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. ..."