Don’t get me wrong. I was extremely thrilled to have the opportunity to serve my mission in Brazil. I quickly fell in love with the people, the language, and the food of that wonderful country. However I simultaneous felt various tensions, because I was extremely fond of the United Sates. I had pajama bottoms with American flags on them, I loved to speak in English with American missionaries, and in the rare times that American politics were brought up I felt extremely defensive as if I had a duty to defend the country that I loved. I was aware that I was not a missionary for the USA, but I was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ. However because I was raised in the ways that I was, I was not as open to seeing various aspects of Brazil that I could have benefited from.
This was similar with the American cultural aspects of the church. I had a difficulty recognizing the difference between culture and the gospel, and thus there were times where I felt the need to reel in members of the church who were engaging in the church in different ways than had been done in the USA. And again because I was so willing to stick to the boundaries and the ways I had done things before I feel like I may have missed the opportunity to learn some very valuable lessons from the members I was working with.
This is a lesson that I believe Chieko Okazaki taught extremely well when she said “One of the greatest lessons the Savior taught is that boundaries exist to be crossed. . . . What do we do with differences? Do they paralyze us, or can they become part of the beauty of our lives? What are we teaching our children about the beauty of diversity? Are we teaching them that boundaries are barriers, or are we teaching them that a boundary means an opportunity for wonderful explorations in diversity?”
-Chieko Okazaki, Lighten Up, p. 129, 136