Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Tender Mercy Experienced

Mission: accomplished. Well, not my actual mission, but a surprise that I started to plan and work toward for the past month, at least, and it was a lot of fun.

I gave my final Farewell Address today at my parent’s ward--in Spanish! That is right, en la idioma hermosa de mis padres y hecho eso porque me amo mis padres. I am not fluent, but I know how the words are meant to sound and can read with most of the pronunciation correct, so I asked my friend in California to become a partner in crime and translate my original address from English to Spanish (thank you SO much, Karla!) and read it aloud at the pulpit—this took a lot of practice and I was surprised that I was able to make the progress so quickly. It was such an amazing experience and was told that most of the words came out correctly and that I sounded like I knew what I was saying. It is going to be wonderful when I can make the translation from English to Spanish by myself because I will understand the language as well as I understand English (future goal when I get back from my mission). Now I have an even stronger testimony that the gift of tongues is real.

               I feel like today was a tender mercy from the Lord letting me know that He will help me when it comes time to learning Mongolian and is the difference between where I currently am and what I need to be; all I need to do is put in as much work as possible. It is so similar to the enabling power of the Atonement, but just in regards to language learning, where my effort alone will not suffice, but if I have trust in the Lord and am prepared, the Holy Spirit will bring the message unto the people’s hearts and they will have enough understanding to have the opportunity to accept what is being taught. I feel like today was my witness that the Lord will fulfill His promise to bring the gospel to every people in every language. The gospel has already moved forward in Spanish, but I have never taught in Spanish; now I have.

               Learning Mongolian is not going to be easy nor will I learn the language overnight, but I am not afraid to make mistakes anymore. I want to sound terrible if needed because than the people will know of my strong desire to simply talk with them.

               I am so happy with my life right now and know that it is because I am doing what the Lord would have me do. There are so many terrible things going on in the world, but we have the good news of the gospel and I know that everything will work out.

Friday, December 4, 2015

My Farewell Celebration

I love my family.

I feel like this is one of the most important things that I always need to begin with as they are the beginning and the reason behind why I do many of the things that I do; my family also supports me with their full heart. Today, they were able to show this to me by throwing my Farewell Party--a little earlier than normal, but considering the holiday season, I wouldn't have it any other way.

For the past couple weeks, I have seen my mom putting together the centerpieces for the tables because she wanted the farewell dinner to be as perfect as possible. For the past couple days, I have seen family friends come together to offer their support for my mission in small acts of service and their well wishes when I tell them about what I am learning about Mongolia. Today, it was the culmination of love as my friends, family, and friends of my parents came together for my Farewell Dinner to spend some time with me during this dinner and I felt SO supported.

Everywhere I looked, there were friends, family, and smiles. It was perfect.

One amazing thing that I experienced was the sheer desire to speak with everyone that attended, even the friends of my parents who spoke only Spanish, because I wanted to let them know how much I loved them and appreciated their support. So, one of my tragic shortcomings is that I do not speak Spanish fluently, but that absolute desire helped me communicate more than I normally would be able to do. I feel like this is what it is going to be like when I make it out to the field in Mongolia: I will want to talk with these wonderful people however I can regardless of fluency. In Spanish, I was putting together words and sentences with any words that came to mind in order to communicate my gratitude, not feeling self-conscious any mistakes that I made. In fact, the more mistakes that I make, the closer I get to being able to speak fluently, right?

Being surrounded by members in a family ward also helped to give me a sense of peace about possible scenarios when I come back to Colorado after my mission is completed. I was able to spend a couple minutes speaking with a family near the end of the dinner with their daughter who was in the Young Women program (ages 12-18) and a feeling came to me of how I WANT to be able to be a leader to younger women, this is not anything that I desired before. I think that I will be okay when I come back and have to leave the YSA ward, how could it be otherwise when I know that there are other places that I can serve others.

