I've born my testimony once, but yesterday was the first time I had to give a talk. This is what I said...
Good morning, brothers and sisters. As already mentioned, my name is Sister Brinkerhoff (you can call me Sister B if that is easier) :). I was corralled up here today to talk of some of the experiences I have had so far as a missionary for this wonderful church. I'm just going to say right now, I can't tell you how hard it's been, BUT I can say that I have no regrets considering this choice. Allow me to explain.
I haven't traveled much. I was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona (the COLD part), and that's where I've been the majority of my life. Lot's of beautiful scenery and good people, but also a lot of competition that can be overwhelming. I've never fit into any real category or cliche, like being upbeat, super smart, athletic, popular, social, all that jazz. While none of those traits are bad, in fact they are great talents, I don't feel like I have to fit in on anything on earth unless it has meaning for me or is a part of eternal life. Unfortunately I still need to have a word to describe me in the 'social world', and the #1 word used by others to describe me is (insert drum roll), yes, is SHY. Yeah yeah so it's clear that I'm very quiet and reserved, but you would be too if you did everything you could to change that and progress, only to be shot down by someone who tells you to speak up or smile more or whatever. I'm still working on it.
So what does this have to do with the topic? Missionary work. Now that's a word that scared me before coming here! Think about it: I, the quiet girl in the corner at school with no close friends, was supposed to share the gospel with the few friends I actually had? Most of which were non-members? The natural-WOMAN in me kept thinking, "why would I ever risk that? They would probably just get annoyed and ignore me if I did!" So I continued to keep my mouth shut, which is what I did best. And it was the worst mistake of my life.
If I couldn't deny my religion but also couldn't share with them, then I couldn't tell them how I really feel and what I wish they could know. I couldn't even talk about what I did on weekends! Long story short, I never became close enough to anybody to actually understand I was wrong and help them.
I still pray for my friends often and hope one day that Heavenly Father will give me another chance. But enough about me. Let's talk about our friends. While I'm sure that you may have heard this a million times, we unknowingly are examples to them. They know we are members and wonder if we actually live what we teach. Sometimes there are those who scoff and scorn, and others can become interested. But we can never know the latter for a surety unless we are willing to open our mouths to them and help them learn more about the church. Trust me when I know that this whole concept sounds daunting. There have been times when I knew that some of my friends were really uninterested and I shuddered at the thought of Elders or Sisters showing up on their doorstep. What we all have to remember, as many prophets and apostles have taught, is that people are not just an object, a number or a baptismal statistic. They are spiritual sons and daughters of Heavenly Father, and the Lord wishes to pour spiritual blessings to them. Dieter F. Uchtdorf once taught that (not exact wording) when we open our umbrellas we blot out those blessings. I we give in to peer pressure and keep to our own comfort zone, putting up that umbrella, we are not being the example that Jesus Christ knows we can be. Instead, we can follow Christ's path to eternal life along with those we love (and even those who persecute us).
A friend from home recently sent me a letter and I loved what she wrote! To quote, "I was reading 2nd Nephi 4 one morning from verse 15 to end. It's crazy to think that Nephi thought of himself as a sinner and wretched man! Bu the is a true example of how to be--acknowledge our weakness but not to let it drag us down, be humble and completely rely on God and maintain focus on all the ways God has His hand in our lives everyday. Nephi's amazing!" Nephi's example can also be useful in 2 Nephi 33:7-9. "I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many should spotless at his judgement-seat. I have charity for the Jew- I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came. I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the day of probation." When I read Nephi's tender words, I find it hard to believe that he was weak in writing. Yet he thought that to be true, he still humbled himself to write as he was called to do so by the Lord, and He helped him write wonders.