I hung up the phone, speechless, my own shock reflected across my companion’s face.
“We’re pulling you both out of the area and putting you somewhere else.”
My mission president’s voice rang in my ears. He was transferring both of us to an area I’d heard called one of the worst in the mission. Why would he do this to us? We were doing so well here.
But then I remembered the next thing he said.
“I can’t explain why, but I have a very strong feeling that you’re needed there.”
“Why is he doing this?” moaned my companion. “We’re on the verge of so many baptisms!”
I agreed with her, of course. We had so many investigators close to baptism, and now the mission president was messing everything up.
As hard as I tried to be angry, though, this feeling kept washing over my anger, blanketing it and making it evaporate. I had felt the feeling before, when I first entered the MTC after months of struggling over the decision of whether or not I should serve a mission.
The feeling was peace.
As soon as we arrived in our new area, the feeling was reconfirmed with each person I met. The branch we had been placed in was small and struggling, and about 80% of the branch was made up of women who were less-active or recent converts to the church. Since the visiting teaching program was less than functional, some of these women hadn’t had a visit from a church member for a long, long time.
Since most of the branch members were recent converts, many had never met a sister missionary and didn’t even know they existed. Many had previously been part of religions where women didn’t have much of a part in church work, and they were amazed to see women dedicating eighteen months to preaching the gospel. These women desperately needed strong examples of faithful women in their lives, and they sucked in everything we taught them like a sponge.
As we visited these women and their families, I saw the branch come alive. The members felt more loved, more needed. We started to bring some of these women to investigator lessons with us, and they began to catch the fire of missionary work.
We also began to teach a part-member family. The husband of the family had investigated the church for over 20 years and had been through dozens of missionaries, but had never agreed to be baptized. I felt a special connection with this man and his family from the first time we met them, and I just knew he was really going to get baptized this time. We gave him just the right amount of encouragement and pressure to help him reach his goal.
I knew my mission president was right. Sisters were needed in that area at that time, and I was proud to be one of the first sister missionaries these new members had ever met.
I’m not saying that sisters are better than elders by any means. Many a time on my mission I called upon the elders to help with things I could not accomplish, such as giving an investigator a priesthood blessing.
But just as elders often have gifts and talents that sisters don’t, so sisters have unique gifts and blessings that make them excellent missionaries. Generally speaking, it’s easier for sisters to feel love for those they teach and to help their investigators feel that love. Many sister missionaries are nurturing and service minded, and I’ve noticed that many have a friendly approach that people connect with.
Sister missionaries can do a great good in missionary work. Just as both women and men are needed in the church, both women and men are needed in the mission field.
That being said, it is not a commandment for sisters to serve full time missions. If you as a woman are considering serving a mission, I would suggest considering your individual circumstances, praying a lot, and listening for the gentle whisperings of the spirit. Don’t listen to feelings of doubt and confusion; these feelings come to everyone at some time or another. Instead, hold on to the answers you get when you are feeling quiet and peaceful.
If you are considering serving and don’t feel like you are getting a clear answer, move forward with your decision. If it’s not right, God will let you know along the way. Personally, I didn’t have a clear answer that I was supposed to serve until I entered the MTC. It was there that the spirit confirmed to me that my personal decision to serve a mission was the right choice for me.
Deciding not to serve doesn’t mean you are less of a person. It just means that God has other plans for you and other ways He wants you to serve. My sister felt that serving a mission was not the right choice for her, and she is one of the most spiritually strong women I know.
But, if you do decide to serve a mission, you will never regret it. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank Heavenly Father for the incredible blessing He gave me to be able to serve as a sister missionary.