Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Mission Q & A

Did the age change affect you?
I honestly think it affected everyone in some way another; whether you’re a parent who now may have multiple missionaries out at the same time, or of missionary age now able to go. I just turned 20 last August and was planning on serving a mission long before that. A week before the age change I met with my YSA Bishop and told him I was planning on putting in my papers before leaving to do a study abroad in Israel. Honestly the age change just moved everything up for me. Instead of submitting my papers in April and leaving in August after my study abroad (when I would have been 21) I submitted my papers in November and am leaving in April. God is definitely hastening His work and I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

If yes, how long did it take you to decide to go?
Actually, the moment the prophet announced the age change, after hugging many of my friends who were also affected by the news, I texted my home ward Bishop and told him I would call him the moment the session was over. I felt like God, in that moment had said to me “You’ve wanted to go on a mission so badly for a long time, so here is this great blessing. You don’t have to wait any more.” My family was not surprised by this at all. Although some of them did advise me to slow down and think about things. Like how it would affect my schooling etc… But I couldn’t be swayed. I was going and there was nothing anyone could do to stop me.

Did you always want to serve a mission? Why/why not?
There has always been a part of me that has always wanted to serve. Even when I dated guys there was a part of me that pined for the chance to serve. I knew that getting married and starting a family was just as noble of a pursuit. Yet I wanted to get out into the world and share my testimony with my fellow brothers and sisters. I love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so much and I cannot imagine anything that would please Him more than to spend 18 months in His service as a missionary.

The defining moment for my desire to serve a mission came in the form of an answered prayer. Before going to school I was considering double majoring (I think I work myself to hard at times. I’m working on not killing myself while trying to over achieve at the same time). I had been praying a lot about this decision. Especially because double majoring would extend my education a whole year (making my degree five years instead of four). However, before I left for BYU I met with my home ward Bishop (the same one who I called the day of the age change and interviewed me for my mission. He admitted that it was a very special moment for him). He was just talking with me about getting things squared away before going off to school, what my plans were etc…

Then there was a lull in the conversation and I waited for him to say that he’d had a nice chat and to send me on my way. But instead he leaned forward in his seat and said “Haley, I feel strongly prompted to tell you two things. First that you should finish your education as fast as possible and second, that when the time comes, you should strongly consider serving a mission.” It was like someone had poured a bucket of cold water over my head. God had answered my prayer through this inspired servant of His. Not only that but when the words left His mouth that I should serve a mission I knew that was exactly what God wanted me to do. Ever since that desire has burned within me so ferociously that it, I feel, has caused some complications with relationships I have been in. Again, I am so grateful that I am going four months earlier then I planned. It is a huge blessing, a wonderful reminder that God is mindful of His precious children.

Where did you want to be called? Why?
This is an amusing question for me now because honestly I can’t think of anywhere better then Panama. I had dreams, before I received my call that the Church opened up Jerusalem for missionary work (it currently is not). After a while I thought it would be cool to be one of the first sister missionaries in Turkey or Greece. The night I received my call I really thought I might get called to France or Germany (I have tons of ancestors from there and my grandma is full blooded German so it wasn’t too out there).

To be honest Panama never crossed my mind. I am ashamed to admit but I wanted to go foreign so badly that I was terrified I would be called stateside and thus, be disappointed when I read my call. I was far from disappointed (as the video of me opening up my call shows). I knew that God knew me so well. I even said a little prayer before I opened it (I prayed for it every night since submitting my papers as well) that I would know, the moment I read my call, no matter where it was, that it was inspired of God and that He would lead me to people who needed me and who would teach me things that would help me become more like Him. It strengthened my testimony that God answers prayers. We cannot even fathom how much He loves us and how badly He wants us to be happy. I felt embraced by Him the night I received my call and I know that He will be with me as I go to teach the people of Panama.

Where were you called? Was this surprising? How do you feel about it?
I feel like, in some ways I’ve already answered this questions but that’s okay because I could talk for hours about this. No I did not expect Panama. In fact, Central America in general never crossed my mind. I think subconsciously I knew they had missionaries down there but in thinking about where I thought I would go it just never came up in my head. Even people guessing didn’t get anywhere close. A friend of mine guessed Mexico but that’s only because she is from there and thought it would be really neat if that was where I got called to.

It was a huge tender mercy. I will admit that I bawled, which is not something I do very often (just ask my family). I addressed one of the reasons why in the previous questions but there was another reason why my call struck such a deep cord in me. It didn’t dawn on me completely until later. I was so touched by it because deep in my soul I had always wanted to serve a mission somewhere like Panama.

Before I came up to BYU I went on a cruise with my family to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. While there we decided to do a zip lining excursion through the jungle (it was so green and beautiful there!). On our way up the parents wanted to show us kids that we had a lot to be grateful for by taking us through the really impoverished areas of the island. Places where the people ran around without shoes and the houses had no doors, floors or glassed windows. Yet the people looked happy. I felt this deep, overwhelming desire to help these people. I only spent ten minutes in their presence but I loved them so deeply and wanted so badly to not only help them temporarily but to bring them the saving message that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I even expressed this deep desire to my mom and she said that maybe I would have that opportunity.

That was almost a year and a half ago. To be honest, I forgot that deep desire. Even when people asked me where I would want to go if I could choose I didn’t’ remember that I’d felt that in Mexico all that time ago. Then I received my call and it was as if God was saying “I remembered daughter, don’t worry, I know what you want and as your loving Father in Heaven I want to give you that joy. I want to reward you for that righteous desire.” Panama is just like the part of Mexico I visited only on a bigger scale. There is so much work to be done in Panama and I am so excited and blessed to be a part of it.

