Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Beginning of a New Adventure!

So it has come. I fly to the Colombia MTC (or CCM in Spanish) in the morning. It is crazy to sit here and think that a year ago I had no plans on serving a mission. How did I come to decide to serve an LDS mission? Well, it starts long ago...

As long as I can remember, I always said I wanted to serve a mission. I grew up and that was at the top of my list. When I got into high school, I took seminary as an elective class. My high school has such a big LDS population that seminary was an option to take during the regular school day. I had a wide variety of teachers. And of course, all teachers at some point or another, require a substitute to fill their place for various reasons. Two substitutes told the class that girls do not go on missions, they sit at home and wait to get married. This statement began to upset me. Stay home and wait for Prince Charming to come home? Umm, heck no! I was going to serve a mission!

In October of 2012, President Thomas S. Monson declared that the missionary age was to change. Young men could serve at the age of 18 and young women could serve at the age of 19. This news was amazing. I could put my life on hold a lot easier at the age of 19 rather than 21. This announcement fueled my desire to go and to show those seminary substitutes that young women could serve missions.

I graduated from high school and seminary in May of 2013 with a pocket full of dreams and an appetite to take on the world. Throughout the summer I worked to save money for college and took missionary prep classes. The time finally came for me to leave for Rexburg, Idaho to attend BYUI in fall of 2013. I was planning on enrolling in the nursing program.

These first couple of semesters proved to be quite the trial for me. The family car broke down on the way to dropping me off. My classes were hard. Being away from family and friends was difficult. I really began to question the LDS church and if it was worth all of this fuss. I almost dropped out of school that first month but thankfully I was blessed with amazing friends and roommates who made the trials bearable. I was also blessed with an amazing bishopric.

At the end of my first semester and very beginning of my second semester, I dated a guy who did not attend BYUI and did not share my same religious beliefs. The lifelong plan of a mission had almost completely faded from my life plan. I stood at the crossroads, continue to date this guy who was perfect in my eyes and risk giving up my religion or break up with him and continue to find out who I was and what I wanted out of life. I could not seem to make a decision. The more I pulled away from my church, the more I realized how much I really needed the Gospel in my life, namely the priesthood. Through several accidents and injuries, many priesthood blessings, and a lot of soul searching, I came to the decision to change my direction in life.

I threw myself into my studies. The more I studied, the more I realized that what I was studying was not for me. I changed my major to horticulture. The thought of school began to excite me again. Classes sounded exciting. I worked during my off-track and then went down to spend time with my grandma for a few weeks. The thought of serving a mission returned. During those weeks, one of my best friends from school and I were skyping. She told me she thought of serving a mission again. She was planning on serving one a year prior but decided she needed to go to school. The feeling that I needed to serve a mission kept poking at me.

As I started my third semester at BYUI, I began into the Horticulture program. It was perfect, perfect for me. Classes were hands on. I actually knew what I was talking about. I made friends with everyone in my classes. I could go and talk with professors. I made friends with the TAs and was actually comfortable to ask them for help. I began to date a guy. I was a student ambassador and a volunteer for social activities on campus. Life seemed perfect. Then the feeling that I needed to serve a mission came back. I struggled with the thought of serving a mission. There was no obligation to serve. Girls were not required to serve. Why now? I finally was comfortable with myself, with school, with life in general...

Then something came to mind from long ago. My eldest brother served in the German Alpine Speaking Mission. At his homecoming, he said something that stuck with me. "Christ gave his life for me, so why couldn't I give up two years of my life to serve him?" Why not? Why was I questioning it so much? It was obvious why I should serve. I needed to show my gratitude for all that I was blessed with. 

How was I blessed when the car broke down on the way to BYUI? A man pulled over and gave my mom and me a ride to campus to get things in order while my dad fixed the car. How was I blessed when I felt all alone and wanted to drop out of college? I was given roommates and friends who cared about me and wanted me to succeed. How was I blessed sliding off the road? A car full of young men and three trucks helped without asking for anything to pull the car back onto the road. How was I blessed with a knee injury and internal struggles in deciding what to do? I was given a bishop who listened and gave me a priesthood blessing. With all of this happening, how could I not see the hand of the Lord in my life? Well, it is a little difficult to see Him in my life while I was struggling to stay afloat in the world but He never left my side. So why not give 18 months to serve my Heavenly Father?

The moment after sitting down and realizing all of this, I made the call. I set up an appointment to talk to my bishop. He got me authorized to start the papers and so it began. Each step in the mission papers went quicker and quicker. Everything was falling into place so perfectly. Interviews with the bishop and stake president went smoothly. Click. Papers were sent to Church Headquarters.

Through all of this, I had this thought in my mind. What am I doing? Sitting at the dentist's office, what am I doing? Sitting in the doctor's office, what am I doing? Sitting in the bishop's office, what am I doing? Walking to the stake president's office, what am I doing? Papers submitted, what have I done? The day I received my call, what have I done? I knew in my heart I was going to Ecuador. I opened the call and read that I would be serving in the Ecuador Quito North Mission, Spanish speaking. I had a little over two months to get everything in order before I was to report to the Colombia MTC.

Finding appropriate clothing proved a difficult task but not impossible. My passport thankfully was updated very quickly and visa papers were easy, though there was some mix up with another missionary’s passport. Everything was lining up for me to go but my thoughts betrayed me. All my insecurities came out. The feeling of unworthiness, the feeling that I would be a failure, the feeling that maybe I made a mistake in my decision, all echoed in my mind. I curled up and cried multiple times. Did I make a mistake? Should I not go? Satan really has been doing a number on me to get me not to go. He brought every insecurity that I had ever felt to the front of my mind. Guys that I was interested in but they were not, began to show interest. Friends began questioning why I was going after I had clearly stated months earlier that I would not serve a mission. Family issues were popping up right and left. My world was falling apart.

Manti Temple, Manti, UT
But then came the day that I received my endowments in the Manti Temple. The temple had always been a sanctuary to me and proved itself once again. As I participated in the ordinances, I began to lose the worries, self-doubt, and any other negative feeling I had. I felt free. I began to look around me once more. How could I fail? I have such a great support system. I have friends, bishops, family, and Christ himself cheering me on. I am not alone. I do not have to go through this journey alone. I can do this. All I need is to have faith in myself and faith in my Savior.
Grandma and Grandpa Duff, Manti Temple
January 24, 2015
The Apostle Paul taught that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". How I see it, faith is stepping out of the light and into the darkness, knowing that no matter what, Christ will always be watching over you and the Holy Ghost will guide and protect you. 

So why did I give this long winded explanation of why I chose to serve a mission? Well first off, I can never shorten my stories because I usually leave out important details or lose my place. It is easiest just to tell the whole thing. The other reason is to show that my decision to serve varies from other missionaries. We all are different, come from different backgrounds from all over the world, and have different personalities, but there is one thing that we have in common, we chose to serve Heavenly Father. Together we are united in one cause, to bring people unto Christ. 

I love you guys and next week, I'll be posting from Colombia! Hope to hear from you soon!

Until next time,
The Strawberry Blonde Hermana

Lynzei and I at the Twin Falls Temple, February 6, 2015
Saying goodbye to Johanna
My farewell, Lexi and Tina

My farewell, Javin and KayDee
Lynzei's Farewell, February 15, 2015