A mission was never in my plans. Anytime anyone would ask me whether or not I planned to serve a mission my response was always something like "right now, my mission is my education" or "no, that's just not for me." Don't get me wrong, I loved missions and was always very supportive of those called to serve. I just never pictured myself as being on the other side of the letter. And then this happened...
I opened my mission call on Sunday, May 17, 2015.
IT. WAS. AWESOME.
When I say that I never pictured myself serving a mission, I mean it. I was so focused on my education that even thinking about taking a year and a half hiatus away from school seemed ridiculous. From the time I was 17, I had been doing school straight through. I did my first semester at Stanford, then I transferred my credits to BYU where I did a year of school, then a study abroad in Europe: two weeks in Oxford at a Social Entrepreneurship Seminar and then 12 weeks at Cambridge in a direct enrollment program. I absolutely love learning and while I was at Cambridge I experience a few very intense introspective moments about my life. That's when the idea of serving a mission first popped into my head. I remember thinking "Psh, no. I'm just worn out with school and need a break...but not THAT long of a break!" The Lord, obviously, had other plans for me.
Now, here's something that needs to be understood: If you are considering serving a mission or if you think you may want to, that's wonderful! However, nobody can pressure or persuade you to go or not go on a mission. As a sister the choice to go, or not to go, is purely between you and the Lord. What I share is my personal story and is not meant to charge every young woman with the duty of leaving on a mission. It is simply an account of how and why I decided to serve.
Now what had happened was...
Like I said, I was studying this past summer at Cambridge when the thought of serving a mission came to me. However, I quickly pushed the thought out of my mind as I was convinced that path wasn't for me. I valued my education and was focused on becoming a renaissance woman. It always seemed to me like there was a stigma on young women who served: they either 1) weren't pretty enough to get married and that's why they went, or 2) they couldn't hack it at school so they quit and left on a mission. I didn't want either of those options to be a part of my life because I knew they weren't an honest representation of my character. It's obvious now that the Lord knew that about me. That summer I met some truly amazing LDS women at Cambridge, a few of whom had served missions. They had great stories to tell about their experiences, and I became curious to know what had made them want to serve. After all, these young women were beautiful and incredibly intelligent. They had the whole world at their fingertips, yet they had decided to serve.
One day I struck up a conversation with one of the girls. Her name was Mary and she was a seriously amazing individual. She had served in Portugal and had since done research for Cambridge in the Portuguese libraries (kind of like Portugal's equivalent to our Library of Congress). Anyways, she and I got to talking and she told me what she loved about her mission and also what she hated. She said there were people on her mission who she's since become lifelong friends with while there were others who she basically only loved because Jesus said so. She said is was probably the hardest, most rewarding endeavor of her life and she wouldn't trade it for anything.
So, I started thinking about a mission.
I decided not to pray for an answer; at least not yet. I knew that my relationship with God was such that if I prayed for an answer, I would get one - be it a confirmation to go or a command to stay. Either way, I knew that I'd get an answer and I wanted to be humble enough to receive it and not be disappointed either way. But I struggled with deciding whether or not to pray about a mission, mostly because I didn't know if I'd be humble enough to serve for a year and a half in an English speaking mission in say Idaho (not that there's anything at all wrong with Idaho! I'm sure it's a lovely place). The hard thing for me was that I knew I had the option to participate in mission trips that lasted 3-6 months where I'd be able to pick whatever area of the world I wanted to be in. That seemed to be a much more appealing option to me, so I started down that path. I was eventually offered a leadership position in Fiji running my own social entrepreneurial endeavor, but that's another story.
Anyways, I soon returned to BYU and I started talking to my friend Megan about her mission Megan was recently accepted to do her Masters at Oxford University! She's incredibly bright and one of the most inspirational women I know. She served her LDS mission in Ukraine and spoke Russian. (You can follow her UK adventures here). Megan told me the good, the bad, and the ugly. We talked about her mission, but also her educational goals and how her path had taken the twists and turns to get her to the point she's at now. One day we went to lunch and she asked if I was thinking about a mission and I said yes, but that I wasn't ready to pray about it. (It's about December by this point) So, I kept thinking about a mission, but more so than anything I focused on school. I wanted to make sure I wasn't foregoing my studies on the grounds that I'd develop the "screw it I'm going on a mission and never coming back" mentality. It's like senioritis for missionaries. It's a thing, I promise.
Then, on Friday, March 6th I knelt in prayer and asked Heavenly Father what He wanted me to do, not only that day or the next, but for the next few years. The semester was coming to a close, the summer was about to begin, and I was in serious need of direction and guidance. I had an internship lined up for the summer and the option to begin registering for classes in the fall. Thus, I asked what I was supposed to do: take the opportunity in Fiji, accept the paid internship, register for fall classes, or go on a mission.
I asked...and then I waited.
I guess I should have known that keeping God waiting that long just to ask the question would in turn illicit a delayed response. I didn't have to wait long though, because that Sunday I received my answer: I was supposed to serve a mission. It was a pretty powerful moment for me. I knew that my preparations since the previous August had paid off because this confirmation was neither questionable nor deniable. It meant that, whether I was called to Idaho or Brazil, I was needed. I started my papers that night, received my mission call to the Romania/Moldova mission a few weeks later and now I'll be leaving on September 30th. It's going to be the hardest, most trying year and a half of my life, but I know that it will also be the most rewarding experience I've ever had.
It's tradition when you decide to serve a mission that you also pick a mission scripture. I chose Isaiah 6:6-8:
Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
There are a couple of reasons why I love these verses. First, the parallelism between Isaiah and Christ is beautifully represented by the question and answer dialogue in verse eight. Second, this is the scripture that helped me decide to go on a mission. Christ is our ultimate example and we are asked to follow in His footsteps. When the Father asked who would be the Savior, Christ said "Here am I; send me." When the Lord asked who would go and be a messenger, prophet, and mouthpiece to the people, Isaiah likewise said "Here am I; send me." When I was deciding whether or not to go on a mission, I wanted to go but didn't feel worthy, prepared, or even able. I am not perfect and I have struggled. I received my confirmation that the Lord wanted me to serve a mission when I was taking the sacrament in church and the following verse came to mind: "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." Just as Isaiah had been cleansed when the coal touched his lips, so had I when the bread touched mine. That's when I knew that there is no challenge too great for the Lord. With his help, nothing is impossible.
I am so excited to serve my mission among the people of Romania! It will definitely be the hardest, most challenging experience of my life, but I know that it will be worth it.
stay savvy loves,