Former service missionaries share their experiences

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When Church members think of missionary service, they often think of riding bikes, knocking doors and handing out copies of the Book of Mormon. However, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is giving young missionaries increased opportunities to serve.

Austin Proctor is a former service missionary who served in a variety of locations in Utah County. One of his most fulfilling assignments enabled him to help others process their challenges through equine-assisted therapy, he said.

“I really felt like I was serving people,” Proctor said.

Though his original plan was to serve a proselytizing mission, Proctor said God led him toward a service mission during his recommendation process.

“I thought and prayed about it and then it slowly became the right one for me,” he said.

The opportunity to serve others day in and day out changed Proctor’s heart.

“It made me care more and … helped me gain the habit of actually doing service for others … when I see them need help,” Proctor said.

Heidi Williams is another former service missionary who used her prior love and experience with genealogy to help others further their own family history work.

“God had been preparing me this whole time,” Williams said.

Williams originally received the call to served a proselytizing mission in McAllen, Texas. However, after a lot of prayer, she decided to return home to focus on her mental health and pursue a service mission.

“It was really hard because I was like, I want this so bad, but I know that God is telling me this isn’t what He wants,” she said.

Williams said facing the stigma surrounding service missions was challenging. She said she often felt broken and incapable of serving but she saw Christ’s light shine through her weaknesses.

“I just saw him magnify the tiniest efforts, like when I felt like I was doing nothing but I just wanted to do something, like he knows our desires,” Williams said.

Williams said her mission experience fortified her testimony of Christ’s sacrifice and taught her receiving a mission call is less about the person and their abilities and more about where God needs them to serve.

The list of opportunities service missionaries can pursue is endless and service missionaries can even pitch their own.

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