Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016 I received my call in the notorious big white envelope 22 days after submitting my missionary application.
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016 I opened my call at my grandparent’s house. Many that I loved came and skyped in.
“Dear Sister Jameson:
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Oregon Portland Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months.
You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, July 13, 2016. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the English language.”
I had an instantaneous love for the people of Portland. The moment I read Oregon Portland Mission it felt so right. I was happy, in love, and couldn’t want anything more in the world. The immediate days that followed were consumed in heavy duty Portland stalking. Every spare moment I was looking up pictures, facts, the weather… you name it and I probably looked it up.
Reality settled in, eventually. The hurt of not going foreign increasingly began to be felt.
Hours before I was going to open my mission call I sat at work with my envelope in hand as I told my coworkers how I did not want to go stateside. Not that there was anything wrong with going stateside, my desire, a righteous desire, was simply to go foreign. Yes, I know missions are not vacations. No, I did not want to go foreign for selfish reasons. Up to this point every time I thought of a mission I pictured in my mind me being in the middle of some less-privileged country. Words, as they often do, fail to describe my desires here.
By going foreign I was going to be with people who innocently had a very different reality than my USA paradigm. I would go through the hardships of dealing with cultural differences. I would experience the strenuous task of learning a new language. I was ready to do humanitarian work where I could see the change it made first hand. The crazy meals, massive bugs, lack of safety/security, and weather challenges would not bother me. I wanted the sweaty hot days without AC, the ruined shoes from walking on dirt roads all day, and to be the outcast as I would not fit the social norm. Then when the time would come to share those experiences, I would get to tell of this different kind of life to people. I would have the privilege of having to explain the way of life, the reality, of those foreign people from that one foreign country. I greatly desired those challenges– I was ready to pour my soul into overcoming them. I was going to give it my all.
(Below is example of what kind of mission I imagined)
Portland, although greatly diverse with stereotypes, is not going to fulfill those desires. Serving a stateside mission is going to be nothing like being immersed in the paradigm-breaking life of some foreign country like Brazil, Italy, El Salvador, Russia, Argentina, Japan, Belize, Ghana, Ecuador, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone, and so forth. That hurts. That is an opportunity missed for me. Serving a foreign mission as a young independent missionary is a once in a lifetime experience. I do not get that opportunity and that does make me sad… and it is okay that it makes me sad.
Experiencing real emotions is okay. If we look to Christ we can see that there were moments where he experienced sorrow. John 11: 35, “Jesus wept,” can be one of the most important verses for us to learn from. Jesus Christ, the only perfect person, the son of God, can cry – so why can’t we?
It is what we do with that grief, though, that matters. As we experience emotions, there must be a time where we can move on from them, and in a positive way. Instead of focusing on why Portland is not the best, why it is not what I wanted, I can start focusing on why Portland can be the best, why it is what I want. It honestly does help having a genuine love for the work. My purpose as a missionary, inviting others to come unto Christ, is the same and that is what matters most. That will never change. It does not matter what environment I am in, what people I am with, or what place I am at because I will still be set apart as missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
My hurt hasn’t gone away, and there is a piece of me that wonders if it ever will. Again, this was an opportunity that I missed out on! When people show me their pictures of them in Japan, Italy, French West Indies, and Argentina my heart honestly aches. In situations where people start talking to others in their mission language I am greatly saddened. I shut down in those moments… I have a stinging in my chest and I start to swell up in tears. There have certainly been countless moments when my friends opened their calls to foreign places and I wondered “why them and not me?”
Then, of course, there are conversations with people where they express how they surely thought that I would have gone foreign. My dad had this very conversation with me a few days ago. All he had to say was “it was because I thought enough of you that I thought you would go foreign.” As much as that conversation was needed, it was still sad for me. Even today, May 2nd, 2016, after having my brother make Japanese food for lunch, my dad talk to me about his mission in the Indies, and my dear friend ask about his Argentina mission photos on facebook, I sat at the dinner table in tears. My mom asked why I was crying. Simply, the only thing I could manage to choke out was, “Sometimes it is hard not going foreign.” Her reply was, “I bet it is.”
It is comforting to have people tell you “I understand.” Yet, even though they can comprehend what I am saying, they will never fully understand my pain unless they experience my situation. I am the only one from my family (dad and siblings) to go stateside. I have taken years of a foreign language. I have a passport ready to go. Most importantly, I had the greatest desire, an innocent loving desire, to go foreign. Yet, I am going to what could be just another city in America. Honestly, there have been moments where I just want to scream- scream from absolute pure emotion. All the frustration, disappointment, and the grief cannot be accurately expressed in words.
On that note, those very emotions have given me much to ponder. Perhaps Heavenly Father knew I would have done well in a foreign country and so He gave me the more needed challenges of being stateside. Perhaps I was called to specifically the small 40 mile long or so mission boundaries of the Portland Mission because there is one very individual that needs to hear what I have to say. Perhaps Heavenly Father knew how much I hate leaving those that I love so He gave me a mission close to where I can go back to visit after returning from my mission. Perhaps I was called to my very specific mission president. Perhaps I need Portland more than Portland needs me. Perhaps Portland needs me more than I thought I needed a less-privileged country. Perhaps there are many reasons as to why Portland is the best mission for me and I will only know that by going.
In the end, how blessed am I to even be able to serve a mission. That is what matters most. At least I have the opportunity to go. At least Heavenly Father trusts me enough to send me to the people of Portland. At least I have the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. This is all more than enough to celebrate and cherish! May I count my many blessings and focus on the good. There is much ahead of me. May I live the 548 days of serving a mission to the fullest.
No matter what, there is nothing that I can do that will make God love me more. It doesn’t matter if I go on a foreign mission or not, or even go on a mission at all. He knows me for who I absolutely truly am, and already has an endless love for me. I don’t have to do anything to earn more or deserve the love of my dear Heavenly Father- His love is unconditionally always there.
10 reasons why I am excited to serve Enlgish Speaking in the stateside Oregon Portland Mission
- I get to work with the youth on a very real level
- I will have less time in the MTC which means more time in the mission field
- I may be more precise and concise in what I want to say as I already know the language
- I have the safety/security of being in my home country
- I will be taken care of between the members, normal restaurants, doctors, and other resources here in America
- I get to serve in an area with some of my best friends have non-member families
- I will be able to go back and visit at very little of a cost and as often as I have the chance
- I get to stay more of my fun, spunky personal self and have a higher chance of being accepted
- I have the chance of relating better to those I will come into contact with as we share the same American paradigm
- I won’t have to have the challenges foreign missionaries experience
Some helpful videos