It's 5:45 a.m. and sleep is gone. My mind whirls as I finish personal prayers and slip onto the tiny deck of our flat near the seacoast. It's almost sunrise, with the purples, blues, deep pinks, oranges, and then glorious golds of an African dawn peeping through the flat trees.
Below the rainbow hues, bobbing lights of small boats await the morn. Overhead, a solitary bright star from the heavens looks down on my sadness. Today I realize the ambivalence of my feelings, for in a few weeks we will be home again in the midst of family. I just mailed picture postcards to grandchildren telling them how excited we were to return to them. Yet, here I am, wondering how I can possibly give up on the glorious experiences of these past months of our mission!I remember that day many years ago, hearing Elder Hinckley (then of the Council of The Twelve) say something like: "Oh, if only our older couples would `see the world' on missions instead of ocean cruises and glamorous tours!" My husband and I have felt the truth of those words. When that time for us approached, we excitedly filled out missionary applications instead of tour forms for faraway places. Our aches and pains could go with us to the mission field.
We once did go on a marvelous ocean cruise and tour. How we devoured those educational lectures, the sights and sounds of people, and even enjoyed romantic nights.
But, now we can testify to the difference of `seeing the world' by missions. We've learned cultures without lectures, by walking streets to get groceries and excerise. We've watched children at play with rags or sticks and responded to their shy smiles as we pass. Our hearts beat wildly at their large, black eyes and toothless grins. We think maybe we've been substitute parents and grandparents in times of need. Their humble, yet clean homes tell us much. We've loved their exultant and joyful singing.
For every culture, we get books at their libraries; and on preparation days we see a museum, peek in a "tourist trap" - and have also gone to game reserves to enjoy those marvelous animals!
But the "real world" for us is to share the gospel with them, especially helping converts to understand the programs of their new and living Church!
Nothing compares with hearing a teenager say, "Oh, please, help me to see what Heavenly Father is saying to me in this scripture."
Our hearts burst with joy when we hear about a former missionary whom they love for teaching them the gospel - or couple who brought them back into activity.
How we have thrilled to hear many of them tell us about their favorite scriptures - and especially when one particular scripture has given someone the calmness, guidance, or courage in desperate times.
One special day was worth a dozen sight-seeing jaunts. My husband was just finishing teaching a seminary class. He told them that we would need to leave early to meet another appointment. A handsome boy spoke up quickly: "Not yet, Elder Anderson, not until we hear her testimony, too!" as he pointed to me. What a perfect opportunity to speak of my love for my Savior, the scriptures, and the prophets without offense to young ears!
Since we traveled a lot to distant locations, what a joy to hear students ask: "How soon can you come back to be with us again?" They want help and trust us to give it.
With their love for the gospel, these saints and students have taught us the meaning of D&C 4 that "faith, hope, charity, and love with an eye single to the glory of God qualify him for the work. . . ."
As we have answered mission calls, our hearts have been filled with gratitude for the opportunity to assist in building the kingdom, working with choice children of God, and yet "seeing the world."