Missionaries generally receive a welcoming letter of sorts from their mission president, which often includes some more details about the mission itself, additional items to bring, and ways in which they’d like you to prepare to serve.
I was so stoked to receive the letter from President and Sister Hall, especially as it was unexpected because I just got my acceptance letter signed by my bishop, and it’s off to Salt Lake City tomorrow. I figured I’d receive a letter after my official acceptance.
Included in my letter from Pres. Hall was a short bio of he and his wife, and their children, which was really cool for me. Now I can put faces to names, and it’s not such a scary prospect since I feel like it’s not strangers that will be welcoming me to the mission in a few months. I was also really excited to learn that three of their four children live with them in California, which isn’t as common. I’m really excited to meet and get to know the Hall family.
Funny story – once I sent in my papers and got confirmation that I was going to serve stateside, I kept having dreams about Arizona. I thought that it meant I was going to be called there… but really, the Halls are from Arizona! Cool, huh?
Basically, my letter also outlined a few logistics: I will likely be biking, I have a few additional things to bring (like a few more bed linens, etc.), and that it’s best to buy a bike there in San Fernando. President Hall also asked that I read Our Search for Happiness by Elder M. Russell Ballard (which is one of the tools missionaries use in the field, and coincidentally arrived yesterday!)
President Hall also included a brief history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in California, which I found really interesting, because I hadn’t found much by way of the internet. I thought I’d share, since you’ll be part of my California adventure in a few months!
The first members of the Church to arrive in California came via the ship Brooklyn in 1846. The Mormon Battalion, which was part of the army of the west during the Mexican-American war, arrived in 1847. There are several memorials/monuments throughout the southern part of California dedicated to the Battalion. A few years later, in 1851, 437 Saints traveled to San Bernardino, but most returned to Salt Lake City, leaving only 20 members in California by 1880.
But the work moves forward! By 2000, there were 756,000 members!
Specifically, the San Fernando mission was created in 1994 from parts of the Ventura, San Bernardino, Arcadia, Riverside, and Los Angeles missions. The boundaries stretched all the way from off the coast of the Pacific to the border of Nevada. This year, however, the mission was split, and the northern part (with 4 stakes) became the California Bakersfield mission. There are about 220 missionaries within the boundaries (slightly over a third of whom are Spanish speaking), which begins in the southern part of the San Fernando Valley (20 miles from LA) and goes north and encompasses the Santa Clarita Valley.
It’s been really cool to talk with people at Church, because more than I expected have connections to the San Fernando Valley and the mission itself. It’s really reassuring, and I think it will be nice to know that there’s a “little bit of home” out there, so far from the East Coast. It’s also really interesting to note that every time I think of San Fernando (for weeks now!), the song “Home” by Phillip Phillips. Hopefully it won’t be stuck in my head for the 18 months I’m in California, cause a) it’s not mission appropriate music, and b) I want to be able to love it when I get back home, not hate it!
Oh, and my mission home (where the president and his family live) is in Santa Clarita, while we’re on the topic of homes!
I guess part of my excitement stems from the fact that with my letter from President Hall, however short or vague (am I biking, or am I not?), I feel like I’m finally on my way, and that my mission call is real. Because the last few weeks have felt surreal – I am just now beginning to believe that I finally know and am on my way to the people I’ve been praying morning and night for since I decided to serve.