Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The decision to serve.......

      I received my mission call on April 23, 2014.  The decision for me to serve wasn't a long difficult process of study and prayer.  It didn't take me months and months to decide.  In fact, I never even gained a witness that it was what I was supposed to do.  However, starting at a very young age, serving a mission was always a goal-or rather a plan.  I remember sitting in primary singing "I Hope They Call Me On a Mission" and telling anybody who would listen that it was my favorite primary song.  Growing up, my desire to serve never dwindled for a second. Until my senior year of high school. I had started to doubt if a mission would actually work out.  I wanted desperately to serve, but I knew that sometimes life demanded other things such as marriage, finishing school, a study abroad, etc. I was sincerely afraid that it wouldn't be the right timing and I would miss the opportunity.  So, you can imagine my relief when the announcement was made that girls could now serve at age 19 as opposed to age 21.  I remember being at a musical practice and bursting in to tears when a girl sprinted into the auditorium to tell us the wonderful news.  (General Conference had been playing on a laptop in the hall for those who weren't required on stage at the time.) After calling my parents in tears and exclaiming to them "I'm going!", I felt an overwhelming feeling of gratitude towards the Prophet and his Apostles. It became so apparent to me that they knew EXACTLY what the young people of the church needed.  They knew EXACTLY what I needed.  I took the sense of relief I felt as an answer to prayers.
     Fast forward 8 months.  I'm sitting in my Bishops office talking to his first councilor. We were having a meeting about me leaving the ward for a year because I would be attending BYU in the fall.  He asked me "Are you going to serve a mission?"  Six months ago, my answer would have been an enthusiastic YES ABSOLUTELY!  But instead I answered "I'm not sure, I need to do some more thinking about it." I had begun to question my motives for going prior to that meeting.  So many people were asking me if I was going for everyone else, or if I had actually prayed to know if I should serve.  I honestly hadn't asked God if I should go I told most people, I just had the desire.  Eventually, these people put doubt into my heart.  Was my desire to serve not enough?   Did I need a special witness before going that God wanted me to serve? As I expressed my concerns to the councilor, he asked me, "Eden, do you want to serve a mission"?  I told him I did, more than anything.  His simple response rang true in my ears, "Then Go."  We are reminded in D&C 4:3 "Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work."  I had the desire.  I was called.

    Fast Forward 8 months.  I'm in my BYU ward serving as Relief Society President.  I've watched 5 girls in my relief society get their mission calls, 3 of which were called to the Taiwan Tai Pei mission.  With each of these girls I felt so much envy, I didn't turn nineteen for 6 more months.  I talked to my Bishop and found out that I could start my papers six months before and within minutes had my first interview set up.  On February 7th, exactly six months before I turned 19, my papers were opened.  The next two months were agonizing.  I got my wisdom teeth out, prayed and studied hard (both on secular and spiritual matters - I was still in school for heavens sake!), went to doctors appointments, interviewed with the stake president, and FINALLY submitted them on April 10th.  The next two weeks of waiting flew.  I was constantly studying for finals so I didn't have time to stress over my call.  On April 21, I took my last final.  The minute I walked out-I felt so nervous! 

     Two days later, my call came!

Here was the plan. I was still living in Provo while my family was in Salt Lake so I would drive home with my brother-in-law at 5 and open my call at 7 that night..  That day consisted of pacing, no eating, and watching "The Divine Call of a Missionary" (given by President Rasband) at least 5 times.

  I was so nervous.  

     When I arrived at my house I ran to my call, looked for postage amounts, weighed it (as if the weight tells you anything), and asked my family for about the 100th time where they thought I would serve.  My mom expressed her hope for a safe visitors center, my brother-in-law said Costa Rica, my older sister hoped Taiwan, and my younger sister thought Wisconsin.  My dad jokingly said "I'll be disappointed if it isn't Ecuador!"  He wanted me to serve there because he had served in the Ecuador Quito mission.  Deep down, I had hoped and prayed to go to the same mission as him, but I knew that wherever it was-the call came from God and that was all I needed.  At 7 PM I read to a room full of family and friends, 

"Dear Sister Neff, You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Ecuador Quito mission."

 At this, I jumped off the mantle I was standing on and ran into my Dad's arms.  How blessed I was to serve in my Father's mission! So many tears of joy were shed that night.  I would depart August 27th for the Mexico MTC and serve for a period of 18 months.  I felt so much love from my Father in Heaven that night.  That in his infinite power, he cared about me.  And he trusted me enough to give me a call to serve.  

     It is now July 26th.  My brother returns home from his mission in Peru in 4 days. I leave in 33.  Since the call was issued, I have been on a journey of ups and downs, questioning my testimony and faith, feeling inadequacy and the pain of leaving my family.  I've questioned why God couldn't trust me enough to send me to prideful Europeans, or doctrinally capable Americans, or Asian countries with difficult languages.  But I've realized that God doesn't love his children in any place more than another.  He loves us all the same.  Jesus Christ taught EVERYONE during his ministry on earth and now he needs others to do his work for him.  I know that God's calls for us are divine.  I know He sends his children everywhere. I know He loves us all the same, but that His love is infinite and personal.  I know He needs missionaries to lead others to His gospel.  I know that the perfect example of  a missionary is Jesus Christ, and that we have access to his brilliant teaching tactics in the scriptures.  I am grateful for missionary work.  And most of all I am grateful for the gospel.  It is truly a gospel of joy.  How lucky we are that God gives us truth, for we would be lost and in darkness without it. 

eden olivia    

my dad and i with our calls....
i'm way too lucky to have these girls 
i love her 
i'm so blessed for these GREAT friends!!