Basically, this post is about saying thank you to my family and friends. I love you very much and cannot wait to share stories from the other side of the world of new friends that I am making and lessons that I could only learn by the wonderful people of Mongolia and fellow missionary companions and leadership. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Majesty of the Temple

There is a majesty to the LDS temples that is absolutely astounding and makes for it to be one of the most sacred experiences every time that you enter into this holy ground. To enter into this, the House of the Lord, you have to make certain covenants and promises with the Lord and for this reason, you only go through when you are ready; there is no timeline or quota that you must meet, it all depends on the condition of your heart and willingness to live your life at a higher standard. It sounds intimidating, but you will know when you are ready and will feel it resonate within you as witnessed by the Holy Spirit.

I cannot describe the pure peace that you feel! A couple of years ago, back in 2013, I was getting ready to enter the Temple and felt is expedient to just go and sit on the grounds outside of the temple--anyone, member or non-member, is welcome onto the grounds. It was late summer (August, I believe), so there were leaves that were starting to turn yellow, but still all the flowers were in bloom with bumble bees buzzing, and I was able to go there and just sit and ponder on the direction of my life at that time. Just being on the grounds, I felt completely embraced by the love of my Heavenly Father and the feeling that he CARED about what I cared about.

In January 2014, I finally entered into the House of the Lord. Things in life did not exactly work out the way that was planned on that first visit, but when does life ever do such?

After that first visit, I then decided to return again as often as I could and this decision greatly blessed and enriched my life, giving comfort when comfort was needed and direction with future decisions. More than anything, I felt so completely loved. There is this quote by President Packer that describes how I felt:

"There is something cleansing and clarifying about the spiritual atmosphere of the temple. Sometimes our minds are so beset with problems, and there are so many things clamoring for attention at once, that we just cannot think clearly and see clearly. At the temple the dust of distraction seems to settle out, the fog and the haze seem to lift, and we can “see” things that we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known." (Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, (2002), 1–37)

Every time I went to the Temple, I found an answer that I had in my heart. More often than not, my answer was a confirming feeling of complete joy: the kind of joy that makes you want to bounce up and down and share the good news with everyone that you meet. I am filled with so much love, that I know with my full heart that there is such a divine inheritance within every single one of us. We are children of God! Can you imagine if that was how you looked and interacted with everyone around you? This world would be such a better place.

As I am getting ready to serve a mission, I am reminded of that love of God over and over again. He loves us so much, that we are given promises of Salvation, of eternal marriages and families, and most importantly, we are given the promise of the Atonement--that through our faith and the enabling powers of this infinite sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane (also known as grace), we will return to the presence of God.

This is the gospel of Jesus Christ that needs to be shared to every person.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Continued Patience

I want to share with you a secret that I do not tell many people about: I love the Twilight series and have read the books numerous times and watched the movies too often—it is embarrassing if I were to actually quantify this. Really, for me it is right up there with Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Harry Potter. I love the characterization of Bella Swan; all of her doubts, imperfections, strength, courage, and love (even if she makes some EXTREMELY poor choices along the way).

There is this one scene where Bella says, “I need a human moment,” and I feel like that is what happened to me. I needed a moment to freak out, have doubts, experience the sheer feeling of being overwhelmed by what I was volunteering to do; being ‘human’ is not the end goal, but it is okay to experience. This is all part of the learning process and how we gain knowledge that will guide us throughout our life. I am not moving forward in mere blind obedience, not taking into account the consequences of my actions, but I am better learning how to have a more perfect faith and align my will to the Lord’s.

After my shock and fear wore off, I was able to tell my parents, my Branch President, my Stake President, that I know of a surety that this is something that I want and am prepared to do. How could I have ever thought to go anywhere else but Mongolia? I love them. When I first looked at the pictures of Mongolia, my initial feeling was pure fear of the unknown, then I started to love the landscape (take a look at the mountains and sky, it is beautiful), but now I look at the pictures to see the people. I want to meet them and am anxiously awaiting the opportunity. I needed that moment.

I found comfort that there were prophets who also had their own Human Moment:

Moses did when he said, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent…but am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

Jonah did when, instead of serving in Nineveh (a place that scared the tar out of him), he literally tried to run away (Jonah 1:3)

Even Peter denied Christ three times on the day of His trials and crucifixion and said, “I know not the man” (Matt. 26:69-75).

