(Church Building in Krasnadar, Russia)
As many know, I lived a year and a half in Southern Russia while serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was an incredible experience for me that seems impossible to really describe. I look back now on where I was before, how hesitant I was to serve and if seems truly unbelievable I am where I am today.
For those who don’t know, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day, often referred to as the Mormon church sends missionaries all over the world to teach others about our beliefs. We go in pairs talking to many people on the streets, in buses, in people’s homes and throughout many different countries. Some learn new languages on their missions. But for each person it is a unique experience.
So, how do we know where we will serve? We are called by a member of our Quorum of the twelve, individually to serve in a specific area around the world. One person could be called to China while another to Arkansas. Currently there are over 400 missions around the world! Personally, I love asking members of our church about the places they have served.
We fill out paperwork, go to the doctor, have our wisdom teeth pulled if necessary so we can hand it in. Once each person submits it, they wait to see where they will go. That means. . . we have NO IDEA where we will serve until we receive a call letter.
As for myself, I decided to go on a mission in the middle of a teaching job. I was working as a music teaching at a middle school, while living at home with my family. Honestly, I was not very happy. I felt I was not learning enough, as though I was stuck after finishing college. I talked to my parents a lot about how I felt and just could not place what it was that was missing in my life at the time. Honestly, I assumed it was because I was not married. But something happened two months after beginning my job.
Every six months we have something called General Conference where members of our church gather from all over the world to listen to our church leaders speak on matters of religion. In one specific session October 2014 I was listening to President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency speak on receiving personal revelation from God. As I listened to him I felt strongly I should go on a mission. I dismissed this feeling but within minutes I thought again I needed to serve on a mission. This time, it hit me as a wall of emotion and I started to cry.
(Also in Krasnadar!)
In time, I followed though and decided to serve a mission rather than continue teaching. I was eventually called to serve in the Rostov-na-Donu Mission in Russia speaking the Russian language.
Did I know Russian? Well. . . no.
Did I learn Russian? Well. . . yes.
Did I see many amazing cities? Art? Museums? Book stores? Yes.
Russia is an immensely diverse and fascinating place. But that is not what I value most from my time there.
(A special place for me in Astrakhan, Russia.)
Words cannot describe the soul refining, achingly hard, beautiful and life changing experiences I had among the Russian people. There are people there who I love so much and pray for every day. I caught a glimpse of how God must feel for each of us.
Through a series of posts I would like to share my experiences with you all. Please know this. I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one church on earth led by living prophets and apostles called by God to gather his scattered people around the world. This church is led by Jesus Christ, who died, resurrected and lives to help each one of us to return to God, our loving Heavenly Father.
I know Heavenly Father is aware of and loves every individual who lived, lives and will live upon this earth. I know these things because I prayed to know the truthfulness of these things.
I also know Joseph Smith was called as a modern day prophet to restore profound, eternal truths of authority, family, ordinances, and doctrine lost in time as many denominations of churches shifted from Christ’s original church. Many who read this probably have heard some crazy things about him. Let me just say this. If ever you study his life, you will see the many children he lost, the many times he was imprisoned, mobbed, tarred and feathered, ridiculed, betrayed, beaten and mocked for what he taught. Let me ask, what man in his right mind would do such a thing for a lie?
I felt I should start writing these posts and I hope, perhaps, I can help someone. Or better yet, I hope I may lead you to the one who can really help you. God is the true source of life’s answers.
I hope you feel Heavenly Father’s love for you this day. The world is a truly beautiful place!