Sunday, April 22, 2012

Alright folks, I'm being set apart tonight to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ in the Moscow, Russia mission for the next 18 months! I've posted  my mission addresses if you would be so kind as to write me (please do!). My sister will be updating this blog with my emails, pictures, and other useful info. I will NOT be available through email (other than immediate family), phone, or facebook and other social networking sites. A VERY easy way to write me for the next three months (and it's free!) is through which I get the same day while in Utah if you choose the Provo MTC option. I'll be in Salt Lake Tuesday and in Provo Wendesday morning so if you'd like to see me, feel free to text or call my mom's phone: 713.304.0675. I'm very excited and grateful for this opportunity to serve! До свидания!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

7 days! Pre-mission thoughts and nerves...

So I might be just a teensy bit biased, but these are the cutest kids in the world!

So minus the fact that I am WAY too tan, (I went a bit overboard but it's okay because it will be gone in a couple of months anyways) this past weekend was absolutely wonderful and I felt so blessed to be able to spend time with many of the amazing people in my life. My aunt and uncle came down from Oklahoma to spend the weekend with us and to hear me speak in church on Sunday. That same night I had an open-house and was able to see lots of wonderful friends and supportive members from my church ward.

I was also so happy that my co-workers could come and that I also got to see many of my closest high school friends.

My co-workers gave me a poster with good-bye messages from them and all of my favorite customers, which was soooo sweet of all of them

It was great to be able to speak in church on Sunday and share some of my hopes and expectations for my mission, but I always seem to get myself worked up whenever I have to speak in public. I know that it will be even better when I get back and have the opportunity to share what I've learned.

In my farewell talk on Sunday, I told a story about a professor I had at BYU named Brother Choi. He was a professor of world religions, which was SUPER interesting and he had the most amazing story. He was the only Asian religious faculty member at BYU, and one of my favorite religion teachers. He was originally from South Korea, which I was surprised to learn has a huge Christian population,he was the son of the most famous Christian minister/pastor at the biggest Christian church at the time.

Because he was the son of this famous minister, he was already a Bible scholar and had numerous degrees from prestigious Korean universities. While in Korea, he learned about the church through the missionaries and he told us how reading Jesus the Christ was a huge factor in his conversion because it made perfect sense. It clarified for him so many things about Christ and answered questions that he had had his whole life. He told us how he when he read the Book of Mormon, he fasted for three days in a cave somewhere in the mountains of South Korea, and was later found almost dead. (by the way those were his exact words that he shared with me). But it was during this experience that he gained a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. He ended up joining the church, which resulted in him being disowned by his father and entire family after his conversion ended up costing his father his position.

There is a very strong Buddhist tradition of filial piety, so he said to dishonor your father is considered almost unforgivable in Korean society. Because he had dishonored his father and joined the church, he decided to give up everything and moved to Provo, Utah penniless and with no job. The Lord ended up blessing him though, and because of his extensive education and background in religion, he ended up being offered a job as professor teaching world religion at BYU.

After years of being estranged, his father eventually contacted him when he ended up visiting the United States and his father actually visited him in Provo. His father still did not accept the church, but when he visited his son in Provo, he was so impressed by the university and how beautiful Utah was that he called it the Garden of Eden. His conversion story is so powerful, because he demonstrated an amazing amount of courage and faith in being willing to give up everything he knew for something even better-the truth.

Two classes into the term, Brother Choi’s wife passed away and he missed class for the first time in his twenty year teaching career at BYU. He was so heartbroken over the loss, but still continued to teach during the term (he was a very disciplined, dedicated, Korean man). It was heartbreaking when he told us that he was staying in a hotel because it was too painful for him to go to his home because he said there were too many memories. His first lecture after his wife had passed away, he bore a powerful testimony of the gospel and the comfort he had that one day he and his wife would be reunited. His story helped confirm for me the importance of missionary work. After hearing his story it really made an impression on me, because if he could give up his entire life-his family, his country, his job-for the church I realize that the least thing I could do is to give up a year and a half of my own life to serve a mission.

So I was so happy I was able to share his story, because it really was inspiring to me, and I know he's not alone. There are many converts to the church all around the world who make such amazing sacrifices for their faith. The New York Times published this really amazing article about Mormon missionaries in Uganda. Just another inspiring example for me.

On Monday, my dad's office threw a surprise lunch party for me since I'm leaving, which was super nice of them. I really have grown to love all of them and I'm going to miss them dearly. It's been wonderful to be able to be a part of my dad's staff and involved in the growing stages as he was blessed with this new business. It has been such a blessing for our family!

Things really started to hit me on Monday though, as it was kind of weird not to have my regularly daily routine of waking up at 5am and then opening at the salon at 6:45am.
I'm the type of person who tends to get anxious when it comes to change, and I realized that I am about to have a paramount change as I embark on the biggest adventure and most spiritual experience of my life.

