Monday, July 28, 2014

Mormon Monday: Why I Went on a Mission

The other day, I was talking to my cousin who had just received a mission call to Mexico. I asked her if she was excited, and she admitted that she was pretty nervous. I then asked her why she wanted to go on a mission.

She said she didn't know, and turned the question back onto me. Why had I decided to go on a mission?

Here is the story, and the reason that I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Even as a missionary, I really connected with people through their animals.
In 2007, I was beginning to rethink my life. I had begun to doubt my decision to go to vet school. For a long time, I had been planning to become a vet "if" I didn't get married. However, as I worked for a vet, worked at the zoo, pet-sat, walked dogs, and worked with livestock, I began to realize that there are many other things I could do besides be a vet.  Really, I just wanted to work with animals.  However, I was becoming pretty sure that I didn't want to deal with other people's sick animals my whole life. It could be pretty depressing.

One experience that really affected me was one time when I assisting with a cat spay. The cat was very fat, which wasn't unusual, but as we opened her up, we realized that she wasn't fat after all. She was pregnant. We called up the owners to make sure that they wanted us to continue, and when they gave us the go-ahead, we aborted those kittens. I could literally see the moment when the life left those tiny bodies. It affected me very deeply, and make me rethink what I wanted to do the rest of my life.

I also had some strange tremors in my muscles that occurred randomly and seemingly without cause. With the shaking in my hands, I wondered if I would even be capable of performing the needed surgeries. I loved my jobs and the experiences and lessons that I was learning, but I just wasn't sure in which direction I was supposed to go.

About this time, my dad had suggested that I think about serving a mission. I was considering this as well, and was starting to feel pretty good about the option. I was also contemplating switching to English major, when I received an e-mail from my zoo supervisor.  He told me that he wanted to meet with me.  I agreed and Friday afternoon, because I got off the vet job early, I went to the zoo to talk to him.  He informed me that one of the full-time workers was leaving and he wondered if I would like his job.  I was deeply honored, especially when he told me that he really liked the way that I was so willing to do whatever was needed, and how hard of a worker I was.  I told him I didn't think it would work with my school schedule, since I was taking 16 credits this semester, and I was thinking of going on a mission next summer.  He told me he would like it more long term, but he would like me think about it since it was a life-changing thing.  He suggested I could also go down to 6 credits a semester.

I went home feeling pleased but nervous.  His praise had made me feel really good, and it was a job I definitely wouldn't mind doing.  The huge money increase wouldn't be bad either.  However, I would have to quit my other job, and less credit hours of school meant more years of school. It also would effectively erase my social life, since I would probably end up taking evening and night classes.

I struggled with this decision for the rest of the week.  I called Dad as soon as I got home and told him what had happened.  Mom called that afternoon and I told her as well.  They both reminded me that it was fast Sunday and I needed to pray about this decision.  Dad seemed a little unsure about the idea, while Mom seemed pretty enthusiastic about it.  Its good to have parents with different opinions.  I prayed and read scriptures, trying keep myself in tune so that I could hear and understand the answer when it came. While I was praying about it, Dad suggested that I pray about going on a mission too. I thought, "Sure, I'll just throw that in there as well."

I worked that weekend at the zoo and the idea of working there full-time was constantly in my mind, making me slightly stressed and also excited.  Pro’s and con’s jumped at me from every direction and I knew that this was a huge moment in my two decades of life.

During lunch, I randomly opened the scriptures and it fell to D&C 88:74-86, which reads:
 74 And I give unto you, who are the first laborers in this last kingdom, a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean;
 75 That I may testify unto your Father, and your God, and my God, that you are clean from the blood of this wicked generation; that I may fulfil this promise, this great and last promise, which I have made unto you, when I will.
 76 Also, I give unto you a commandment that ye shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth.
 77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
 78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
 79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
 80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.
 81 Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.
 82 Therefore, they are left without excuse, and their sins are upon their own heads.
 83 He that seeketh me early shall find me, and shall not be forsaken.
 84 Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry to go forth among the Gentiles for the last time, as many as the mouth of the Lord shall name, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony, and to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come;
 85 That their souls may escape the wrath of God, the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come. Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not clean from the blood of this generation.
 86 Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free; entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes.
As I read over these scriptures, I felt like I had received my answer. I need to go on a mission. I continued to read and study the scriptures, and every time I randomly opened them, I landed on a verse about missionary work. I also received some other counsel on how to prepare before I left.  I became positive that I was supposed to go on a mission.  I also felt that the time wasn't right for me to take that job.

Leaving those two jobs and my schooling was a large sacrifice. I love my employers and my duties. I enjoyed every aspect of work, and the experiences I had while I was there helped me to mature and grow into a much better person.

However, I wanted to do what the Lord wanted me to do. In my case, that meant that I was supposed to leave my family, friends, school, and work for 18 months to serve my Father in Heaven.

Not everyone is meant to serve a mission, but I needed it. The mission did something incredible for me. The difficulties I faced ripped me apart, showed me my weaknesses, and then showed me how Christ had made it possible to fix them. I am so grateful for the inspiration that I was given at that time that guided me to the next step of my journey through life.
This is the time I dented the curtain at the church when we were playing soccer. That's a story for another time.

All the things I had learned before the mission became useful. I made incredible life-long friends, and my testimony of Jesus Christ flourished and grew.

It was on my mission that I was given inspiration to know where I should go to school when I returned and what I should study. Thanks to that, I met my husband and am now happily married with a degree in elementary education. I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be right now, and I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. That's a comforting thing, and we've been so blessed because of it.

The miracle is, this doesn't just work for me. The Lord wants to guide all of our lives, and He introduces us to people that will help us to make decisions that will bring us happiness and peace. I testify that these things are true, and I am so grateful to have His guiding light in my life.

The Lord has missions for all of us, and it is our responsibility to figure out what we are supposed to be doing. It's a life-long journey, and though it isn't always easy, it is totally worth the effort.

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