3 years ago today, I entered the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
I’ll admit. I was terrified.
The enormity of what I was about to do hadn’t fully hit me yet. I was going to leave my family, friends, schooling, and home for 18 months in order dedicate all of my time, talents and efforts to serving Lord as a missionary. The amount of self-discipline it takes to be a missionary, as well as the daily rejection they face, really scared me. I can barely even focus when doing my homework and I avoid social interaction at all costs…
So why in the world was I willingly going to go deal with all of that for a year and a half?!
It was because of my sister.
Or at least, a lot of the credit goes to her.
I grew up in a family of 8 - that’s 6 older brothers, then my sister, then me. (I am so grateful to have had 7 older role-models, plus my parents, to look up to!) My parents are the sweetest and most caring people in the world. They taught us the gospel and encouraged us in every good thing we did. I saw many of my brothers go serve missions and come back as completely different people. Sure, some of them had learned a new language, gained weight, lost weight, or became extremely sunburnt. But, I’m not talking about those little things. I mean, they grew up. Every single on of them was more spiritual, mature, calm, patient, and kind. My big brothers had gone off and become grown-ups! I was in awe to see how much closer to the Savior they had become. It crossed my mind occasionally “Wow… maybe I need to serve a mission too”. But I quickly dismissed the thought.
Until my big sister went on a mission.
She was in band, I had to join band. She played percussion, I had to play percussion. She was in chorus, I had to join chorus. She played volleyball, I attempted to play volleyball. (i actually hated volleyball with a passion, so thanks sis ;P ) The list goes on and on. I'm surprised she puts up with it! When she left, I thought “My big sis has SO much faith. There’s no way I can follow her this time. I can’t handle serving a mission.” And that was that. Occasionally I’d feel a slight nagging at the back of my mind that I should go, but I quickly pushed it aside every time, thinking: “There’s NO way I’d be a good missionary”.
Those first few months that my sister was serving, she wrote to me pretty often. I was always so excited to get her letters because what she wrote was always so happy. I was sure she was having hard time and that missionary work wasn’t as hunky-dory as she made it sound, but I was seriously impressed by her positivity - now my big sis was growing up! And she always, always bore her testimony at the end of each letter.
One day, I got a letter from her. It really wasn’t anything different or special in comparison to the others. All I know is that that day, while I was reading her letter, it hit me. I needed to get over myself and serve a mission. It's what the Lord wanted and He would take care of me.
So now, back to October 30, 2013. I’m standing across the street from the MTC. I give my brother, sister-in-law and my best friends each a hug goodbye before following my escort to the building. I'm visibly shaking as I roll my heavy suitcases up to the building. In my head, I'm freaking out, thinking: “I’m really doing this… oh my goodness, I’m really doing this! What was I thinking?! Why did I think i could do this?!” Part of me wants to run back to my brother, crying, and beg that he take me home.
But somehow, I kept walking. Maybe it was my pride or maybe it was the desire to “be tough” that having 6 older brothers instilled in me. Or maybe it was the spirit calming my fears. I honestly don’t know.
What I do know is that I'm glad to have been blessed with the strength to keep on going that day, and every day that followed after. My time as an ASL missionary was eye-opening and one the most difficult challenges I have ever faced. But it was also the most rewarding. A large part of that is due to the people I met, lived with, and experiences I had in the deaf community. I finally became truly comfortable with who I am.
If it hadn’t been for the influence of my family members - raising me, encouraging me, supporting me, and always pushing me to be better - I never would have met so many wonderful people, fallen in love with southern California, or had the best experience of my life.