Basically, this is an answer to the frequent(ly annoying) question, "What made you decide to go on a mission?" and other variations on that theme. (I promise it's not that annoying... only when asked multiple times a day by different people)
Because let's be honest... It's the most common question asked to any future, current, or former LDS sister missionary.
Honestly, I don't really remember one big moment in time when I finally considered the option of going on a mission. Up until quite recently in the LDS church, the majority of young adult sisters did not serve missions. This is partly because it's not required for the girls to serve (the men have the priesthood duty included. Learn about that HERE), so most girls just don't even think about it. But I believe the biggest reason was because the age for sister missionaries used to be 21, meaning that they wouldn't return until they were nearly 23, and most young adult LDS women really really really want to get married sooner than later to start their forever families.
My situation was a bit unique. My Dad served his mission in the Chile Osorno mission, and my Mom served a mission in the South Africa Cape Town mission. Having two parents who both served missions gave me extra exposure to the idea of going on my own mission. But with the aforementioned cultural stipulations that existed during my childhood, I wasn't so sure. I had heard would be a difficult, yet rewarding experience. So I decided I would prepare myself to serve a mission, but if it didn't happen in my younger years, I'd serve as an elderly missionary with my husband. (side note: I had, and still have no intention of getting married before the age of 24.)
With the idea of serving a mission in the back of my mind, I went to seminary, mutual, and church; I studied with my family and on my own, never suspecting the change to come in the October general conference of 2012 which cured me of my partially-on-the-fence decision.
Like so many of the girls now serving and preparing to go, the announcement which lowered the single missionary age for Elders to 18 and Sisters to 19 led to happy tears and an even stronger conviction that my Heavenly Father wants me to serve a mission for His church. I remember crying and jumping up and down with my Mom in our living room. It's a blur of emotion. :)
Since then, I've graduated from High School, moved away from home to attend 3 semesters of college at Brigham Young University, & moved back home to prepare in the last few months and days before I report to the Provo MTC on August 6th.
I submitted my mission papers with my BYU bishop at the end of February 2014 and received my call two weeks later on March 12th. It's impossible to describe how nervous I was--trying to focus in my classes that day was nearly impossible. It was a mixture of the giddiness that is watching the 2007 Pride and Prejudice with Kiera Knightley, and the anxiousness that is Lord of the Rings. A really odd combination that is not overly pleasant. Only my really close family and a few friends were there when I opened the envelope that night, revealing my call to serve in the Belgium/Netherlands mission, speaking Dutch! It was so unexpected; I hardly knew what to think. I didn't cry at the time, but that night, after staying up until around 3 am researching the country and the people, (especially the next day when my friend, Emilee Bush, opened her call to the same mission) I could not stop the tears.
I would tell you all the reasons why this mission is so perfectly suited to my needs and I to it, but I don't want to make this longer than it needs to be.
- any worry of going to a 3rd world country vanished
- chocolate. period.
- I adore rainy weather
- & I have one of my best friends there with me which is the most comforting thing of all.
Guys. Heavenly Father is real.
I just know it.
He is so aware of what we need and He absolutely LOVES each of us. He loves you. I promise. (definitely tearing up a bit as I type)
That's why I'm going on a mission. To teach other people about the thing that makes me more happy than ANYTHING ELSE ever could. The gospel of Jesus Christ is taught in the LDS church. I know that it is true. And that doesn't mean that I haven't had doubts or won't have doubts in the future. I certainly have. Living the Gospel is not easy at all. It is hard work. But the best thing about the Gospel is that each of us has the Spirit of God with us that reveals the truth if we study and ask questions.
I’m serving a mission because of the blessings I have been given and promised through the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m serving a mission because I know I can be with my family forever, and I want to share that hopeful message with other people. I’m serving a mission because the gospel is the largest source of my happiness and peace in my life. The gospel helps me through my doubts about my future, gives me hope when I sin, and gives me knowledge of the Atonement and of my Savior. The gospel is true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints strives to preach truth to the world. Because we are all sons and daughters of God, our Heavenly Father. It is a gospel of love, of peace. It is the most beautiful thing I know. And I want to share that beauty with everyone I can.
I leave on my mission in 30 days. (wowowow) The month before I got my call as well as the past 5 months since then been the most difficult time in my life. I can definitely feel the temptations of Satan trying to convince me that I'm not good enough to teach people the gospel; that my testimony isn't strong enough; that I don't know enough scriptures; that a mission is too hard: I should just give up; and things along that same depressing thread of negativity. The thing that has kept me going is the encouragement & prayers of my family, friends, patriarchal blessing, & especially the things I've studied and prayed about. I recently wrote to my older brother, Caden, (currently serving in the Korea Seoul South mission) about my incredibly long list of concerns and worries, & he responded with the most valuable piece of advice I've heard: "Elder Bednar told us in the MTC that if you don't feel inadequate something is wrong. Just remember you have so much help behind you. Let His Spirit guide you. It will help you do God's work."
I swear, the LDS missionaries are probably the most inspiring group of people I've ever encountered. There's something extremely special about being set apart by the priesthood to serve the Lord 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 18 or 24 consecutive months. It's been a difficult path to this point, and it's immensely humbling to be joining the missionary ranks. I feel inadequate, under qualified, and underprepared. But knowing that my cute family is already praying for blessings on me and my mission, along with the knowledge that the Lord will always be there to strengthen me gives me hope that overwhelms my doubts.
I know it is going to be difficult, but I am beyond ready to get out there & serve the people of Belgium & the Netherlands! Missionary work is not just for the missionaries, but for all of the members!
As my Relief Society president & roommate used to say, "Go give 'em HEAVEN!"
(soon to be) Zuster Aubrey Elaine Watts