When I woke up this morning to the many posts, videos, and tv specials about the death of President Monson, I wanted to add my own voice and story of who he was to me personally.
With our new baby on the way, Taylor and I have been discussing baby names for the past few months. One of the first names that we agreed on was the name “Thomas”, after President Monson. We didn’t end up choosing this name in the end, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it came up again if we have another boy someday. We both agreed to put Thomas on our list of names because without his impact on our lives we would have never met.
Here’s the story:
When I was about 14 years old I discovered that I was allergic to gluten. Any time that I had gluten I would become extremely ill. When I found out that would be gluten free for the rest of my life I told myself I that I would never serve a mission because of it. When you serve as a missionary for the church you eat with different members of the church each night of the year and a half you serve. I was afraid that I would be sent home due to my illness if I was eating at strangers homes every night that didn’t know how sensitive my allergy was.
I went on a church history tour a short time after I was given the diagnosis. On this church history tour, we started in Palmyra, New York, and ended in Independence Missouri. On each historic site is a pair of sister missionaries, which were truly some of the first “girl” missionaries I had ever seen. On our last visit to Independence, we were taken into a room in the visitors center that had only a picture of Jesus Christ in the middle.
A sister missionary taught my family, very simply, that Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world and had died for our sins. I had heard those teachings of Jesus Christ a hundred times and her words just rolled right off my shoulder.
Then, clearly lead by the spirit of God, she stopped teaching. She then said, “I don’t usually share this with people, but I have Leukemia. I do Chemotherapy with my companion every Tuesday and Thursday. I only have so much longer left to live in my life, but I know that I am living it right. I know that this is how I would want to live; serving the Lord.”
I was so touched by what she had taught me that day. I was humbled. I realized that a food allergy should not determine whether or not I would be able to serve as a missionary for Jesus Christ. I decided then and there that I wanted to serve a mission if I was given the opportunity.
President Thomas S. Monson lowered the missionary age from 21 to 19 years old for young women in 2013. It took me about one day to determine that nothing was going to stop me from serving as a missionary. I went to college for a year and prepared in every way that I could to serve the Lord. I turned in my mission application on the exact day that I was allowed to turn it in (four months before my 19th birthday). While filling out my missionary application it asked about my health history and I explained how allergic to gluten I was. There was an extra box at the end of the application to say anything I would like to add for the prophet and apostles making the decision of where to send me. I remember writing, “I would like to serve somewhere where people eat rice every day.”
I received my mission call in April, signed by President Monson himself, calling me to serve the people of Tokyo, Japan. I was so excited I could hardly wait to leave. I remember thinking, “When you jump, the Lord catches you.” I put my life in the hands of God and He was going to send me somewhere I wouldn’t get sick. I sat in on a Japanese class the rest of the semester, got a Japanese Book of Mormon, and read my scriptures diligently daily.
At the end of the semester, I was preparing to leave on my mission. I was taking finals and stressed out of my mind with 18 credits of difficult classes. I woke up the first morning of finals week with bruises starting from my upper thigh and leading down to my knees. I couldn’t figure out why these painful bruises were covering my legs, but I didn’t have time to go to the doctor and figure it out. Each morning I postponed seeing a doctor, and each morning the bruises spread farther down my legs and got darker in color.
After taking my last final I remember getting in the shower only to realize that my legs were frightening. I went straight to the ER and they had me laying on a table with multiple doctors around me. No one could figure out what was wrong. The doctors explained to me that I needed to see a dermatologist in the next 24 hours, but almost all dermatologists were completely booked. Amazingly enough, one of the members of my church congregation, and good friend of my family is a dermatologist in Reno. I called my Dad and explained to him the situation and he had me on a train within a few hours to Reno to see this dermatologist.
I got home in the morning and the dermatologist came to my house to see my bruises. He helped me understand that it wasn’t as serious or damaging as I thought. It was a deep tissue infection that would need powerful steroids for a few days but it would leave my body and I’d be healthy again. His news was the happiest news I could have imagined. I could still go on my mission, I wouldn’t have to tell the missionary department about another serious health problem, and I was still progressing towards my goals.
However, I thought deeply about the situation for hours that day. Why did I need to come home to Reno to see a dermatologist within one day? Why couldn’t doctors there have figured it out? Why did it look so serious, but end up being something so simple? Really, my questions were, “What are God’s plans for this whole situation?” I tried to make the best of the trip, recognizing that everything had fallen into place for me to be emergency shipped out to my hometown.
The next morning I woke up and packed my bags to leave on the train back to college.