Share an interesting missionary experience or story.
I am sad to say that I haven’t helped bring any of my friends to the waters of baptism but I do have family members that are not members. Through them I have had numerous opportunities to refine my beliefs. It is something that helped establish my own testimony at a relatively young age. I had to decide if I really believed it or not. It was a source of contention between my nonmember step mom and me and if I didn’t believe that faith of my youth it would have been a lot easier to give in to her ridiculing jabs.

Yet I chose to try to be the example. Even though every time I went and visited my dad and her I was terrified that she would again try to pressure me to do something that she knew was against my beliefs. Her favorite pressure point was inappropriate movies. She would often tell me that I made it difficult for the rest of the family because I wouldn’t go see R-rated movies with them. That we couldn’t truly enjoy family time together because of it. Yet, despite many shed tears and pleas for understanding I stood as strong as I could on legs that wobbled with fear and frustration.

I knew I had done well when one visit she gave me a little velvet box and said that it was her birthday gift to me. It reminded her of me when she saw it. She also handed me a shirr that was folded and said she hoped I liked them. When I unfolded the shirt that words “Forgetting what’s temporal, focused on the eternal,” stared back at me and in the box a little pendent with the words “Woman of God- Psalms 31” engraved on it glimmered in the light. I knew then that all the years of struggling to be an example and standing alone against the things of the world had mattered. She saw me for the person I wanted to be and for the first time I felt like she looked at me with respect. I do not think she will ever join that church but I do hope, that when the time comes that I see her again I feel good knowing that I did the best missionary work an 11 year old girl knows how to do, I tried to be an example.

Why are you serving?
This is a very multi-dimensional question but for the sake of attention span I will boil it down to the main reason. I love my Savior Jesus Christ. He has been my closest friend and dearest companion. I have gone places that no one but Him can understand. He has been there when I’ve hurt so badly I felt like a physical being was binding my tongue and preventing me from speaking the words of a broken heart aching to be comforted. He has been there for me when I felt my world falling in around me. He is really all I need in this life to be happy. My relationship with Him is not one based off of a superficial belief in the Son of God but a deep and abiding trust in my Savior and Elder Brother. In any earthly relationship we work to make the ones we love happy. The same is true for my relationship with my Lord and my God. He has provided me with such joy that I want to make Him too happy by the way I live my life. Though I could never do any small measure of the things that He has done for me I can wear out my days in service to Him and I hope that when I kneel before Him at the last day He will take me in his arms and say “Well done my good and faithful servant.” And He will call me His and will know what it means to be truly and perfectly at peace.

[b]Any advice for future sisters or girls still deciding?[/b]
I have so many thoughts on this. My first bit of advice is to not get caught up in the hype. Don’t feel like you have to go because your neighbor and their dog are going. Also don’t go because you need a way to kill time while you’re waiting for your “pen pal with benefits” to come home. There a lot of other things you can do, things that won’t be so hard. I guess it boils down to, go for the right reason. A mission will be the hardest, most physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing experience of your life. If you are not out for the right reasons it’s going to be a miserable 18 months. Just search your heart. Figure out what God wants for you. To me true conversion is not in aligning your will with God’s. It is completely throwing aside your will and wanting only what God wants for you. I can personally testify that if you do this you will find more joy than you have ever known.

Second, before you leave, come to know your Savior. You cannot represent someone you do not know personally and intimately. You will, every day, encourage people to come to know Jesus Christ. But if you do not know Him, if you do not have a relationship with Him it will be harder to encourage others to know Him. That might involve a little walking where He has walked and suffering the way he suffered. But when you come to know that He has “engraven you upon the palm of His hands”, that He loves you and suffered for you. When you come to realize that if you were the only one that needed to be saved He would have suffered in Gethsemane and on Calvary over and over just for you. That is when you are in a place to really represent Him and to invite others to walk with you on the road to discipleship back towards our Father in Heaven.

To cut it short my last bit of advice is to not worry about the little things. I can’t tell you how many girls I have heard worried about the tiniest unimportant thing. You are choosing to put your trust in an all knowing, all powerful Being that loves you infinitely and completely. He is not setting you up to fail and even when you come home He will take care of you. You will be blessed beyond your wildest imagination for serving Him. He has told His children before and I reiterate the saying “Fear not little flock” He gave up His life for you and the small portion of your life that you are giving up for Him is not going unnoticed. Take heart, lift up your eyes and know that no matter your concerns He will see to it that it is taken care of. He loves you and He is waiting for you to serve in whatever capacity you were meant to do so.

Anything else?
I am just so very grateful to serve the people of Panama and feel so blessed that God has seen me as worthy to do so. I still have a long road of preparation but I am so excited for my chance to go out and do what I have longed all my life to do. It so wonderful to see all the worthy sisters getting ready to go out and I hope to one day to have daughters just like them. This is truly the greatest work on Earth. As sisters in Zion we have been given the errand of angels to gather His flock it has been a privilege answering these questions and really reflecting on the work of the Lord. Thank you and God bless you all.

(see the videos tab for the opening of my mission call).

2 comments:

  1. This is beautiful and powerful! Thank you for sharing, hermana!

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  2. Gracias hermana for your kind words :)

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