Friday, March 8, 2013

What do you mean... "missionary"?

I cannot describe to you how I was feeling watching this live in October. I was so happy that my male friends awaiting missionary service could be recommended at 18 rather than 19. My FHE family and I talked excitedly until we heard it

"We've also given consideration to the age at which young women might serve." 

My heart stopped and I put my hand over my mouth. I had no idea what he was going to say next. 

"Today, I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women that have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19 instead of age 21." 

There are no words that can accurately describe how it felt to go from at least a year before we were eligible... to right now. Many of my friends desired to serve missions but had the same thoughts. We all wanted to serve, but none of us knew where we would be when we finally could! This changed everything in less than five minutes. 

So you decided to serve a mission! What next? 

Everyone goes through the same basic system. Once your bishop determines that you have things in order financially and spiritually, they put you into the missionary recommendation system where you fill out endless information about yourself (languages you studied, what your parents do, where your ancestors are from) and find forms to do a missionary physical and dental exam. A doctor and dentist must do the exams and determine if they honestly believe you are capable of serving without problems. Once everything is completed, you submit everything to your bishop and meet with him again. You then meet with a stake president who will determine, overall, if you are worthy to be recommended as a missionary. If you are (yay!), he writes a recommendation for you and sends your papers to Salt Lake City, where they decide where you are to serve. 

That is another process in itself, but if you're interested read more here!

Then... you wait. It's a huge relief to have your papers completed, but the time between submitting them to Salt Lake and actually receiving your call... it's hard to describe. My roommates and I had dreams about getting calls to real and fictional places or dreams that our calls were lost. It's hard and can cause serious anxiety, but the moment you find that beautiful envelope in your mailbox... it's worth it. 

The two videos I have posted here make me cry, legitimately cry, any time of any day no matter how many times I watch them. 

Here is where I get the most questions and, as the time comes closer, I've been thinking a lot about them. 

France, huh? Neat!

I know! I opened my call in my bedroom and I thought I might pass out. Nobody was there but I tried to read it slowly in my head. They all start the same. "Dear Sister Loder, you are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." That is the entire first line and I knew my mission was on the next line. I just had to slide the paper... down... and... FRANCE! I couldn't believe it. 

Some people have a feeling about where they might go or what language they might study, but in the 10 days between submitting my papers and finally touching that sweet envelope... I had no idea. 

What do you do after you find out where you are going? 

First, every single person must write an acceptance letter. It is easy and simple and you can write whatever you want! Your bishop signs it and you send it to Salt Lake. 

After that, it really depends on your mission! For me, I got another big envelope a week later with paperwork (all in French, I might add), that I had to fill out for a visa. I also had to apply for a passport since I did not have one before. All of this is a long process. Once I finally got my passport, I completed the visa paperwork and submitted tons of stuff back to Salt Lake where they work on getting you the visa you need for your mission. 

You also get a book that tells you ALL the things you need to have in your mission. Clothes, supplies, mission specific things (like voltage converters or special licenses) and medical information. Some missions require special immunizations, but most are standard. Mission shopping is expensive and often difficult because there are specific clothing guidelines we have to follow. Sisters and elders must be modest in their appearance, and in today's world, that can be really hard to come by. 

What are you doing in France? Any sightseeing? 

France is a beautiful country with much to see and yes, I'm sure I will see a lot of breathtaking things... but that isn't why I'm going. The missionary purpose is simple and can be found in Moses 1:39. For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. 

Many missionares are called to labor in incredible places all over the world, but a quote I love that sums it up perfectly says, "The call is to the people, not the place." We are all God's children and missionaries teach the same Gospel to everyone. Those serving a mission in Montana are teaching the same Gospel truths that I will be teaching in France, and those are the same that my roommates will be teaching in Cape Verde, Belgium, Portugal, Chile, etc. 

We'll all be working hard all day every day to find anyone and everyone that is willing and teach them about Christ and help them to receive all the saving ordinances that will bring them back to their Father in Heaven and life eternal. 

So... are there a lot of rules? 

Yep. There is a white handbook that all missionaries have that state plainly what we can and cannot do and I'll be honest... they're strict! But they are there for a reason. We are not set apart as missionaries and sent all over the world to do exactly what we do at home. We have goals and responsibilities and everything else is set aside. These rules are in place to help us focus on our purpose (bringing to pass immortality and eternal life... you know), and nothing else. Not skiing. Not watching TV. Not texting. Not dating. Only missionary work, and we are so blessed for following these rules and being obedient. They make the work more meaningful and it progresses faster! 

MTC? What?

The Missionary Training Center. Missionaries to go these training centers all over the world (there are about 15, give or take as they open new ones), and they are dedicated to teaching brand new missionaries how to preach the Gospel and how to speak the language they are called to speak. The time spent there depends on your language! If someone from Utah is called to Illinois speaking English, they stay for a very short time (10 days), but someone learning Russian will probably be there 3 months. It all depends on what you speak and what you are called to speak. For French, I'll be there for 6 weeks starting on April 3. I'll eat, sleep and breathe the Gospel (and French) before I fly to France.

I've been asked lots of questions and I'm not going to type them up because, let's be honest, who is still reading? :) I like answering questions, so I'm willing to take any that anyone has!

I'm so thankful to have the opportunity to serve a mission. Total understatement, but what am I supposed to say? Excited. Nervous. Happy? I just can't wait to and serve the Lord as His missionary. 

The Church is true and the book is blue. Bonne chance! 

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