What is the most remarkable about all of these examples is the patience that the Lord has with them. The Lord did not instantly write them

off the list because of a moment of faltering--each one of these prophets made an amazing recovery! Moses, humbled, would go on to lead the people of Israel from bondage out of Egypt and through the wilderness; Jonah, having repented, went to teach the people of Nineveh unto repentance; and Peter, having wept bitterly for his denial, led the Church after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, bringing many people unto Him.

I am not a prophet. I have not yet proved the strength of my commitment, but I know that the Lord still has trust in me despite the rough beginning. “For I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed be those who hearken upon my precept…for unto him that receiveth I will give more…” (2 Nephi 28:30). My moment is passed and I am ready to hit the ground running.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Then Comes the Shock


After hearing that I was going to be going to Mongolia, I first thought that this could not be correct—I am not meant for Asia, I need to go to South America. In my mind, it just kept repeating, “Mongolia, Mongolia, Mongolia”. I specifically asked in my application to let me live somewhere that I will better learn about the world that my mother lived in while growing up in Maracaibo, Venezuela. This was meant to be my chance to finally connect to my heritage that I stubbornly refused to learn about as a child. Between every break of thought, it just kept repeating, “Mongolia, Mongolia, Mongolia”.

Mongolia. I did say to myself and the Lord that I would serve unconditionally—unconditionally being anywhere in Latin America, North America, or Europe. I was prepared for a calling to Temple Square, Montana, even the outskirts of Alaska if I did not go to Latin America, but never Asia. Suddenly this country that I knew nothing about became the center of my world and I was overwhelmed that I could not even process it. I think I went into shock.

No, I did go into shock.

After the party was over, I went in my room and pulled up pictures of Mongolia and just cried--there is a real fear of the unknown that I experienced. This wasn’t supposed to be me, I was supposed to be bouncing off the walls excited and overwhelmed about how wonderful my calling was. Instead, the next morning I sat on the living room couch and cried while I tried to problem-solve with Allie all Sunday morning on what my next step would be. There were two black and white solutions: A.) I can accept my call and go to Mongolia or B.) I can decline my calling and not be a missionary. What if I could somehow tell the Prophet that he made a mistake when he approved my mission placement? I decided to go to church to search out the answer to that single question, is it possible to be reassigned?

I went to talk to my Branch President about my doubts and he took me to talk to the Stake President. Little did I know that there was another option that I did not even think about: turning my feelings of doubt and fear to the Lord and letting Him witness to me that this was, indeed, not a mistake and somewhere that I was meant to go. President Dorny gave me this hint about the option and sent me home to counsel with my dad, but he said one thing before I left, “From my perspective, this makes perfect sense and I couldn’t imagine you anywhere else but Mongolia.”

When I told my father about being overwhelmed and the uncertainty of my calling, he asked me two of the most important questions of my life, “Do you believe that the Apostles and Prophets are called of God? Do you believe that they personally know the Savior?” I know this to be true, so a resounding yes, with every fiber of my being. My parents have taught me that we should accept every calling that we are given and that we are to serve with all our might, mind, and strength; how could I be in doubt now? My father was given the comfort that I would be safe, protected, and watched over while I was on the other side of the world, away from his immediate care. My mother told me that so long as I stay within the boundaries that are set and follow the rules, there is no reason to fear.

That was the turning point. That was where I felt that assurance that my family supports me 100% even when I am not quite supporting myself. I went to sleep that night with a calming knowledge that the Lord is placing me where I need to be and Mongolia is going to be the most exciting adventure and place of growth. I am not even there and I am humbled by the magnitude of importance that the Lord has for His children on the other side of the world that he would take a prideful daughter to go and be taught by these amazing people about service, love, charity, patience, and (most importantly) faith.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Receiving the Call

To tell you where I am going, I want to tell you where I began.

