Monday, January 25, 2010

I Hope They Call Me On a Mission

I grew up wanting to serve a mission, though the tradition in the LDS church is that men should feel it's their duty to serve while a woman should only go if she feels prompted to by the spirit. But I'd always admired returned sister missionaries a lot when I was young, and I really wanted to be one. They were always so spiritual, and in my opinion, told even better stories than the Elder missionaries. So as soon as I could, I sent in my mission papers and anxiously awaited the call. Though I claimed I'd be happy to go anywhere the Lord would have me, I did secretly cherish the desire to go to a German, French, or Italian speaking mission. Though I'd definitely met other opera singers who'd been called to German, French, and Italian countries, I'd also met plenty more who didn't. So it was certainly no guarantee that just because I wanted to serve there, that I'd get to.

My brother had received his call after barely a week of waiting. It's pretty common if you live in Utah that you'll get your call back quickly. Mine was not so fast. It took about a month. I even had a tease on my second week. I got to my mailbox and found two large white envelopes. I was sure one had to be my call. But after tearing open both envelopes without even looking at the return address, I found that they were both just enormous advertisements.

But after a month of butterflies in my stomach every time I went out to the mailbox, the call finally came. A lot of missionaries wait to open their call until they have their entire family around. I was not so patient. I opened it outside right after taking it out of the mailbox. I jumped up and down when I saw Milan, Italy; and then went to call everyone I knew. For weeks after I kept looking at the papers just to make sure they really did say Italy. I was thrilled!

I later learned at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) how the prophets and apostles assign mission calls. Oscar and I were both fortunate enough to be at the MTC while the mission presidents were there (though I was the year after Oscar), and were addressed by several general authorities and apostles. President Thomas S. Monson (current prophet and leader of the LDS church) gave us a devotional and told us how the process works.

He explained to us that in most cases, all they need to do is look at your picture. If they don't receive immediate inspiration, they pray about it and put it into a separate pile. They later try again from the picture alone, and then they begin to look at your papers and any other information. In any case, they don't send the call until they've felt the inspiration from the Lord, which is why some missionaries get their call in 9 days and others get it several months later. I found out at the MTC that I was the only one in my district who didn't get my call immediately. So I'm guessing that they didn't receive immediate inspiration for me, but later looked at my papers showing that I was studying opera, received the inspiration from there, and then prayed about it until they had a confirmation.

A couple months after I got my call, I was off to the MTC. Technically they only allow immediate family to come say good-bye to you at the MTC, but they're not checking id's or anything. I think they're just trying to avoid big groups. I could not have either my brother or sister there because Lia was with her mom riding the whales at Sea World (pre-paid before I got my mission call) and Mike was back in the Phillipines (again, pre-paid before I got my call). So I invited my friends Amy and Rachael to come with me in place of them. I love these adorable pics we took of the 3 of us on the day they dropped me off.

Here's me with my mom saying goodbye to the house for 18 months.

We took a bunch of pictures and went to eat at Jacintos before they dropped me off and said good-bye. I was fully convinced that they'd both be married by the time I got back.

When we arrived in at the MTC, they directed us to a chapel where we said our final farewells to our families before being fully immersed in our new missionary callings. Here's me loading up my bags. I had two enormous duffle bags my Uncle Jim had given me from his old army days.

Here I am with mom and dad outside the chapel.

We got a pic of me with Amy and Rachael holding up the Italian flag.

And this was the pic I snapped after I said my last goodbyes and moved on to 8 weeks of MTC life.

I joked around that the MTC was the bubble (MTC) within the bubble (BYU) within the bubble (Provo) within the bubble (Happy Valley) within the bubble (Utah). Good thing I like playing with bubbles!

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