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.