After General Conference in April 2015, there was one night that I couldn't fall asleep, so I randomly decided to turn on a talk to try to help me relax and I just happened to pick Elder Ballard's address, "The Greatest Generation of Young Adults". I think when I turned it on, I was expecting to hear loving words from a loving Apostle telling me how my efforts were enough by just existing; however, what I did not expect was to feel that first urge to serve a mission. I wanted to experience this:

"Your photograph comes up on a computer screen, together with key information provided by your bishop and stake president. When your picture appears, we look into your eyes and review your answers to the missionary recommendation questions. For that brief moment, it seems as if you are present and responding to us directly.

"As we look at your photograph, we trust that you have cleared in every way the “raised bar” required today to be a faithful, successful missionary. Then, by the power of the Spirit of the Lord and under the direction of President Thomas S. Monson, we assign you to one of the Church’s 406 worldwide missions.

"No, it isn’t the same as a personal, face-to-face interview. But it’s close.

"Videoconferencing is another way that helps us reach out to Church leaders and members who live far away from Church headquarters.

"With that in mind, I would like those of you preparing to serve missions, those who have returned, and all of you young adults to spend a few minutes with me as though we were having a personal video chat right now. Please look at me for a few minutes as though you and I were the only ones in the room, wherever you are tonight.

"For my part, I will imagine that I am looking into your eyes and listening carefully to your responses to a few questions that I believe will tell me a lot about the depth of your testimony and your devotion to God. If I may paraphrase what I said to missionaries 13 years ago, what we need now is the greatest generation of young adults in the history of the Church. We need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate young adults who know how to listen and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit as you make your way through the daily trials and temptations of being a young, contemporary Latter-day Saint. (Elder Russell M. Nelson, April 2015)

I sat up until 2 AM crunching numbers and seeing what it would take to go on a mission. After about 30 minutes of trying to figure everything out, I threw up my hands, told myself that I am too old at the age of 27 to go on a mission, I had too many other obligations, and reasoned this and that way of why I should not go on a mission. I went to bed and didn't think any more on the matter.

A month later, I was visiting my family for Sunday night dinner and they were hosting the Sister Missionaries. Near the end of the visit while we were chatting about their missionary experience so far (one of the sisters was going to be released within a month), I casually mentioned that I briefly entertained the thought about being a missionary--in that same instant my dad looked at me and said that he thought I should go on a mission. Hook, line, sinker.

The next day I went to my bishop about starting my papers.

Getting my papers together was NOT easy, but it was also not difficult. Every step along the way, I definitely hit road block after road block, but the most amazing thing would happen where if I would stand still for just a moment, exercising faith and patience, the Lord would direct my path. He would give me guidance and let me know where to look, who to ask, or to just keep my head up and wait. In the end, it always worked out. I have never felt more sure about any decision in my entire life than the fact that every broken road was leading me to this moment in my life.

After two months of getting my papers together (one of those months I slacked and didn't really do as much as I should), I finally had my final interview with President Dorney, my stake president, on Aug. 4 at  6 PM. He asked me if I was prepared to represent the Savior Jesus Christ and to invite others to come unto Christ and if I was worthy to do so. I told him that I believed that I was and I told the Brethren (in my application) that I would prepare myself to serve wherever I am called "unconditionally".

After the interview, I waited. And waited. And waited for what felt like an eternity until Aug. 24 when my mission call came in the mail. That was one exciting day! During my waiting period, I was plagued with the idea that I would be found to  be too old to serve--being 28, that is a full decade older than elders and nine years older than the sisters--or that they would just keep reshuffling me because I wouldn't be a good fit for a single one of the 409 missions throughout the world. Holding that envelope in my hand was the best feeling in the world.

I would not open my mission call right away, though. I promised my dad that I wanted him to read it, so I would wait for him to make it back into town; how could I read it any other way when he was a major reason for me finally submitting my papers? On Aug. 29, a Saturday, my dad was back in town, my family was available as everyone had taken the day off weeks earlier to scheduled for a family photo session, and all my friends were gathered to share with me in the experience of learning where I would serve my mission.

"Dear Sister Olsen:

"You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 month.

"You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, January 6, 2016. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Mongolian language. Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president.

"You have been recommended as one worthy to represent the Lord as a minister of the restored gospel. ..."