I was 25 and sitting in church one Sunday – a Sunday that would change the course of my life. I had recently come back after 10 years of inactivity. As the sacrament was being passed, the ‘still small voice’ told me I had to go on a mission. I nearly died with shock. I couldn't believe it. “Me? That can't be right!” But over and over again throughout that sacrament the message persisted.
Nothing like that had ever happened in all my years sitting in sacrament meetings. I was shocked. My life was not in order. I was not terribly comfortable at all, nor had I settled back into Church life. I felt overwhelmed. It was too soon. And, in any case, I had never wanted to serve a mission. I'm strong-minded; I had my life all planned. This wasn’t an option or a choice I would ever have considered. So, I decided there and then: I was not going to go. I was going to continue making my own life decisions.
I told no one and tried to push the matter into the back of my mind, but the promptings continued: “You need to go on a mission”. But the answer in my head was, 'I don't want to go'. This carried on for a whole year. I thought if I ignored the promptings they’d eventually go away. During the day it was easy to do this because I was busy at work, church, and so on. Then the Holy Ghost started prompting me during the night when I was trying to sleep. I'd wake up and find it hard to go back to sleep. It was relentless. I didn't want to hear it. I was exhausted. This whole process was consuming me day and night.
It was about this time I started changing my attitude, listening instead of ignoring. I didn't want to do it, but why? Because I felt forced! It wasn't in my life plan. So, I decided I would start thinking of the possibility of going, as I knew these promptings would not stop. I had to pick up my mission papers from the Bishop.
I was still at odds with myself, but I had to admit defeat and succumb. The Lord had another path he wanted me to follow. It was terribly hard for me to accept this but I knew it had to happen.
As I was trying to come to terms with everything. I knew the Bishop was being prompted to talk to me about my mission papers. I just knew. I had never mentioned it to anyone, but I knew he was also getting the ‘vibes’. But I still needed time to adjust and come to terms with everything, so I started dodging him. If I saw him in the corridor at Church, I'd dive into a classroom and hide until he passed. I'd watch him and stay out of his vicinity – terrible I admit but I thought this would gain me more time. But one Sunday I was walking up the corridor only to find the Bishop walking towards me. No one else was there. I couldn't hide or dive away. I was nabbed, pure and simple.
The Bishop simply said, “Can you come with me a minute? I've got to give you something”. I was hoping something was to do with my Primary or Activities Committee callings, but he simply walked into the Clerk’s office, opened the filing cabinet and handed me my mission papers. He said, “You need to fill these in, and send them”. I said, “I knew you knew!' When I told him that I had been deliberately dodging and hiding from him, he laughed and said he wondered why he could never find me. That was it. I received my papers; it was all on.
It was around Christmas 1996 when I thought I'd better let the family know what was happening. I decided I'd tell everyone over Sunday dinner. As we were sitting at the table my sister said she had something to tell everyone: she'd been thinking of changing careers from a hairdresser to a beauty therapist, thus needing to give up her job and go to college. Everyone was happy about her decision. Then it was my turn. I told them I also had something to say. I told them that I was planning to go on a mission. A look of disbelief and surprise appeared on every face. I told them, “No one is more surprised than me”. Then between Christmas and New Year, a quiet holiday period, I managed to get all my medical and dental appointments arranged. Within three days my papers they were done.
When I was 17, I’d taken out a small insurance policy that I thought would be useful, when matured, to go towards a deposit for a house. I cashed it in early. (I lost nothing; every penny I had paid in was returned to me; there was no financial penalty for early exit.) I was sent a cheque that paid for all of my mission. Isn't it funny how things work out? Another small unplanned blessing. I then posted my papers.
Over the next few months I started shopping for my mission attire. Coming from Scotland I'm no stranger to cold weather so I was going to be well prepared. But every time I went to buy something like a winter coat, big woolly jumpers, hat, scarves or gloves, I'd get the answer, “No!”. I'd leave it a couple of days then go elsewhere. Again, the answer would be “No!”. Don't buy that. I couldn't believe I was being prompted to buy certain clothes. The promptings were very specific. I'd pick up clothes and I'd hold the hanger and wait for a “yes” or a “no”. I obediently bought according to those promptings. I knew then, with the clothes I had purchased, that I was going to a hot country. I also knew two other things: I would speak another language; I was going to a strange place, somewhere the gospel was not yet well established. When I look back, I can't believe how much the Holy Ghost kept prompting me and specifically telling me things on a daily basis – I was not asking for such clarity. I've never experienced this level of prompting ever since. That was how it was supposed to be – minute detail.
One morning I went downstairs and there on the carpet was the big fat white envelope. My heart leapt. I quickly grabbed it and immediately locked myself in the bathroom. I have a big family, and someone could have been lurking; I wanted to open it on my own. I stared at the envelope, scared to open it. I kept thinking that it held the next 18 months of my life, my future. I was very anxious. I eventually opened it and scoured through the first few lines. I just wanted to know where I was going – it was the Greece Athens Mission. I'd never heard of this mission. I'd never heard of anyone even going to this mission. I would later find out that I was the first Scottish sister to go there. How cool! I would learn to speak Greek. l would serve my mission during one of the hottest summers they’d had, and another summer the following year. Greece was indeed a different, unusual place. The gospel was still in its infancy there; it had only been dedicated 25 years previously (by Elder Gordon B Hinckley).
I served my mission from May 1997 to November 1998. It was one of the best experiences of my life! I can't believe that I hadn’t wanted to go. I could quite easily have missed out on this crucial experience. It was meant to be. I would never have chosen this path but it's what Heavenly Father knew was right for me. Greece will always be a special place with special memories for me. Whenever I go back to visit, I get ‘goose bumps’ and butterflies in my stomach. When I left my mission, I left a part of my heart there, and there it will stay. It brought me so much happiness. It shaped my future. It put me on the right path, in the right direction. It was priceless. I loved it. I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. It changed me for the better. My favourite word is fantastic, and Greece was fantastic!