Sometime life just hits with you with feelings.
Like lessons in Church on preparing missionaries to serve. And two sisters leaving on their missions in my ward. And another whose call just came. And a gal I babysat getting home and another who just got her call and another who is serving with so much energy. And so many other things.
And the big one? This past week marks twelve years since I received my call to serve in the Brazil Curitiba Mission. And it’s been 10 years since I got home.
I believed it when everyone said that serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (I’m trying to use the full name now, haha) would change my life. And I believed it when people said they don’t go a day without thinking of the time they served. How can you? It becomes a part of…everything.
So I’m in a reflective mood and just wanted to reflect.
Twelve years ago, I completed my paperwork, “passed” my interviews with the bishop (Thanks, Bishop My Dad) and stake president, and sent in my mission “papers” (this was the beginning of digital age mission paper filling out so I think we mostly submitted stuff online). I sent them in at the end of June 2006, the same week as my brother, Chris and my good friend, Cheryl, and we were all anxious to hear where we were going and excited to possibly be in the MTC at the same time.
Chris and I had always known we’d serve at the same time if we both went. When we were very little, we hoped desperately that we would be called to Disneyland. That shows a little of what we thought missions were like. As we got a little older, we just hoped to both be called to Anaheim. 😉
I had taken 5 years of Spanish and passed the AP Spanish test and thought for sure I’d be called Spanish speaking, which I was totally fine with. Although I would go wherever I was called, I did have a tiny desire to be called to Slovenia (Adriatic North Mission) so that I could visit one of my motherlands and learn the language to aid in our family history.
A friend in my singles ward received her call about as I put in my papers and she was called to Brazil. For one tiny moment, I remember thinking, “Huh. I guess I could serve there, too.”
Well, #pertheusual, things didn’t go as planned with my papers. Fairly soon after submitting, I was contacted by the missionary medical office. My iron was too low for them to process my papers. They needed to know what was up. Naturally, I was mad. I’m in Utah, for crying out loud. Shouldn’t my doctor have noticed or said anything if my iron was low? And why me? Moan, moan, moan.
So a few days later my brother got his call, and mine was still in limbo (whine again). He was to leave in September to the Provo MTC and go to Texas. And then Cheryl got her call. To Mongolia. And I began a series of tests–mostly not very fun ones. And on the very worst day emotionally, I sat in a hospital for 4 hours while they dripped iron into me. I think that was probably the worst I have ever been to my parents, aside from how terrible I was when I got home from my mission. #belatedsorry. I hated it and questioned if maybe God didn’t want me to serve a mission or what this was all about. And I was ornery. Is a side effect of iron infusions being ornery? I hope it was that, not who I really am inside…#stillnotsure
That summer I was busy as an EFY counselor, so I was doing this all in between or having to leave my youth with another counselor so I could take care of things. You don’t really get sick days as an EFY counselor.
Nothing showed up for why I might have low iron. But the iron infusion upped my iron score. So, we chalked it up to a fluke and sent my papers back in after six weeks of whatever that was.
I had hoped beyond hope that my call would come on a week that I was off from being a counselor so that I could be home with my family. Or that it would at least come during all the sessions I was doing at BYU (Provo) since that was closer.
But no. The one and only week I was at BYU-Idaho for EFY, my mom got a call early in the morning. The lady who works at the post office is very familiar with mission call papers. Because it is a small town, she calls the family first thing in the morning and asks if they want to pick it up instead of wait for it to be delivered. Mom picked it up and called me. Did I want her to bring it to Rexburg? Wait until Saturday to open it? I’d thought through what I’d do if I received it while in Rexburg and had *thought* I could wait until the weekend. Turns out, I couldn’t. My mom, the best mom in the world, immediately got in the car with two of my brothers and drove up to Rexburg as fast as she could.
In my family, we may be a little out of the norm because several of us wanted to (and did) open our mission calls privately.
When my mum arrived, I took the classic white envelope, and drove a few blocks away to the parking lot of the not-yet-completed Rexburg Temple. There I sat in Silver Shift, my 1988 stick shift Subaru, and opened the call. I covered each line as I read with tear-filled eyes.
