I served a mission for the Mormon Church in Vladivostok, Russia. If I were “re-called to serve” this mission, there’s one thing I’d do differently:

This time, I would try to not hate it.

A Surface-Level Missionary

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-missionary work—far from it. But there’s a fundamental reason why I once hated missionary work and why I’ve since learned to love it.

In order for you to understand why I hated my mission, you must first know something about my personality.

In the past, I haven’t been much of a “people person.” In fact, I frequently go out of my way to avoid people. My three biggest pet peeves are: people standing/walking behind me, making small talk with strangers, and having people waiting on me. Most of my personal pictures (prior to getting married) show me at a cornucopia of locations with—you guessed it—no one. And for years, that’s the way I preferred it.

So the missionary lifestyle of befriending complete strangers and having missionary companions follow you around 24/7 for two years didn’t exactly harmonize with my lifelong goal of becoming an Alaskan hermit.

Be that as it may, in 2005 I was called to serve a mission and entered the MTC (Missionary Training Center) with as much—if not more—naiveté about missionary work as any teenage Mormon boy. All I really understood about “serving” a mission was that you knocked on doors, miraculously found converts, had some cool spiritual experiences, and—if you were super lucky—got to take lots of sweet pictures in a foreign country.

That was not my mission.

The MTC was brutal. My habit to withdraw from people didn’t bode well with my district. As a result, I didn’t make any friends with the elders that were going to my mission. This meant that, in a mission of approximately 40 missionaries, I had already managed to lose favor with 10% of them.

As soon as I got to the field, I realized that my introverted personality was in for a world of hurt. I contributed very little to lessons, didn’t socialize at church events, and instead of soaking in the beauty and splendor of Russia and her people, I spent most of my time looking at the ground. I clammed up in conversations, scorned street-contacting, and dreaded going door-to-door. Faith is a deeply personal experience, I thought to myself. Why can’t we just respect other people and leave them alone?

Read the full article at LDSLiving.