timing. What about all these sweet sisters? I'm supposed to be taking care of them. And why on earth will they not let me extend? They used to do that all the time! I feel like I've been sick my entire mission. Why is God letting this happen? This. Is. NOT. Fair.

Then again, when is life E.V.E.R. fair?

You feel sad and then angry. And then sad again...and then angry...again and again. It's one big cycle.
And then you just feel guilty. Guilt. Guilt becomes the new out-breaking epidemic to your life. And would you like to know who's behind it all? You guessed it. Satan. He hates missionaries. If you've ever served a full-time mission you know this. He comes at you with every day, every success, every baptism. He hates you and he hates those wonderful people you teach. But with the shield of faith you can win. You're endowed with power and you're set apart from the world to teach. God never leaves you alone in this work. The Savior works hand in hand with His missionaries. He loves you so much. He will always pull through for you. It's His vineyard and you work for Him.
But all of a sudden the tag is coming off. I'm not officially working for Him anymore. "No. No. No. I'm NOT this strong. I absolutely love my mission. I have wanted to serve for soooo long now. It's never even crossed my mind that this situation could be a possibility. I have been serving in the best mission in the world (every missionary should say this)!! I love getting up every morning and putting this tag over my heart. I love all of these missionaries here. I love being a missionary. Being His servant. Am I now failing Him?"

"Pain and illness, can test the best of us."

If I have learned anything from this experience it is definitely empathy. Empathy for every missionary who has had to come home, whether it is because of rule infractions, health issues or emotional struggles. I feel for them more deeply then I ever would have before. In fact, I hate to admit this but I have always judged missionaries who come home early or those who don't even decide to go in the first place. Missions are hard. But in my mind it didn't matter how hard it gets out there, you just stick it out. But after having served for over 10 months my perspective has shifted just a tad bit. Having a healthy mentality is crucial if you are to serve a mission.

This article from Deseret News may help you to understand better.
Missionaries Struggling to Manage Stress
"Let's say you are someone who can handle a stress level of seven, and you live your life at a stress level of six by going to your room and listening to your iPod or going to the gym or playing Xbox or whatever you do to handle stress." "Then you add a new stress or rigor to your life. How many kids have worked a 13-hour day? They get above a level seven, and they don't know how to get back to a six."

I'll be the first to say that some days are just plain hard. It gets pretty stressful. And everyone is different and we all handle stress so differently. As a Sister Training Leader I saw sisters go home for a multitude of reasons. It was always so heartbreaking for me to see. However I also saw Elders and Sisters who stayed and worked hard despite their personal challenges.
These missionaries are my heroes.
I love them for having the strength and stamina to trust in the Lord and continue in His service. And even with sometimes having to deal with severe tragedy like a death in the family. It is no easy task. I lost my own sweet grandfather after only being out for 3 weeks, still in the MTC. I can specifically remember one particular Elder who's mother passed away right before his mission. He was one of the happiest and hardest working missionaries I knew out there. Some people can handle things well. Others, not so much. Tragedy. It's a shock to the system as it is, but out in the field, stinks. It can take quite a toll on a full-time missionary who is subject to severe and constant change and is having to deal with everything all new and at fast speed. A mission will stretch you emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, with everything else in between. The big 4 necessary keys to surviving. That's why being positive and cheerful is a must. If not, then you will endure your mission rather than enjoy it. Not every missionary who comes home, comes home for the right reasons. However, my empathy has deepened for them of what they go through.

Ok. Off the soap box.

There IS a happy

 to this story.

All those above questions...answered. Well, most of them.

