Sister Erin Roach had no clue the song she was penning during a challenging moment at the Missionary Training Center would eventually be heard by tens of thousands online viewers.
She was simply drawing upon a moment of personal revelation — transferring inspiration from her mind to her music.
Most missionaries will never write and record a song, but the genesis of “Plans for Me” will ring familiar to young sisters and elders serving anywhere in the world.
“I was struggling to learn the language and meet the demands and expectations of what I thought a ‘successful’ mission was supposed (to be),” she wrote in an email from her service area in the Germany Berlin Mission. “I felt very incapable in my abilities to thrive and I began to question why God wanted someone like me, with all my flaws, to accomplish His work.”
Sister Roach, who grew up in California, remembers praying “fervently” for assurance and strength. At the end of one particularly difficult day of German-language study, she felt impressed to open her scriptures.
She began reading the fifth chapter of Helaman. Specific words seemed to be jumping off the page: Repentance. Salvation. Rock. Foundation. Christ.
“At that moment, inspired words filled my head and it was important for me to write down these words, because they ultimately became my prayer and answer from Heavenly Father,” she said.
Five minutes later, she had completed a song she would call “Plans for Me.” Her opening stanza doubles as a supplicant’s prayer:
“Be my guide so my heart can open wide
Be my light when my eyes see only night.
Shelter me when I’m sinking out at sea;
Care for me when I’m ripping at the seams."
Sister Roach was soon performing the song for her fellow sister missionaries and at an MTC departure devotional before leaving for Germany.
“It was a really special experience for me to connect with and strengthen the missionaries around me as I played this song,” she wrote.
Once in Germany, she settled into the traditional missionary duties of finding people to teach, building relationships with the members and inviting others to embrace the gospel. But when appropriate, she shared her testimony of prayer and scripture study through her song, often performing at missionary street displays and in the homes of investigators.
Several months ago, Sister Roach was serving in the northern German city of Lubeck and was invited to sing at a musical event at the local meetinghouse. She performed “Plans for Me” because it worked with the evening’s Christ-anchored theme.
Afterwards, a woman approached her from the ward who is a videographer. She said she was inspired by the song and asked if she could make a video of the missionary’s song to share with others.
After speaking with her mission president, President Axel H. Leimer, Sister Roach made arrangements with a local studio and recorded “Plans for Me.”
“It is a raw recording of the song; no editing and very simple. But it goes with how I received my answer, which was in a simple yet powerful way.”
Soon the YouTube video of the studio recording was being viewed across the globe. Others watched on Facebook. To date, the video has received more than 20,000 views. Counted among her listeners are fellow missionaries from different parts of the world and other Latter-day Saints.
“It has been really cool for me as well hearing such positive responses from people who aren’t of my faith, but are touched by the song.”
“Plans for Me” has reached a far larger audience than Sister Roach could have imagined. But the song remains, at its core, her witness of personal revelation.
“Praying before beginning to read the scriptures has helped me stay in tune with the Spirit and feel prompted to read specific passages to find the answers I desired to know.”
And, yes, a follow-up video will soon be finished on a song Sister Roach wrote called “Forgiveness.”
“We have already recorded the song in the studio and we are in the process of filming the video,” she wrote. “It will go with a Church campaign in Germany and I am really looking forward for people to see it.”