Okay! So, a lot of people have asked me why I want to become a missionary for my church. Others ask what will I do once I become a missionary, and still others have wondered if it will be a life-long commitment. For most of my friends who are of different faiths, they would ask me if I had any doubts since I was actually giving up “something” that should have been the most logical path to choose. But let me tell you this: it was not an easy decision. Let’s begin when I was about 3 or 4 years old.
Ever since I was young, I always wanted to become a missionary. Missionaries, with their name tags containing the words Elder or Sister with their surname, would always visit our home and I would gladly open the door for them. They were all so happy and cheerful and I wanted to be just like them; and, I knew that I would become one when I reach 21 years old. Then; when I just started high school, I wrote down the things that I wanted to do. As a person, I was always the type to dream big. I wanted to do so many things with my life. I wanted to travel, to protect the environment, to save the animals, to achieve my goals, etc., etc., etc. (hahahaha :D), and the biggest of them all is to help other people. Since I was good in Science, I decided to become a doctor and pursue a pre-med course in college. In my thoughts, this was my way of helping and saving people; and, this became my driving force. Now that it was becoming clear to me that becoming a doctor would take several years to obtain, my other dream, which was to become a missionary for my Father in Heaven became increasingly distant. I tried to tell myself that it was okay if I didn’t become a full-time missionary because nobody’s really forcing me and young men were definitely more encouraged to become missionaries. With that in mind, I devised my life-long plan: to finish my studies and become a doctor, eventually marry in the temple, have a family, and when I’m old enough, I could actually become a couple missionary with my future husband (who I don’t know yet, by the way, haha). This was a great idea and it was actually a win-win situation. I’ll become a doctor and I’ll become a missionary as well, only that it would take a little bit longer to happen; but, still, I would go on a mission. However, the unexpected happened and this made me realize that His ways are far better than my ways.
When I was in college, an announcement came from President Thomas S. Monson regarding the age change in LDS missionaries. He said, “Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.” This statement sparked my interest, though my initial plan was still in the works. And after, everything changed for me. People around me were starting to submit their applications to our ward bishop to become full-time missionaries. Most of my church friends were leaving me behind, going to different places; and one by one, they were called to serve for missions across the country, even around the world. Whenever they would ask me if I would go on a mission, I would always say that I would pursue medicine instead or I was thinking about it. Finally, the time came when two of my closest friends were leaving for their missions. I was so happy for them because these young women had the opportunity to serve our Heavenly Father. Though by this time, I was still leaning towards pursuing medicine, the desire to serve was actually resurfacing. Words from leaders and general authorities, coupled with the desire of my two friends, made an impact on me so much that I realized that maybe, I do need to serve and go on a mission. I was reaching 19 years old and I was about to prepare to submit my application for missionary service. I also looked up my university’s website so that I’ll know how to apply for LOA (leave of absence) for at most, 2 years. Then when I told our bishop that I wanted to serve, he asked me to pray with a sincere heart if this was the path that Heavenly Father wanted me to do. I prayed to our Heavenly Father, asking Him to help me prepare to go on a mission. After my prayer, I felt a really strong impression, and the answer was, “no”, “you’re not ready”, “don’t go yet”. I was surprised because I knew that missionary work was important and true, so I wondered why was He saying “no”. All these questions came into my mind and I was starting to doubt my own desire. Thoughts wrestled through my mind on what to do and after a few weeks, I realized why He said I wasn’t ready. I was actually caught up on the excitement of my friends who were serving their missions that I completely blanked out and that I never did understand what missionary work was all about. I realized that He was saying no, not because He was giving me an answer on what to choose between med school and missionary work, but He was saying no because He made me realize that I shouldn’t force myself to become a missionary just because my friends were already becoming one.
After that, I started to reinvent myself. I prayed constantly to receive an answer on what to do next. My friends went to serve as full-time missionaries by this time, and I was left still making up my mind on what to choose. By the time my 19th birthday was coming up, I completely accepted that I will not serve at 19. I patiently waited for my Heavenly Father’s answer if He still wanted me to go on a mission or if my original devised plan was going to be His plan all along. A few weeks before my birthday, my dad told me that our ward was going to have sister missionaries. Our ward only had elders all this time, and the last sister missionary that I saw was when I was 7 years old. When I heard this, I was overjoyed. I told myself that I would work with them and see what missionary work was all about. During the first time I worked with the new sister missionaries, Sister Surio and Sister Benesch, I was completely elated. I couldn’t describe it but I was always happy and I felt at peace at the same time. I realized that this was the answer and the opportunity that my Heavenly Father provided me. I was meant to serve as a full-time missionary.
For the next 2 years, I prepared. I attended Preach My Gospel classes and I became more active in the Institute of Religion (I would call it “church class” to my non-member friends). I was also called to be a Young Women leader of our ward which helped me learn more about the gospel and be an example to my fellow young sisters in the church. As my friends in college started to apply to different med schools, I was again left alone. This time, it was the thought of med school that entered my mind. Constantly battling with pros and cons, of med school vs. missionary work, my decision, to the very least, was still wavering. Now, I wanted to know in my own heart if missionary work was what I needed to do. I opted to get my patriarchal blessing, I continued to pray, attended sacrament and Sunday school, attended church classes, and read the scriptures regularly. In my 21st birthday, I received a resounding confirmation that missionary work was the best option. I was going on a mission after I graduate from college. After my classmates received their acceptance letters from various med schools, I was happy for them. I knew that they’ll be great and successful doctors, but my mind was already focused on missionary work. This is what He wants me to do and He has prepared me to do so.
To all my friends and family who still wonder why, this is the reason I have decided to become a missionary. All my life I have wanted to help people and what better way of helping them, other than telling the truth. The truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, how its happiness can flow through each and every one of us, is the best message you can share with anyone. I always have plans for myself, my family, and for others. But through His will, I know that all things shall come to pass. He is mightier and more powerful than any of us and I gladly obey His commandments and teachings. If you ask me now, what will I do after my 18 months of missionary work? I don’t know for sure. Maybe, I can go and continue to pursue medicine, or get a master’s degree, or maybe choose something entirely different, but one thing I know is that when we have faith, and “if we believe in our faith“, as Elder David A. Bednar has said, then every decision that we have to make will become easier and every trial that we encounter will be surpassed. Heavenly Father loves everyone of us and if we trust in Him, then He will lead us to greater things. He will lead us to our eternal happiness.