-We got to the mission office and the outpouring of love began. From both God's earthly angels and His angels unseen. My sweet Mission President and his dear wife who had become parent-like figures to me those last several hard-working months couldn't have been kinder. The members I had been living with were incredible as well. Sister Laws took my face in her hands and said, "You, Sister Silva, are braver than you think." My eyes rarely were empty of tears the rest of that day. I made my farewells to those who I had grown to love so much. Including my companion.
Drove to the airport. Checked in luggage. Printed boarding pass. Told President I absolutely hated this. He told me to instead, positively envision him picking me up in a few short months. Walked down the terminal, waving my last goodbyes and boarded one of the worst flights of my life (no matter how smooth and lacking in turbulence it was). I wasn't going to be wearing the tag for much longer. Didn't feel much like eating anything so instead of stopping for lunch in between flights I decided to give out all my pass-along cards. The well-developed inner missionary in me talked to everyone I could in the airport and on board the next two flights. God gave me that day, more spiritual experiences then I could have ever asked for on a usual given day. One particular stewardess I met sat in the back with me and she and I became good friends as we talked about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There was only a few weeks until Christmas (talk about bittersweet) and so as I turned to leave I stopped the stewardess and said, "This is the best gift that I can give you for Christmas." I explained the card and the website and told her there was a number on back to call if she had any questions. I will never forget the look in her eyes as I exited that plane. She had felt something. Something familiar. I love that look. I wanted to cry from joy and cry from anguish all at the same time as I would not be doing this on a regular basis anymore.
Flying into Twin Falls through heavy snow was terrible. One lady was so happy for me as we landed saying, "Oh look! We have a missionary on board who's coming home. How fun. I can't wait to see you reunite with your family!" I think I would have probably corrected her if it hadn't been for the cry threatening to burst from my tangled-up throat. But this is where I really started to feel God's love for me. The confirmation that I was to come home at this time in my life from perhaps the best decision I had ever made came a full 100% before I even walked down the plane's stairs. I can honestly say a FULL 100%. Not that I had all the answers in front of me or anything. No angel had appeared and explained the reason for all this. I just knew that this was part of His specific plan for me. I don't think I could have handled coming home without that blessed confirmation delivered to me by the Spirit. I had pondered my scriptures and various general conference addresses all day long and had decided to read my Patriarchal Blessing right before we had landed. The revelation that came from what I read didn't stop every pain and every fear I was feeling but the comfort most certainly came. God's hand was not stayed. He had been with me all day. Angels surrounded me. I felt it. This was only a small moment in time. I was to triumph over all foes. "To be victorious." I was a daughter of God. My name wasn't and isn't Job. I realized then that the Savior is the ultimate healer. A healer of all things. And I qualified for His help. The Atonement was never so real to me then in that moment. All was well in Zion. My heart had been prepared for this I suddenly discovered. God had strengthened me and would continue to do so.

 "The Lord always suits the relief to the person in need to best strengthen and purify them." -President Henry B. Eyring

And He had done just that. I got off that plane with renewed hope as I realized that great blessings come from great adversity...despite the cost. I saw my mom's red hair through the window then and without too much detail, we had a tearful reunion of very mixed feelings but the love was so evidently felt in that small airport. I have not felt judged one whit this entire time as I have been home recovering (except by myself).
I ache for missionaries who do feel judged by others, for I have never been so grateful to have such loving parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, my precious ward family, fellow missionaries and dearest of friends. They have called and sent flowers. They have held my hands in theirs and have looked into my eyes and have said, "Don't you let Satan in. Don't you let his lies get inside your head. You are so loved. You've done nothing wrong." Agh! These people are so wonderful here. I feel loved. I don't hate Idaho anymore. Perhaps I never did. This I do know though...
New Mexico still has my heart. 
It is my greatest desire to return to the work I so dearly love but it's (literally) one step and one day at a time. It really is, all in the Lord's timing. I'm learning to pass every test. I'm learning to keep the faith. I'm learning to rise through every trial.

