I've found that some people measure how great or "cool" a mission is by how "exotic" or far away it is. No one would have ever guessed that I would be serving in Washington. Everyone expected me to go somewhere far out and crazy. But I didn't. There was a time in my life when that crossed my mind, but in the past year, I came to realize my purpose as a missionary. As I came to understand that, the destination didn't mean a thing to me. I just wanted to get out and serve. So, when I opened my call and it said "...you are hereby called to serve in the Washington Everett Mission..." I was overwhelmed with joy. I could see in people's faces, both when I read my call and after, that there was some shock. and maybe even some disappointment. I want everyone to know what I wasn't disappointed in the slightest:
There are many factors that go into why I have zero disappointment about my call, but I will name just a few.
First. Like I mentioned above, I knew my purpose and that made the destination not matter to me. But, in the month leading up to receiving my mission call, I started to earnestly pray that wherever I was called, that I would feel that I was called to the right place. Don't get me wrong, I knew God was going to call me where He needed me, but I yearned for that confirmation double-fold. I could never pinpoint a guess for my mission, nor could I see myself in one place. But in the weeks leading up to receiving my mission call, the words of a song constantly played in my mind:
It may not be on a mountain height,
Or over the stormy sea.
It may not be at the battle's front,
My Lord will have need of me.
I didn't think much of it. I knew where I was going to be called was where I needed to be. Days before my mission call, I started getting the feeling that I was going to go stateside. I told everyone who asked me where I thought I was going, "South Dakota, swag." I didn't really mean it, but it didn't necessarily feel wrong either. When I got my call and held it, alone, in my dorm room, I turned on some music and the first song that came on was "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go." Sometimes I think Heavenly Father takes pleasure in watching us wallow in our tears;) just kidding! But it felt right. I knew that wherever I was going, was where I needed to be, stateside or not.
Granted, I got to my grandparent's house to open my call and the implications of what was going on set in. That "inherent disappointment" that occasionally accompanies a stateside call, flashed through my mind. I took a few seconds to pray, that again I would have no doubts or qualms about where I was to serve. Let me just say right now...Heavenly Father is REAL. He is mindful of us and knows us and our lives. He answers our prayers before we even offer them!!!
But I am getting ahead of myself...back to opening my mission call. So, trying to stay composed I opened my mission call. I actually began reading it and got to the beginning of the third line (the line that has your call on it) and everyone said "stop! stop! we can't hear you!!" But by that time, by eyes had already glanced over and seen where I was going...Washington Everett Mission. I could not speak. I was told my eyes looked like they were going to pop out of my head, and you can bet that's just how it felt! I felt physically limp, in fact, I fell and caught myself on my knees. Embarrassing, I know. But I couldn't believe it. I knew without a doubt that this is where I needed to be.
Now, I am sure that many of you who are reading this are assuming that this little experience in itself was the answer to my prayer. This overwhelming feeling of peace, joy , and comfort and the weakening of my physical state...let me just tell you...that is ONLY the beginning!!!! I won't go into detail, lest I should get carried away and over anxious again, but I will share in general the extent to which my prayer was answered.
Obviously, I got an answer after I had prayed. I got this confirmation that I was going exactly where the Lord needed me. But what you probably don't know is that I was being prepared for my mission over a year before I even submitted my papers. How? I'll tell you!
I spent the better part of my last year with a family in my ward's "sister-ward" as we call it. It retrospect, I can see that I definitely over-stayed my welcome, but I am so grateful for their willingness to always welcome me in. I heard about Everett, Washington almost every time I went there. I'd never been there, but I was always fascinated. I thought maybe I just felt a special connection to the place because I felt a special connection to the family, but now I know that was not the case. The Lord was preparing me to serve in my mission long before I even received my call. Isn't that crazy? Heavenly Father's influence in our lives is so intricate! When I read my call, this family came to mind. A flood of memories, stories, and pictures that had been shared with me poured into my mind. The next thing I know, I was in tears. Everett, Washington. My Mission. It already felt like home.
I've left out some other details that are not necessary to share, but I just want everyone to be aware of Heavenly Father's in my life. You may ask, well why do I care about YOUR life. I'll tell you why. Because God is not a respecter of persons. He loves you just as much as he loves me. Therefore, his role in your life and awareness of you is just as prevalent in your life as it is in mine.
I take great comfort in recognizing the hand of the Lord in my life. If you're wondering why you haven't seen his hand in your life, I would challenge you to open you eyes wider, look harder. Take a step back. His hand is in your life every single day. Each day, through the people you come in contact with and the activities you participate in, he prepares you for the days to come. I promise that if you will try to recognize his hand in your life, you WILL find it. And not only will you find it, but so much love, joy, peace, and happiness will flow into your life.
That is my purpose as a missionary: to help other's recognize God's love for them as well as his mindfulness of them. If that is the only thing that I achieve on my mission, then I will be satisfied. Success in a mission, to me, is not measured by how many people you can dunk. To me, it is: how many people have been able to feel of God's love and recognize his intricate hand in their lives. That is success to me.
Strive to recognize the Lord's hand in your life. Help other to do the same.