Last night, in a much anticipated event in the Mormon culture to which I happily belong, our family gathered to open my son's mission call. Over the next few years, I'm sure I will find occasion to share some experiences from his mission on this blog. Realizing that not all of my awesome readers share my faith, I feel that perhaps a little explanation may be necessary:
What is an LDS missionary?LDS Missionaries are young men (18-19 year olds) and women (19-21 year olds) that leave their homes and devote two years (18 months for females) as representatives of Jesus Christ. These young people leave their families, their friends, their internet, and even their cell phones. They postpone their work/schooling, pay their own way, and most often live in very humble circumstances. They do not choose where they will serve, and it is anything but a two-year vacation. So why, you may ask, would they volunteer their service? It's really quite simple: As members of the LDS (Mormon) church, we strive to keep the Savior, Jesus Christ, as the center of our lives. We have faith in Him, love Him, and find joy in His service. Because we have felt His love and know the peace He can bring to our lives, we invite others to learn of Him and accept Him in their lives. For more information about missionaries and their work, you can visit Mormon.org.
Talk of my son's mission has filled the walls of our home for years. Since he was little, his desire to serve the Lord has been humbling. As his mother, I am so pleased with the young man that he has grown into. I am excited to see him prepare himself to be worthy and willing to dedicate his time, talents, and the fullness of himself in the hopes of bringing others to Christ. I am just beginning to realize the scope of this commitment and the sacrifice it will be for both him as well as for our family and I am honored to be the mother of such an amazing young man.
What does it take to be a missionary?There is much preparation that must take part before a missionary can serve. One must first learn of the Savior, develop faith in Him, and strive to live His commandments. Missionaries are not perfect; however, just like other faithful Christians, they are striving to live as Heavenly Father would have them live. This is not an overnight process but a life-long journey. There is much learning a missionary must do to prepare to serve. He/she should know and understand the commandments, faithfully read and be familiar with the scriptures (both the Bible and the Book of Mormon), and attend their church meetings to further their learning of the gospel. A missionary also must be clean...clean from drugs, alcohol, sexual relations, unhealthy habits, and unlawful acts.
Prospective missionaries essentially apply for their mission by submitting their "papers" to LDS Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. These "papers" include documentation from their doctor and dentist stating their physical eligibility, recommendations from their bishop and stake president (local church leaders) about their worthiness, and a series of personal questions. Upon receipt, members of the First Presidency prayerfully make each mission assignment.
My son completed his papers and his interview with our bishop and stake president a week and a half ago. Typically it takes two weeks to receive your call (aka: assignment). However, because of the recent age change for prospective missionaries, the influx of submitted papers has spiked, thus slowing the process in some cases to 6 weeks. Imagine our surprise when, after only a week and a half, we got his fate-filled envelope in the mail!!!
We gathered our family together - some via phone - to share in the experience as he opened the envelope... and, essentially the unveiling of where his next two years would be spent. Having no control over where your 18 year old is going to be for two years is a bit nerve wracking for any mother. Honestly, for me, it was a HUGE test of faith.
As we waited on pins and needles, I could only imagine where he might go. Would he be going foreign or domestic? Familiar or completely new? Tropical or perhaps even arctic? Would he have to learn a new language? What kind of cultural changes were in store?
I know I'm not the only one that was shaking with anticipation as he gently tore into the envelope!
Though I'm not a crier, I was prepared for tears. What I got instead was an overwhelming confirmation that Heavenly Father does, indeed, know my son! His call wasn't one that I'd even considered, but as I looked at my beaming son, I KNEW it was exactly where he was supposed to go.
Because of the public nature of this blog, I've chosen not to share the location to which he has been called. He might be legally an adult, but my mama instinct tells me I still need to protect him. To those who know my family personally, I will be glad to share. For the rest of my amazing readers, I will tell you this: he has been called to serve in one of the beautiful countries of his ancestors He is both excited and qualified for the experience that lies before him. I have no doubt that he will touch the lives of those whose paths he crosses. I also have no doubt that the Lord will always be mindful of him.