While hygiene and grooming may seem like a topic that doesn’t need to be discussed, it is something that definitely needs to be addressed with missionaries. Often, poor hygiene can be such a distraction, that...
I was still new in the mission and I was struggling to pick up on the local language, which was different than the language I had learned in the MTC. The local language had no language dictionaries or books to help me learn. There was a small pamphlet created by some office elders that showed a few vocabulary words and the most common verb conjugations. Other than that, I was on my own. My trainer was less than welcoming and was very difficult to work with at times. I wanted to practice the language throughout the day and carried my little notebook around with me, struggling to pick up on anything I could language wise. I asked my companion if she could practice with me throughout the day, while walking to the next appointment for example, she declined the offer. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't pick up on what people were saying. One day I remember making a goal to just listen for the pronouns, which were ALSO different than the ones in the MTC. I spent the entire day listening for the pronouns I had studied in my morning study. Even that seemed tricky at first since their sentences sounded like long, unending songs. Their influx went up and down like a roller coaster and everyone always sounded angry to me but I was sure they weren't angry. I had already developed such a love for the people and I wanted desperately to have my words be understood and for the people in the area to feel my immense love for them. But whenever I opened my mouth people would start laughing at me so I quickly became discouraged. With no compassion from my trainer and being the only english speaking person in the city I turned to the Lord for strength and peace amid the hardest trial I had ever endured.
I had never spent so much time on my knees. I would often say my evening prayer, lay in bed until I heard my companion start to drift into a deeper sleep and then return to my knees and plead with the Lord, tears flowing until often I would fall asleep on my knees. Sometimes I would wake early and pray on the floors of the bathroom, seeking for peace in my current struggle. I remember one day my trainer getting frustrated with me during language study and yelling at me that I had been in the country for 4 weeks already and I should be fluent by now! I was heartbroken and inside I wanted to just give up. I prayed that somehow the people would know how much I loved them. And then, one hot day in the middle of a little city in Bago, Negros Occidental, Philippines, the prayers of a sweaty little pasty white, slightly chunky sister missionary were answered.
We were teaching a less active family. One member of the family had been in a terrible accident, impairing his ability to understand things completely. Often he would wander in and out of the room during our lessons and would rarely sit still. But on this day, Freddie was paying close attention. I bore my testimony and hoped that my words were clear and that they could feel how much I loved my Savior and how much I had grown to love their family. As we stood to walk out of the lesson Freddie ran up to me, grabbed my hand and said in english, Sister Stadler, "You are so kind. I can feel that from you." Well I lost it, right then and there and started bawling and held Freddie's hand with a death grip. Something so simple, but I knew it was an answer to my prayers. I left that appointment that day with renewed faith and with more gusto than I could muster before to learn that language and not be afraid to open my mouth, even if people did laugh.
I testify that the Lord knows each of us individually. The Lord knows you. He knows what you are about to experience every day of your missions. There will be time when you want to just give up and go home but I promise you that if you just spend a little more time on your knees, if you just work a little harder and persevere, all while following the spirit, the Lord will bless you tenfold for your sacrifice.
Flash foreward a matter of months. I was now serving in a new area and was also serving as one of the mission's Sister Training Leaders. I went back to my first area to go on exchanges with some sisters there and do some training. We didn't make it a point to visit anyone specific that I knew from my time in the area, but instead focused on the appointments the sister already had planned to teach. However, the Lord works in beautifully mysterious ways. Many of the appointments were near the homes of members I had grown to love greatly and I saw many members throughout the day. As we laughed and carried on conversations almost every member mentioned how well I spoke their language now. I would chuckle and say, well, its amazing what hard work, the spirit and little time can do for you when you're serving a mission!
Be patient with yourselves, be ready to witness the blessings and tender mercies. They will come!
Sister Stadler served her mission in Bacolod, Philippines.