Rebecca Cieslak lives in Germany with her husband and children. She served a mission in the Scotland Edinburgh mission. Big thanks to her for her thoughts on persevering through trials on the mission and the blessings she's seen from her mission. If you or someone you know would like to share your mission experiences, let us know!
I hadn’t planned on going on a mission. In fact, I didn’t even want to go on a mission when I was younger. My plan was to get married young and start a family. Well that wasn’t Heavenly Father’s plan and as time went on, the thought of a possible mission entered my mind. At first, I thought maybe I could go on a temple mission. That didn’t feel right and I couldn’t shake the feeling of a full-time mission. One day I went to the temple to pray about it and had a very strong feeling I needed to go. My dad was the first person I talked to when I got home. He asked me what my decision was, and I told him I would go on a mission. His response: “I prayed too while you were at the temple and I have the same feeling.”
I didn’t have much time to prepare since I decided relatively quickly. I think I would have liked to have studied my scriptures more and maybe prepare myself better regarding the language. I was grateful that I had some money savings and that my parents were able to sell my car for a good price, despite it being old. They also supported me financially. I also didn’t have much time to get ready. I received my mission call and went on my mission 1 ½ weeks later. Originally, I had been called for several months later, but since I had quit my job already, we asked if I could go sooner. We didn’t expect it that quick though.
I served my mission in the Scotland Edinburgh Mission. The accent is definitely one of the unique features of this mission. Scottish is English, but they have their own words for some things, plus British English and American English can be different at times. One of the coolest features was the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. They have the Tattoo every summer for three weeks at the castle in Edinburgh. It was an incredible performance of military bands from all over the world. The show they prepared was spectacular. It was a special treat for the mission each summer to go to that show. Since I served two summers, I got to go twice.
Another unique thing is some of their food. When I first read about haggis, I was sure I would never eat that. But you can’t serve in Scotland and not eat their traditional food. If you don’t know how they used to make it and what’s in it, it tastes great. It reminded me of something similar that my grandmother used to make when I was a kid. It wasn’t haggis, but the spices made it taste almost the same.
Me at the MTC
I had so many special and favorite experiences on my mission. I think one memory that stood out to me was right in the beginning. During my second day in the MTC I got super homesick. I had never been away from home (not for such a long time at least) and it hit me that I wouldn’t see my family for 18 months. I tried different things, my mission president and his wife tried their best, my companion tried to help me, but it got worse. The next day I had a meeting with my mission president and I told him I needed to go home. I told him I wouldn’t be able to handle this and didn’t want to stay. He tried to convince me to stay, but my mind was set up. I wanted to go home. He gave me permission to call my family.
So I called home and my dad answered. As soon as I heard his voice I started crying and told him I couldn’t do this and wanted to come home. My dad listened and then responded in a way I did not expect. He said: “You can’t come home. You need to stay and fulfill your mission.” He told me he had read his scriptures that morning, and suddenly had the strong feeling of having to put his scriptures aside and read my patriarchal blessing. He didn’t understand that at all, but he listened to that feeling. When I called in the evening, he was able to help me through my homesickness by quoting my blessing. He told me I shouldn’t see 18 months all at once, but to just focus on one day at a time. Heavenly Father definitely inspired and led him that evening.
I finished the call and went back to my mission president and told him I would stay. He was so happy and his wife gave me a huge hug. She was so cute. She wrote my parents an email later on and said to them: “… I don’t know what you said to your daughter, but it was what she needed. Your daughter went into the room crying and came out smiling and hasn’t stopped smiling since.” I had homesickness on and off at times, but never again like that. I was able to hold on and finish my mission. It taught me that the Lord will stay by our side. He will lead and guide those around us to help us through trials and give us the message we need to hear.
My mission affected me in many ways, but one thing changed my life forever. During my first four weeks in the mission field, my grandfather passed away from cancer. That was tough for me and made me more homesick again and very sad. Since I was still struggling with the language, it was hard for me to express myself. But we had an older lady in my first area. She was not a member and didn’t want to be taught the gospel, but she loved the sister missionaries. We usually visited her on Sunday nights. When she realized how much I struggled, she called her daughter who lived in Germany. Her daughter had joined the church and spoke German and so I could speak to someone in my own language and express my feelings. It helped me so much and she called her almost at every visit. We became great friends. Her daughter came and visited her mom right before I was transferred and so I met her in person before I left the area.
Evelyn and I
I kept in touch with her mom during my mission and received an invitation to her daughter’s wedding. I went home and hadn’t planned on returning to Scotland so quickly, but I felt I should go. I met my husband at that wedding. He was from Utah, I was from Germany and we met in Scotland at a wedding four weeks after my mission. He knew my friend because he had served his mission in Frankfurt, Germany and was one of the first missionaries who had helped our mutual friend to come back to church.
As a result, when I met her a few years later, she was active again. It was definitely meant to be. We have a very crazy story and so many miracles had to happen that we could even meet. Heavenly Father had His hands in there big time. It would probably take too long to share all the fun-crazy details of us meeting, but one thing that was funny was that my husband’s mom originally came from my home stake. My dad remembered her from youth activities and temple trips. Talk about match-made-in-heaven. I never expected my mission to help me find a husband, but both of us met the same person on our mission and met at her wedding. We’ve been married now for 14 years.
Me two years ago
As a missionary, I learned how important it is to see people as children from God and not to judge the appearance. I learned that the first impression isn’t always true and sometimes we have to get to know a person before we can say what they are like. I learned that we can get along with almost everyone but each person has to do their part. I also learned that having a companion 24/7 is great preparation for marriage. With a companion you have to stay together at all times, with your future spouse you can have breaks from being with each other.
Me being silly
I would advise other missionaries to be themselves. To be kind, understanding and loving even if the companion is difficult. I would advise to be patient and forgiving even if it isn’t always easy.
It surprised me how much Heavenly Father blessed me with learning the language and how I was able to love everyone I met. I genuinely loved them. It also surprised me how much I changed as a person. I went on my mission as a shy and quiet person, but returned as a confident, outgoing girl. It helped me get out of my shell.