Just because I'm home does NOT mean I've lost my testimony. In fact, it's been doubly strengthened.
I now am trying to practice what I have been preaching from the pulpit.
I'm now a member missionary! I do what my body will allow me to do of course but I can't tell you what a joy it is to accompany the Hermanas from the Spanish branch here (who I love oh so much) and the Elders occasionally to visit part-member families. I've also had the opportunity to speak at a baptism and to share my testimony with many. I still force my dad to turn the car around so I can give pass-along cards to people on the street. And I find time every morning to do my studies. I feast on the scriptures as often as I can. This is how I acquire my much needed spiritual therapy.
As for the physical therapy...My next appointment is on Friday :)
My body is taking it's sweet time to heal and I have some bad and some good days. I still feel at the depths of despair occasionally but every time I go down, I'm lifted up with a tender mercy to withstand the storm. Whether it's the Hermanas calling to check up on me, a cupcake from my best friend, an old Elder from my mission stopping by to visit, a visit to the temple, a perfect letter, message or thoughtful package sent from a close-friend missionary from my mission, a phone call from President, a proud look shot my way by dad or just a big hug from my mom. God is mindful of His precious children. You are cherished. You are prayed for. How indebted I am to Him! How I cannot wait to return full-time to His service (even if that means serving with my husband someday). And to return to His ever-waiting arms again.

Been home for a month now.
And how grateful I am for Mosiah 15:17. (Thanks Lincoln Baliff for that one)

printable lds general conference quotes - april 2013 | icreate...with love



  1. Hi. You don't know me, but I have absolutely loved reading your blog. My name is Maurcine and I'm preparing to serve a mission in March. I just want to thank you for everything that you have done for me. Every time I read your blog I think, "I want to be a Sister Missionary just like her." You truly are amazing!! I admire the strength that you have and your devotion to this gospel. Thank you for sharing your experiences and especially this one. I hope and pray that you will be able to go back out and serve. But if not, I know that Heavenly Father has something great in mind for you. :) This might be a little weird, but I love you Sister Silva. And I know that our Heavenly Father and Savior do too. Continue to be strong!!

  2. I came home early as well, due to medical reasons. I was only out for 4 months, and most likely will not be going back out due to the medicine that I take. It has been super hard for me (I came home last July) and I have needed to see a counselor to deal with it all (thought I was super woman...I'm not). I finally realized that when I signed up to serve a mission, and when I wrote that acceptance letter to the First Presidency, I was giving Heavenly Father 18 months of my life. Those 18 months were His, not mine. Turns out, He needed me only for a short four months, and I need to accept that fact. Just knowing that it was His time, not mine, His plans, not mine, has helped me so much. I wish I would've realized that to begin with. Keep your chin up and continue to do those good things that you are doing. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.... There is also a facebook group for medically released missoinaries I truly hope that you will start to feel better soon and that you will not feel guilt or failure, that you will feel in confidence in knowing you were a fantastic missionary, regardless if you are able to head back to the mission field or not. :)

  3. I came home early too. I hate to say this, but it does get easier to be home. You're not alone. You never are. But definitely not in this. There is a Facebook Group for Medically Released Missionaries, from the other comments I can see it was mentioned. You're loved. Never forget that. Always here.

  4. Emily I am so sorry that you were not feeling physically well to continue your full time service but I know that our Heavenly Father has accepted your time and sacrifice in full measure. I know without a doubt that you will continue to serve the Lord with all your might, mind and soul to assure that you can help as many of our Heavenly Fathers children return to His presence. I love you and have always prayed for you. I know your parents are proud of you and will continue to support you in all your endeavors. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help a visit to Disney World here in Florida. Love always your uncle Gus

  5. I'm sorry you had to come home. Just know that you did your part in inspiring girls going on missions. My daughter is now serving in the New Mexico, Albuquerque mission, and before she left, yours was a blog she read. It helped her know what to expect and prepare for. You have been a blessing to people you don't even know about. Nobody forced you on a mission. You wanted to go. You did. Just like Nephi. His road wasn't easy, either. You keep your head up and keep moving forward. Don't look back, and don't be embarrassed or ashamed, because Heavenly Father is proud of you. He knows your heart. He knows where this path will lead you. Trust in his process and his timing.
    Sometimes we assume we know what others are thinking about us - most of the time we are wrong. Even if someone talks about you, or your coming home early, the sin is on them. Welcome back!