As many of you know, I am about to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Germany Berlin mission and will begin this 18 month sojourn on February 6, 2013. This blog will consist of my weekly emails, chronicling life as a missionary there, but before I go off into the great unknown, I wanted to write something to help you understand this endeavor a little more and why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Those who want to be missionaries in the LDS church turn in an ‘application’ of sorts and then are assigned to a specific mission by church leaders. The Mormon Church has missions all over the world, ranging from Thailand to Montana to Paraguay to Ghana to the Philippines, and I feel so blessed to be able to serve the Lord and teach people about Christ in Germany. The Germany Berlin mission covers the whole northern part of Germany, so it’s possible for me to be anywhere in that area (see colored picture on side).
Before going to their respective missions, missionaries spend 2 to 9 weeks in the Missionary Training Center (usually referred to as the MTC, because we Mormons love our acronyms), located in Provo, Utah. During this time, they spend every day learning the doctrines of the church more deeply, teaching methods, and, if assigned to speak a foreign language, learning that language (be it Spanish, Cantonese, Russian, or Croatian).
In the LDS church, most missionaries serve in proselyting missions, meaning that their primary focus is to preach the gospel, or, in other words, to teach people about Jesus Christ, their purpose in this life, about His true church on the Earth, and about the happiness that it brings into people’s lives. After leaving the Missionary Training Center and arriving in their missions, missionaries spend their missions teaching, finding people to teach, and doing service.
Missionary work is sacrifice and a completely different lifestyle than what most people are used to. Those who go on missions “devote their time and attention to serving the Lord, leaving behind all personal affairs,” as is stated in a missionary’s call, or acceptance letter. This is a true statement. Because they are to focus completely on serving the Lord, they put all things in their regular life on hold, postponing school for 18 months to 2 years, leaving romance behind, and communicating minimally with family and friends (we can send one email to family a week, call home twice a year, and write good, old fashioned letters. Also, we aren’t allowed to visit family or friends while on a mission). A missionary’s life is extremely different in a few ways. First, missionaries have rules for literally every aspect of life. We wake up at 6:30am every day, spend two hours studying the scriptures, and spend the rest of the day finding people and teaching people about Christ’s gospel. Missionaries spend 24 hours a day with another missionary (same gender) called their companion in English. If you're really cool though, you'll call your companion Mitarbeiter or Mitartbeiterin. Companionships are rearranged by mission authorities every 6 weeks.
And now for the why: why would I want to give up my first name (I’ll be Sister Woodward after February 6th), sleeping in, hanging out with friends, reading books, and seeing movies for a year and a half? And not only give up these things, but pay to serve a mission? Well, Germany certainly is appealing, but I didn't know where I would go when I first decided I wanted to go on a mission. I didn't know how the timing would work out. But God answered my prayers and somehow I am going to the place of my dreams and leaving at the perfect time for me. And that is really the reason why I am going. Because God answers prayers. Last April around General Conference time (twice a year our church has a worldwide conference that is broadcast from Salt Lake), a lot of my friends had received their mission calls and were eagerly waiting to go all over the country and the world. Their enthusiasm got me excited to serve someday too, and I was struggling with the reason girls had to wait until they were 21 to serve. I prayed to either find out why that was so, or prayed that if it be God’s will, that He change the age requirement. I didn't get my answer in April, but when President Monson (the prophet) announced the change in October at the next General Conference, I knew my prayers had been answered in the Lord’s timing.
I know that my Heavenly Father watches over me and knows me. I want other people to know that he knows them personally too and that He answers their prayers. I have felt the comfort that only Jesus Christ can give. I want to share what my religion has done for me and how it has changed me. I want to bring it to people who are looking for truth. I want to do it as a token of gratitude for the beautiful life that God has given me. Likewise, I want to share and use the knowledge that my church has given me, the knowledge that life has purpose, that life is about growing and learning and loving and joy, that God is our spiritual father, and the implications that has in our lives.
I am so excited to serve the people in Germany and bring the happiness that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into my life into others’. I love people, and I love Christ. I know that Christ brightens every life and that I can help bring more light into the world.
Feel free to ask me questions, write me letters, and smile because life is good and God is good.