I still remember the surprise of reading the Brazil Curitiba Mission. And Portuguese! Que legal! But the bigger shock was the leave date 4 months later. And reporting to the Brazil MTC. (I realize that now 4 months is about the average, but at that time, 3 months was generally the longest. 4 months was generally reserved for countries that had long visa wait times).
I drove back to meet my mom and brothers and told them and started calling all the family. A stranger passed by and noted the excitement and said they knew someone who had served in that mission and corrected our pronunciation of Cour-it-ee-ba to Cour-it-chee-bah. Belated thanks to that stranger.
And then, I had to get back to my job of being an EFY counselor. I took my call and we gathered our group around and I read it. They cheered and were so excited for me! (Although, some of them thought I was opening it for the first time, so they were disappointed when they heard I already knew. #oops)
And my mom and brothers drove home. And I worked and stressed and planned.
From my journal that night, “I am SO excited. It is somewhere I never thought I’d go. It crossed my mind once and… I can’t believe I’m actually going there. It seems so surreal. But I know it’s the right place for me…I know I am needed there…it all feels so right.”
But, I wouldn’t be in the MTC with my brother or Cheryl. I wouldn’t be in the Provo MTC at all. I would end up being in the Brazil MTC, luckily with that gal from my young single adult ward. #tendermercy
Beyond that, I hadn’t planned on another semester at school. I had quit my job, moved my stuff home while I worked EFY all summer, and hadn’t registered for classes. Even more complicated is I was to leave on December 19 but finals didn’t begin until December 18.
But in a whirlwind week, with help and mercy and #allthethings, I put it back together again. I asked for my job back and got it. I found a few classes I wanted/needed to take and knew I’d just have to watch like a hawk to get in other classes as people added or dropped, which I did.
One week after getting my call, early in the morning, my brother and I went to the Ogden Temple with our parents where he and I made covenants to receive our endowment. My car was packed to the brim and from there I drove to Provo to begin a mandatory training for my job. I couch surfed and lived out of my car for a week until a place opened up in a friend’s apartment complex and I moved in.
A week after my call, I wrote in my journal about the stress of it all. “I still just don’t feel very right about anything right now, but I think things are going to work out somehow, I just am not exactly sure when.”
The rest is for a different blog post, but it all worked out. Somehow it all worked out. I asked my professors from the beginning if I could take my finals early so I could leave on my mission. Surprisingly for a Church school, not all of them were easy to work with, but I did make it happen. It meant taking my last final on Saturday, moving my stuff home that day, unpacking Sunday and spending time with family, repacking on Monday (and buying a few things for my mission that counted as my Christmas presents), getting set apart that night, and flying out on Tuesday morning.
But I am so grateful for the unexpectedness of all of it. I got to know people that semester that I needed to know. I audited a beginner Portuguese class and got a basic handle on the language. I read the Book of Mormon side by side with a Portuguese Book of Mormon. I attended the temple every week to better understand my covenants. I had an amazing semester with the students I worked with in Freshman Academy. Everything as I look back on it was such an amazing blessing. And I even did great in all my classes as I found out later in the MTC. (Back then missionaries could only look at email on the Interwebz so I gave a senior sister missionary my password and had her look up my grades and tell me (Thanks, Sister Smith)).
I don’t know how it all would/could have turned out differently. I just know that I am grateful for the way it did turn out. In a small tender mercy at the end of my mission, the Curitiba Brazil temple was dedicated and I was involved in so much of that open house, celebration, and dedication as well as responding to the many referrals afterward. If it all hadn’t come together how and when it did, maybe I wouldn’t have served in Brazil. Or even if I had left when I wanted to, and I still got called to Brazil, I likely would have missed the temple festivities and dedication as they were at the tail tail end of my (extended by one month) mission.
I guess my heart is just remembering this week twelve years ago, specifically August 16, 2006. Remembering how things do work out. And maybe sometimes they work out the most when we appreciate how they turned instead of longing for what might have been.
Ai, meu coração. Está cheia de amor para a missão, para o povo, para tudo. Te amo, pátria amada.