I have been home a year now from my mission! This year has flown by, but I honestly can say, there isn’t a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought of my wonderful times in Northern California. I tried to go through and select photos from different times throughout my mission. It was hard not to put up a million photos because these people all mean so much to me. I have so many fond memories and stories to tell.
Ever since I can remember I was dead set on serving a mission. Lots of people would roll their eyes and tell me I’d get married before that, but I knew they were wrong! I just knew it was something I had to do, that I wanted to do, and that if I didn’t do..I would regret it forever. So when I knew I was going to marry Josh before I left for my mission, I was so grateful he didn’t beg me to stay. We both knew it was the right thing for both of us for me to serve a mission. We can all thank him for that! 🙂
During my time as a missionary, my family became a huge source of strength for me as well. My mom wrote me weekly letters, and sent me whatever she could. I loved writing my family and telling them all about my adventures. If you would like, I still have my old Missionary blog up that I would post in as a missionary as well as my Mom’s blog she had for me of Letters Home Blog that I would write. I can’t remember what I wrote but if there is anything sassy in there, please don’t be offended haha, I’m sure I’ve grown since then.
So now that I have been home a year, I have come to reflect on my time in the mission field. For those of you who are not familiar with LDS missions or maybe have only seen the Book of Mormon Musical, it is a tad different then you may expect!
Before you go on a mission you have to do several things to prepare including medical things such as shots and wisdom teeth, as well as study your scriptures and be worthy to enter the Temple. Not just anyone may serve a LDS mission, but all are invited to do so. For me, I tried to work on living the standards the church had set. (Youth Standards) I just tried to be a good kid!
I put in my papers to serve a mission and in a couple weeks I got my missionary call letter that told me where I was to be serving for 18 months of my life. Unlike other Christian based missions, the LDS missions focus not only on service but also on teaching others about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You have to be able to listen to God and teach others and be humble if you expect any results to come from your labors.
As a missionary you labor 24/7 for the Lord. You don’t go to movie theatres or go on dates or listen to regular music. You don’t take your own cell phone or ipods or laptops. You can email your family once a week and they can email you as well. The best way I can explain being a missionary is you kind of become a nun for 18 months haha.
It is so hard not to tell you every detail of this experience because there is so much to say! But the day I got my call I was so excited I could barely stand it. When I read the words Santa Rosa, California I just started sobbing. I could barely talk. I felt so good and happy and wonderful inside. I was overwelmed with love for the people of California and I hadn’t even met them yet! Then I read that I would be speaking spanish as well and I started screaming because I had been wanting to learn spanish my whole life! It was a wonderful moment for me that I will never forget.
Leaving for my mission wasn’t as hard as I had expected. It was just hard to leave Josh behind haha. But we both felt so much peace it was undeniable that I was to go serve a mission.
The night before I entered the MTC Elliot and Courtney from BYUI picked Alicia and I up from the airport and we all spent the day together and went to the SLC temple. My best bud from BYU-Idaho, Alicia and I, went into the MTC the same day as me! It was so nice to have Alicia there for me as we experienced missionary life together.
My first day in the MTC was a rollercoaster of emotions, but most especially excited ones. This is a picture of my first companion Hermana Lichty! We had a lot of fun together and also learned that communication is key in any relationship. It is hard learning to adjust to being with someone all day every day! But you get used to it, and soon enough you feel incomplete unless they are around.
My MTC district had some amazing missionaries. We were always together and laughed a lot. Some of my most fond experiences were with this group of kids! They went to different missions then me, except for Elder Rollins who went to Santa Rosa along with me. (Philadelphia and Chile!)
My first area when I go to my actual mission was Ukiah, California. I felt overwelmed and terrified! My first companion was Hermana Leyton! We laughed hard together and worked hard together as well. It rained for days straight and was cold which was really hard on me. I also didn’t speak spanish very well at all and often felt stupid and inadequate. But instead of giving up, I turned to God, and just told Him how I felt every morning before we set out on our day. I felt this unbelievable love coming from Him and hope and a desire to work that got me through. I found that every area I went to on my mission I learned something, I grew in some way, and my companions taught me many things as well.
After Hera Letyon left my next companion was Hermana Haslam! Talk about a goofy companionship. We had a little too much fun together dancing and singing on our way to appointments haha. She helped me through a lot and we were able to do some great things together. Including eating all of my easter candy until we got sick! 🙂
After being in Ukiah for 4 months or so, I was sad to leave but excited again. Ukiah has a lot of great people in it who love so much and work so hard as well. I had met so many wonderful people in Ukiah and had really learned to love it there. My next destination was Napa CA where I was companions with Hermana Christensen!
Hermana C and I as you may be able to tell, had a lot of fun together too. We actually both had boys back at home and it was great to be able to talk about that with someone. We giggled about the dumbest things and everyone could tell that we were great pals. I think we also were able to meet people because of the companionship we had. People were excited to talk to us because we were just happy to be there.
