By Evelyn Hendrix
While many of her friends spent spring break at the beach, Valerie Burnham spent hers on a mission.
A senior at Campo Verde High School, Valerie won’t be 19 and old enough to serve a fulltime mission for another year. But that didn’t stop her from serving a “mini mission.”
She joined a dozen other teens from Gilbert Greenfield Stake. Each met with their bishops before receiving their “mission calls” to the Arizona Gilbert Mission. On Sunday, March 8, they received their assignments at a “transfer meeting,” said goodbye to their families and headed off.
“I learned the everyday things you do as a missionary,” says Valerie, including riding bikes and writing home only once a week. “The physical aspect was hard; missionaries work all day long.” Valerie learned that there is something even more difficult that missionaries face: disappointment.
“When people reject [the gospel], it’s hard not to take it personally,” she says.
During her mini-mission, Valerie helped teach four lessons to investigators and spent several days in a Spanish-speaking area.
“I learned, no matter what language you speak, the Spirit can touch hearts.”
Valerie was particularly impressed with the power of prayer in missionary work.
Hailey Johnson, a member of the Gilbert Ranch Ward, agrees.
“We prayed all the time—probably 10 times before noon,” says Hailey. During her first lesson, her companions taught an investigator who expressed her desire to join the Church. “I invited her to think about baptism and that was really cool,” said Hailey.
During the week, the youth learned to hold planning meetings and schedule study time with their companions.
“There are so many things you don’t think about,” says Hailey. “I really prayed that I would get along with my companions. But they were so kind and so loving.”
Jeff Mask, of the Vintage Ranch Ward, who teaches the stake’s mission prep class, explains that the mini-mission experience was a first for the stake and proved to be extremely successful.
“I was overjoyed at the concentrated preparation it provided,” says Brother Mask. “[The youth] said that nothing prepared them to be missionaries more than these eight days.”
Brother Mask says they appreciate President Mattress and the help they received from the Arizona Gilbert Mission and they look forward to working with them again.
“Our hope is to do it again, but it is dependent on what the mission can do.”
The 12 youth shared about 36 Books of Mormon during the week, including a few in Spanish.
On the last day, the “missionaries” arrived at the stake center for a testimony meeting to share their experiences. Many expressed that their missions were not long enough.
“I didn’t think I would love it as much as I did,” says Hailey. In fact, she did not want to come home, except that she had something waiting for her: a white envelope with her “real” mission call. She will be reporting to the Brazil Recife Mission soon where she will speak Portuguese.
Thanks to a mini-mission during spring break, she will be better prepared to serve.