My friend Dain asked me to guest post for her blog, One Year, Six Months, Forever a few days ago, and she had a couple questions for me to answer in prep for the post next week. She’s been doing interviews with girls preparing to serve, who have already gotten their call, and even managed to get a few just as they left for the field. I look forward to her posts during the week (3:30 EST!), because it really makes me realize that I’m not alone in preparing, that it’s not just a few friends here at Southern Virginia who are going through the same process. Girls all over America – all over the world! – are preparing, just like me. There’s a real sisterhood among us, especially with the blessings of technology. Katie, who has been called to serve in the Sofia, Bulgaria mission and reports in June, has already been introduced to some of the people she will be serving with, as well as people who have served in the area. It’s such an amazing world that we live in!
In short, you should check out Dainger’s blog, because I love it, and I’m sure you will love it too.
Back to my point. She asked me how I was preparing to serve a mission, and I realized that I ought to share what I am doing to prepare to serve the Lord for 18 months as a missionary. It’s important – just as important as getting to the field and teaching – and I want to share what I’m doing not only with my family and friends who [hopefully!] read this blog, but also with young women who are thinking about serving and preparing to serve. You’re not alone!
1) First and foremost, I kneel in prayer. I pray for strength to continue preparing, to love the people I will be called to serve, and that my testimony will be continually strengthened. I talk not simply to my Heavenly Father, but with Him. There are days when I am discouraged or anxious about the entire thing, and I just need some comfort and guidance. He reassures that what I’m doing is right, and that everything will be okay. With every prayer, I feel closer to God, closer to Christ, and closer to the people I will be called to serve. I don’t know who they are, or where they live, or even if they speak English, but I love them more and more each day. Praying and being in communication with the Lord regularly is the biggest aspect of my preparation.
2) Talking with my Institute teachers, returned missionaries, and fellow missionaries-in-preparation, the number one study tool is the scriptures. Not only am I learning the doctrine, I’m learning how to teach. Throughout the scriptures, you find all sorts of examples of prophets, apostles, and others sharing the gospel. Some are even sent as missionaries far from home. And of course, what better example of a great teacher than Jesus Christ himself? I love the stories in the four Gospels, as well as in 3 Nephi – essentially I love the moments of Christ stepping away from the crowd to talk to the individual: to comfort Martha and Mary, to heal the blind man, to greet the littlest of the children, to teach the woman who went astray, and to succor those whom He met along the way. He was compassionate, and took the time to talk with the people who were the outcasts, the pariahs of society. In the scriptures I find His examples, and realize that He is the best teacher that I have, and as long as I teach what and as He taught, I can’t go astray.
3) I’m a writer, so journaling is really important to me (hence 2 blogs and the plethora of notebooks scattered about). I have 2 separate journals that I keep simultaneously. The first is my journal that I write thoughts and events in, but the second is completely different. It’s my scripture journal – a notebook that I use to gather my thoughts and ideas as I study topics in the scriptures. Sometimes I will study a topic like the law of consecration, or the names of Christ, but other times I will go through a chapter of scripture and pull out principles and things that I find important, or really speak to me. I ‘do my research’ and find quotes by General Authorities and other leaders that pertain to the topic, and write my thoughts and impressions down. I’ve found it’s a great way to not only gather my thoughts, but also gain a deeper understanding of principles, as well as greater appreciation and love for the scriptures. I find it also helps me to remember it more clearly.
4) Preach My Gospel, the manual published by the Church, as well as the mission prep manual for the Institute class. I love having the opportunity to get to know “PMG” before I even get into the MTC. All of the sisters who I have talked to who have served, or are currently serving, have encouraged me to get to know it, and to love it. I find it really helpful to focus on the chapters specifically talking about how to teach and how to build a setting that is conducive to having the Spirit as your teaching companion.
5) Speaking of all the sisters I talk to… that’s a way I’ve definitely found as integral to preparing. They not only know what you’re going through in the preparation process, they’re amazing sources of encouragement and advice. I talk to friends who have served and are serving, and I read blogs of missionaries serving right now, and even blogs of those who have returned home. I love having this network of people I can talk to when I have questions, or just want to hear them tell stories and relate their experiences in the field. Their advice is invaluable.
6) I’ve found it really important to turn to my bishop as often as I need to. At first I was hesitant, knowing he had scores of people preparing to serve who needed him, as well as members of our ward who wanted to meet with him for other reasons. My bishop happens to be the director of the Institute of Religion in Buena Vista, if that gives you any idea of how busy he is. I realized, though, that being there for people preparing to serve is part of his calling. He’s been utterly fantastic, giving me advice and guiding me through the process. Without him, I’d be lost. He helps me keep my focus, and talking with him not only helps me hammer out the logistics but also helps me prepare and stay on the right track.
7) The most obvious way of preparing to serve a mission is to attend the class, Mission Prep. Crazy right? I actually attend the Institute mission prep class, as well as the one offered on Sundays. I can’t always make it to the week-day class because of homework and such, so it’s nice to have a second environment that often turn out to be completely different, while teaching similar things (both use Preach My Gospel and the scriptures). Essentially, the classes both teach how to be a missionary in terms of teaching and serving the people of your mission, as well as how to study the scriptures effectively. In the institute class, because of the size and number of students, it ends up being more lecture based. Bishop teaches on Thursdays, and on Tuesdays we teach each other. Two people are the “missionaries” and the rest are “investigators.” I find it really helpful, because it’s a preparatory situation that I think will come in quite handy. The mission prep on Sundays is more discussion based, and taught by one of the ward members who has already served. It’s great to be able to talk our way through questions and have Chantri’s experiences and thoughts on being a missionary.
These aren’t all the ways I’m preparing, but are the main ways. I’m really thankful for the opportunity I have not only to serve, but to prepare in a way that will strengthen me and help me to not only be a better missionary, but a better person, and someone who is continually moving toward Heavenly Father and progressing. I can’t wait to finish my papers and receive my call!