Right before we left my mom came to me with a letter that was addressed to me.
A mission call.
But, I already had a mission call. I already had talked with my mission president, bought my clothes, packed my bags to come home soon, taken Japanese, etc. Not only that, but why was it being sent to my home? I haven’t lived here in over a year. I didn’t even put my home address on my missionary application because I wanted it delivered straight to my dorm at BYU.
Here I was holding a mission call packet and wondering if somehow someone had told the prophet about the bruises on my legs within three days and gotten my mission call changed. That made no sense. Nothing made sense about why I was there that exact day, why the mission call came to my house, and why there even was a mission call being sent to me.
I opened up the call to find a piece of paper addressed to me written in normal handwriting.
It said, “Dear Sister Childs, You are hereby called to serve in the Mesa, Arizona mission. You will be leaving on July 16th, English speaking. Thank you for your willingness to serve. President Thomas S. Monson.”
2 months after my original call, moving my date 2 months later, and sending me to a place where I knew I would get sick from my gluten-allergy. Why?
I got on the train and had a long 8-hour ride alone to think about what just happened. I remember getting on the train and immediately entering into prayer with God.
I said, “Heavenly Father, we are going to have a long conversation.”
Here’s how that long conversation went:
Do you believe that I am real? Was God Truly living, loving, and everything I had ever learned about Him? Do I believe that deep in my heart and soul? Would I risk everything in my life for that belief?
Do you believe that this loving God knows you better than you know yourself?
Do you believe I want the best for you and will take care of you?
End of long conversation.I knew after only a few minutes that as small as my faith was, it was more than enough. I was going to serve wherever the Lord sends me even if it killed me and made no sense.
Even if it makes me feel like He doesn’t trust me because Japanese would be too hard for me.
Even if it makes me feel like I am too weak to serve somewhere outside of the states and need to be closer so people can watch me.
Even if it makes me feel like I am just a number that was moved around because there were too many people called to Japan at that time, so I just need to get shipped somewhere else.
Even if it makes me feel like somehow I was the only person who got their mission call wrong and the prophet himself had to fix it.
These were all the lies that were filling my head. These were all the things that people had said to help explain to me why it had happened. These were all meant to hinder me from seeing the truth.
I thought I wanted to write a letter to President Monson that said, “My legs are completely better and I have no health problems. Whatever heaven was saying to you about my health is completely wrong and I’m good to go to Japan.” But it was never about my health.
I read a quote that helped me to understand my mission call change and to recognize that it wasn’t because something was wrong with me. It wasn’t because I was somehow less than I was before. It was for something so much bigger than that.
The quote reads,
The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.
Ezra Taft Benson
I realized that God wasn’t changing my environment because I wasn’t strong enough, faithful enough, or smart enough. The world changes people’s environment, but God changes our nature. His goal is to change me so I can change my environment. This was one of the themes of my missionary service.
I was sick nearly every week of my mission from cross-contamination or gluten-related illness. However, I learned that I needed to get over my pride. I never wanted to be seen as “sick”, or “weak”, in fact, it drove me crazy to be known as the “gluten-free sister”. I was so much more than an allergy or an illness that had seemed to control my entire life leading up to my mission. It seemed like I had defined myself as “kind” and “sick” as my personality traits. My mission changed that for me. It’s okay to be sick, gluten-free, and be sensitive to things like that. I was more than my illness during that year and a half because God helped me see who I really was. I don’t know if I would have learned that lesson in Japan because maybe it wouldn’t have been so confronted and challenged.
Everything that I explained about being not smart enough, too sick, too weak, just a number, etc. was confronted on my mission. I came home knowing that every single one of those was entirely untrue.
I knew that God loved me. I knew that He believed in me. I knew that I wasn’t a number to Him.
I knew that He sent a prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to change my mission call.
After serving in Mesa, Arizona, I started dating someone that I had met in the mission field. I then ended up marrying him for time and all eternity. Now we will be starting our family and have a beautiful son and teach him to have faith in God and trust in living prophets. If my mission hadn’t been changed I don’t know how I would have ever met my husband, Taylor. I could write a list of over 50 things (not exaggerating) that have come as a result of my mission that changed my life forever.
I know that President Monson is a prophet of God. I know that God is real. I know He watches over us and wants the best for us. I hope that you were able to get something out of this blog post that you can relate to.
I wanted everyone to know that President Monson really does care about the one. I’m that one. And so is my husband and so is our son and our future children and grandchildren. He cared about us and listened to a prompting from God. May I forever learn from his example and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.