Tuesday, April 7, 2009

SM Guarantee

Before a student is shipped off to be a missionary, they must attend the class, Intro to Student Missions. It's quite hilarious actually because, how could you ever be fully prepared? Not possible. It's like having a class called, Intro to Life, just too much to cover, plus, every teacher would teach it completely differently. Still, when Pastor Rich asked me to come and speak to his class about my experience, I decided to give it a shot. Put more honestly: I could hardly wait, I was excited to tell my story, and thrilled that they had to sit there and listen to it.

I remember many a time last year thinking, Would I recommend this to someone? What would've been nice to know ahead of time? How could I have prepared more? What should people have told me?

All of these questions danced around my head as I walked up the stairs to the classroom. I didn't prepare any notes. No need. It all just sort of comes gushing out of me.

I showed pictures. I told my story. I looked at their shocked and discouraged faces and interjected, "Oh wait. No, it's a good thing. Go be a missionary. You're experience might be completely different. You will have a whole 'nother experience." It was at this moment that I realized why other SM's hadn't granted me the information before I left: No one wants to be a downer. There are expectations. Who wants to be the SM who didn't love it?

Well, I didn't want to be that either, but I am. I didn't love my SM experience. As I told them, "I love having been through the experience. I love being on this side of it. No, I wouldn't do it again, at least not exactly the same way. I would do it again very differently. It was the most painful year of my life, but absolutely the most important."

Here is the advice I gave:
-Research: Find out as much as you can about where you are going. Interview people who are there currently and people who have been there in the past. You are moving there for a year, you have every right to know what you're getting yourself into.

-Take a friend: Either take a friend, an acquaintance, or someone, anyone who you can guess you might be able to get along with or tolerate. Even one person who is familiar will make the experience easier. Maybe you know a friend of a friend who lives there, that's good too.

-Examine your baggage: Ask yourself, truly, honestly, "Why am I going as an SM?" If you are running from something, as I was, it's only going to get uglier and harder once it catches up with you. An eating disorder doesn't heal itself when you skip the country and separate yourself from counselors, dieticians, friends, family, and familiarity. Don't avoid SMing because you have baggage, just be prepared for the results.

-Go with open eyes, open heart, open mind: You'll be smacked around by a lot of new-ness that might be hard to swallow. Accept that things will be done differently, people might mistreat you, it's gonna be hot, and you might not love every minute of it. Don't go with false expectations that it's going to be the best year of your life. It very well might be, but just in case it isn't, be flexible, adaptable, open.

-Opportunity for change: You are leaving for a year. People expect you to change. So how do you want to change? I wanted to learn to love better, find God, wear less makeup, spend less on clothes and extras, and live more simply. If you want to become a better listener, lose your gum chewing habit, or make devotions a daily kinda thing, do it. People don't really raise too many eyebrows. Heck, you left the country for a year, become whatever you want without the judgment of those around you, who expect you to be who you've always been.

I advised the girls to get pepper spray and dress modestly, for their own good. I recommended that everyone take items that make home, home: pictures, music, etc. I advised them not to get giardea, worms, amoebas, parasites, and yeast, but didn't really offer any ways of doing that, because I have no idea. They looked really scared at that point.

I talked for more than 40 minutes: sharing, answering questions, telling stories. I thought I'd run out of things to say and still I'm sitting here thinking, I didn't warn them about mosquitos. I should've mentioned language learning. And I get it, I cannot possibly tell them everything they need to know. And even if I could, they'd all forget it anyway.

They need to live it, breathe it, see it, be saturated by it, soak it up, and spit it out before they'll understand half of what I'm saying. Either way, I feel glad that I told them my story. I shared what I wish someone would've told me. It's not all fun and games. There is no "30-day trial, love it or your money back" SM guarantee.

It might be painful. It might test you on every level possible. But it will be important, worth it, and you'll never be the same.


Anonymous said...

Tru Dat
Praise the Lord
Preach On