My next companion in Napa was Hermana Stohel! She only had six weeks left when she came to Napa but that girl knew how to work! She is also crazy organized and taught me some cool tricks with that. Hera S has this cool thing where she makes everyone around her feel amazing cuz she is constantly telling you how amazing you are. She also took really good care of me when I had a severe blood sugar crash from hypoglycemia and fed me chicken thingies haha.
My last companion in Napa was Hermana Clayton, fresh out of the MTC! I was so nervous to be a trainer but I was lucky I had Hera Clayton! She was so willing to work and do whatever she needed to do. It also made me feel good that I could help her with spanish haha cuz I was always so insecure with mine. She was also so lucky to start off in Napa where the people welcomed her with open arms and we were able to have a great time together.
Napa had really become a home away from home. The town itself is so beautiful and friendly but I knew my next area, Novato, would be a wonderful place as well.
Hermana Robinson and I instantly clicked and got to work! Times in Novato were unlike any other area for me for many reasons. It was full of consistent heartbreaks but also triumphs. I can honestly say I worked as hard as I could there. Hera R and I were a great team because we loved each other so much so we were very open and honest with each other. We were like sisters, we cried together and we laughed together.
When it was time for me to leave Novato, I was not ready at all. I was heartbroken because I hadn’t felt like I had done everything I needed to do! It was a hard time for me to adjust because there was literally nothing I could do to change the fact that it was my time to leave. I felt helpless and was terrified to leave Novoto after all Hera R and I had done. But looking back I should have had more faith and trusted more because everything worked out just fine!
Just in time for the holidays I went to Rohnert Park with Sister Aoyama! It was my first english area and it was a different transition for me because I was insecure about my spanish the whole time so going to a place where I wouldn’t be speaking spanish as often really worried me. Again, I needed to learn trust! Sister Aoyama taught me so many things and I am so glad we were able to serve together. She is one of those people that really is so sweet and tries her hardest at everything she does. She cracked me up with her cute things she did and I’ll never forget how she would forget her shoes half the time if I didn’t remind her! She also made some killer noodles on New Years Eve I still crave sometimes. The holidays in RP were a time I will never forget and I have great memories of it. The members there work so hard and do the best they can. The town itself is very unique and of course the crazy Tongans were a hit!
As you can tell at this point, I changed areas a lot! My next stop was Santa Rosa! Although it was brief, it was wonderful. I was in a trio with a brand new sister missionary from the Dominican Republic, Hermana Garo. With Hermana Anderson the three of us made a funny trio. We all had our unique crazy personalities which looking back, is really quite humorous to put us three together. I have some of the best videos of these two from my mission. Josh and I watch them and crack up..maybe I’ll put them on facebook soon haha. And always, the branch was friendly and a lot of fun. The branch impressed me with how well it functioned and how each member really tried to do their part as best they could. Some of the lessons we taught our investigators are some of the most beautiful lessons I’ve ever witnessed. As well as the one where a boy thought we had come over for a date and I couldn’t stop laughing..ok I am laughing again right now. All in all my time in Santa Rosa was great but all too short!
At this point, I was nearing my last transfer as a missionary and it just felt wrong. WIth the help of Hera Garo and Hera Anderson, I decided to stay another 6 weeks so instead of getting home that March, I would go home in May. Josh still complains about this haha. When I found out my next area would be another English area in Cordelia I was ecstatic! I had gone there for a day before and completely fell in love with it and Green Valley. I had literally told Hera Anderson the day before that Cordelia was a magical place where everyone is so happy and it’s so pretty there.
My companion was Sister Williamson who was fairly new to the mission as well, but you really couldn’t tell. We bonded quickly when we both got the stomach flu in my first week there and took care of each other. We actually were sick on and off a lot with our 12 weeks together, but that didn’t stop all the wonderful things that happened there. Our ward couldn’t have been more helpful and loving and we loved them just as much! I think it was one of the places I really could go back and live one day haha. Everyone from the people we taught, to the youth to the ward members were some of my favorite people I’d ever met. It really was a joy to be able to help them out in any way I could, and I was so impressed with how helpful they were to us as well!
Although I totally loved Cordelia, I felt like I was ready to end my mission. I felt complete and that we had done everything we needed to. I also really missed my family and Josh! I was ready for the next stage in my life. So on May 8, 2012 I headed home to Asheville, North Carolina!
My family met me at the airport with signs and matching t-shirts haha. It was so surreal and a very happy reunion. I was overwhelmed as well with the support from my wonderful branch from home who waited all night for me to fly in!
If anyone ever has the chance to go on a mission, I would say don’t hesitate to go. It changed my life, it changed who I am, it brought more joy and happiness into my life then ever before. I felt love for complete strangers and came closer to God then I could have imagined. I became a person I wanted to be and I am proud to look back at what I did with the help of so many others. A mission is not just about teaching people about Christ, it is so much more than that. It encompasses everything and is the greatest blessing I could have ever asked for.