dad, mom, me, brother. january 2011.Before I came to the South to serve a full time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I had been working toward my degree in family science. While studying people and relationships sounded interesting, I realized that truly making a career out of my degree would be heartbreaking: I had a desire to help individuals and families, but I am no where near emotionally strong enough to do so as a career. So when I felt prompted to serve a mission and teach others about Christ, not only did that sound like a wonderful experience to begin with, but it also meant a break from school, and more time to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. I never would have guessed how much my time out here would matter not only to the people I work with, but to my individual progression and knowledge.
One of my greatest blessings thus far is the chance I have had to interact with families daily. I have been able to enter a variety of homes and see a variety of family dynamics, an experience I would have never received as a single student in a college town. I get to see the concepts I learned in family science lectures and textbooks play out before me.
The most incredible thing I've witnessed on my mission so far is the power of transitional characters: people who
1. learn from and overcome difficult and destructive pasts, andI have met several individuals who exemplify this concept:
2. create a happier home for their family of procreation (their spouse and children).
A woman gave birth to four children as a teenager (a single baby, then triplets), but gave them all up for adoption. She wanted them to have a better life than she could provide them at that time. Even though they are out of her life, she still speaks of them with love. She is now working at a fast food restaurant with her boyfriend, who suffers from PTSD after being deployed in Afghanistan. They help care for a pregnant friend's two children while her husband is deployed.
One man traded a 6-pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes for his first tattoo at the age of 14, got his girlfriend pregnant at the age of 17, then stepped up and joined the military to support his family. He now is married to a wonderful woman and helping raise two of her children from a previous marriage. Love abounds in their home.
After 17 years, a woman left a mentally and physically abusive marriage with her two teenagers in tow. She struggles both emotionally and financially now, but is strong in her faith, and loves her children above all else.
A young mother is struggling to forgive her unfaithful husband, who is out of the country for work, while raising their child as a single parent. Despite his emotional and physical distance, and his indifference toward religion, she is turning to God to find peace in her life. Her home is a little bit brighter everyday as she continues to endure her hardships with faith that everything will be okay.
When an individual has the courage to redirect their life toward a brighter path, not only will they flourish as an individual, but their families will feel the blessings and strength from that action as well.
I have never understood the divine importance of family more than I do now. God gave us all families to safely learn and grow in. Sometimes that family structure comes through close friends, adoption, inter-generational living arrangements, or through one's future family of procreation. Regardless, God has a plan for us, and that plan is based around family.
I have seen strong men and women tear up their families through negligence, addictions, and pride. But I have also seen valiant men and women build their families up through faith and devotion, caring for God's children as He would himself. A family isn't just a temporary organizational unit, but an eternal one. When we realize the sacred nature of family relationships, we will be blessed and our families will prosper.
To learn more about families and the gospel, click here.
To read more about what I believe, click here.
Love, Sister Allison Barnes
(P.S. Please disregard the religiosity of this post if that is not your thing. I'm a missionary right now, so it's my pleasure and responsibility to be religious!)