Do Not Attempt in Heels:
Mission Stories and Advice from Sisters Who've Been There
Compiled by Elise Hahl and Jennifer Knight
Whether a sister has already worn a missionary badge or is still planning to wear one, this collection of personal stories from the mission field is sure to inspire and entertain. Feel the elation, exhaustion, humor, frustration, and faith of these dedicated sister missionaries. Share the spirit of the divine work of sister missionaries with Do Not Attempt in Heels.
What inspired you to write Do Not Attempt in Heels?
E: When I was preparing for a mission, my mission prep teacher handed each class member a collection of stories and talks about missions. We read one each week. Each story was absolutely wonderful and really helped me, but I don't remember any one of them being written by a sister missionary, and as I learned on my mission, the elder experience isn't always identical to the sister experience. Fast forward ten years (okay, twelve) and the time was finally ripe for a sister missionary book because of the age change. When our publisher asked me if I was willing to put together some sort of compilation for sisters, I was really excited about the idea, and Jenn was excited too when I asked her to be my partner in crime. This kind of book is really a dream for both of us. What we put together is a sister-version of the packet our mission prep teacher handed us--something I wish I could have read before my own mission.
How did you decide what to include, and what was the compilation process?
J: It was a very unscientific process. We asked friends and friends of friends. We asked for recommendations from mission presidents we knew, and we prayed. I really feel like the essays that came into our hands were the ones that needed to be in this book.
E: I actually flagged down a person I didn't know after her talk at church because I had this strong feeling that she'd be great for the book. She was kind enough not to make me feel like some weirdo stalker, and she ended up writing a great essay about deciding to serve a mission. Jenn had a similar situation in her own ward while watching someone speak.
What do you hope for people to gain from reading your book?
J: We hope to give girls who are trying to decide about serving a mission a good idea of what to expect. We were really trying to take a snapshot of the different phases and feelings you experience on a mission, and I think we achieved it: the joy of a call, the pain if homesickness, the heaviness of discouragement and the euphoria of watching someone's life change for the better. Then there are all the quirks of mission life: companionship issues, crushing on an elder, finding the balance between the letter and the spirit of the laws, roaches and sweat and physical exertion. There really is a little bit if everything, and that's exactly what we were going for!
E: Hopefully, these stories can help sister missionaries to be patient with themselves and to help them know that they're not alone--we've been through it all! But we also hope it will inspire them to know just what they are capable are doing. There are some truly amazing stories in here about sisters changing the dynamics of their wards, falling in love with the scriptures, helping unlikely candidates to become rock-solid converts, etc.
Were you surprised by any of the issues you collected from returned sister missionaries, or the topics mission presidents suggested that you include? And, if you weren’t surprised since you’ve been there, what do you think readers might find surprising?
E: I was a little surprised by how willing these exemplary sister missionaries were to tell stories about the times they felt weak. But I was so glad--those stories makes the book very personal and I think it will help people, both on and off the mission.
J: I'm not surprised by what we got, but a little worried that we were going to paint a really heavy picture of mission life. We all wrote about times that were turning points for us and a lot of these were really hard! But in the end, I feel pretty good about the mix. It does show that a mission is no walk in the park and it requires serious mental and emotional preparation, but the joy and personal growth make all the hard times worth it.
Do you have other writing projects in mind?
J: Ask me after I can get a full nights sleep! I wrote my Masters thesis on church attendance of single adult Christians in the US, and I've been itching to do more research on some of the interesting things I found. Elise jokingly suggested a "DO Attempt in Heels" book about post-mission dating life. I thought that was pretty funny. This is all in the pretend world where life happens exactly as I want it to and I could devote as much time as I need to a fun project. This could be my first and last writing project, we will just have to see!
E: I'm working on a project with my dad, who served as a mission president in Brazil. He kept all the weekly letters his missionaries sent him and wanted to organize them into a book. Some of the stories are just incredible. But Jenn's right--a full night's sleep would also be really nice at this point! Someday...
Jennifer Rockwood Knight thrives on action, whether it’s raising her four children, writing, running, teaching, or traveling abroad. She recently finished a thesis examining declining church attendance among Christian singles in the United States, which culminated in a master’s in liberal arts in extension studies from Harvard University. After that arduous pursuit, her husband, Kurt, now tries to encourage more relaxing activities like knitting and sleeping. It doesn’t work.