I started to get scared and an overwhelming sense of inadequacy and self-doubt washed over me as I started to ask myself questions like, "What if it's too hard? What if I can't learn the language?"

But then I realized that those feelings are perfectly normal, and there is always opposition whenever we are trying to do good things. I know that the Lord wouldn't have given me this mission call if he didn't have faith in me, and I start to think of Philipians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

I'm so grateful to have an older sister who set such an amazing example for me by serving a mission in Argentina. I know from her experience that a mission is hard but that it is such a wonderful opportunity to serve others because when you are in the service of your fellow men, you are only in the service of your Lord.

I know also that a mission can be a BIG humbling experience. I'm already aware of so many of my weaknesses and flaws. I know how imperfect I am. But I'm grateful to be able to go serve for a year and a half, and to hopefully better myself as I learn to put the needs of others first and to get rid of any distractions in my life. I've also realized over the past couple of years, that the only way to be better is by making a conscious effort each day. Reading this talk was pretty life-changing for me:

"We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day. Righteous character is a precious manifestation of what you are becoming. Righteous character is more valuable than any material object you own, any knowledge you have gained through study, or any goals you have attained no matter how well lauded by mankind. In the next life your righteous character will be evaluated to assess how well you used the privilege of mortality."

When it comes down to it though, the purpose of serving a mission is to help bring others to Christ, and about having charity for God's children. I realize that if I am able to do any good, I have to give credit to God. Because he has given me everything, and I simply want to do his will and be the best I can be to help bless the lives of others.

I'm so impressed with many of the examples that have been set for me, especially by missionaries in my own ward. There are two 19 year old guys who I've known since they were kids, and they are both off serving missions for two years. They are so wonderful and show so much strength and maturity and are soooo much better than I was when I was 19.

I've realized in the past couple of years since I've really made an effort to put God first in my life, I've become such a happier person and I've been able to grow so much. I've realized more and more that we have a loving Heavenly Father and that we are all here for a reason-to learn and grow and to make choices that will help lead us to eternal happiness.

I know that we have a loving Savior, Jesus Christ who set the perfect example for us and performed an infinite atonement and that because of him we can get back on the right path whenever we make a mistake. I know I've made plenty in my own life, but as I've made the conscious efforts to live my life better and to keep the commandments, I know that I have been blessed.

I can't wait to go to the Missionary Training Center in Provo and start the missionary lifestyle and to learn how to teach the gospel and to start seriously learning Russian. The thing I'm most excited about though is going to Russia and getting to know the people! I know that the Lord loves all of his children equally and I hope I can do my best to help those who are looking for the truth and need a source of love and light in their lives! I'm hoping that with God's help, I will be able to see others the way I know Christ sees them. Because he loves each of us perfectly. I want to be able to see them and their potential for good. Because I know that despite our flaws, we all have potential for good. No person is inherently evil, even though some may seem like it...I know that we don't know the pains of other people and the reasons why they may be the way they are. So I'm hoping and praying that I will be able to have charity and become more Christ-like as I go and serve.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

10 days and counting....

I only have 10 more days left here in Houston before I head up to Utah and then on to Russia. I still have so much to do!!!

Reality hasn't quite hit me yet, but things finally started to become a little more real this week when I worked the last day at my job. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to my co-workers who really have become like a second family for me! Working there was really helpful in preparing me for my mission, because it not only helped me financially, but it helped to set a precedent of the sort of early morning routine I'll be living on my mission. It also provided me with so many amazing opportunities to talk and get to know many wonderful people I wouldn't have known otherwise.

This weekend, my aunt and uncle and their two adorable angel boys are coming into town for my mission farewell. I will speaking in church this upcoming Sunday, and then having an open house at 6:30 to say goodbye to family and friends before I leave.

After I head up to Utah, I'll be putting my sister in charge of maintaining this blog and posting all of my emails, stories, pictures, etc. So this blog will be a record of my mission and hopefully an uplifting source of inspiration for others who may need it.

Speaking of uplifting...I cannot help but to share this woman's story.
"I am Stephanie Nielson...and I am not my body."

If this doesn't reduce you to tears, then I don't know what will! Stephanie Nielson is the most inspiring example of courage in the face of adversity! I had the opportunity to hear her speak at BYU fall 2010, and have followed her story on her blog:

In August 2008, she and her husband survived a nearly fatal plane crash in which she was burned on over 80% of her body. Her and her husband both survived and have recovered, although she will continue have to have surgeries and skin-graft treatments for the rest of her life. What is so amazing about her story, is how she has still managed to raise and be a mother to her four children, and she and her husband just miraculously gave birth to a fifth child this past month!

We live in such a beauty-oriented society (I know, I worked in a tanning salon), but to me Stephanie Nielson exemplifies a beauty of far greater importance than outward superficial beauty. She loves her family perfectly and they love her, despite the devastating pain she has endured.