I loved my mission. I loved the people, learning Dutch, riding our bikes everywhere, the rain, the food - everything. One day on a winter morning, we were biking over a bridge. I hit black ice, falling and hitting my whole left side of my body, including my head, resulting in a severe concussion and significant whip lash. We didn’t wear helmets in the mission at that time (it has since changed since my experience). The next five months were a painful cycle of trips to the ER, bed rest, trying to get an appointment with a doctor, and trying just push through the significant pain every day. I had horrible migraines and felt like my body was on fire with pain. My arms and legs would go numb from pain every day. I would lie awake at night and cry from the pain. But I wanted to push through – I wanted to serve as much as I physically could. Five months after my bike accident, I sat in front of my mission president as he told me that he recommended that I go home to receive medical attention.
I believed that it was my fault and I was bad for coming home. I felt the need to justify just existing where I was. I went to physical therapy twice a week, and tried to figure out ways to manage the pain. The physical therapist told me that it would take several months to make some progress, and she told me how the chronic pain and migraines I had would probably be long term since there was so much time between my accident and the time I started getting treatment. She advised against my return for several reasons. During this time, I also found myself in an abusive relationship. I was defensive and hurt every time anyone asked when I was going to return. I felt like a failure, and I felt alone. I truly felt like I had ruined my life.
I had hit rock bottom, but this forced me to figure out what the rock at the bottom was. Slowly but surely, I turned my whole focus to the Lord. I let Him in, and I learned that His opinion of me was the only one that mattered. I felt His immense love for me, and I felt His guiding hand lead me forward. I learned that He doesn’t hold up a ruler or a stopwatch to our sacrifices - He looks at our heart, and I knew that I had sincerely given it my all. When I turned things around, stood up for myself, and figured out what the Lord wanted me to do, that was the strongest I had ever felt – and the closest to the Lord I had ever been.
For those of you who have returned sooner than originally planned, I need you to know that you are NOT a failure – not even close. You are so strong and have been through so much. The Lord loves you, and His opinion of you is that one that matters. He knows your heart, and you can lean on Him - you need to lean on Him, more than you ever have.