Oh hey, guess what? I LEAVE IN TWO WEEKS. My reporting date seemed forever away in April, and now, it's suddenly snuck up me. I gave my farewell talk on Sunday, and I was really grateful for and touched by the support the members of my ward, my family, and my friends gave me. This blog entry was also smushed onto the other two at one point or another, but alas, my verbosity made me scoot it into its own entry.
I often tell people that 20 girls from my freshman ward are either out serving missions or have calls in hand, and this list doesn't even include the ones who are working on their papers. There's really only two reasons I bring it up:
1) It's cool.
2) It shows that more sisters are serving missions (to me).
Let's do the math, shall we? There were a little over 80 girls in my freshman ward. 20 are serving. 20/80 = 25%! TWENTY FIVE PERCENT. But where are they? Where??
1) Emma - California Oakland/San Francisco Mission, Oakland Temple Visitors' Center
2) Brooke - Korea Seoul (Korean)
3) Brooke - Arizona Phoenix
4) Blythe - Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square
5) Heather - Brazil Sao Paulo Interlagos (Portuguese)
6) Lucy - Prague Czech Republic (Czech)
7) Liz - Morristown New Jersey
8) Jeanine - New Mexico Albuquerque (Spanish)
9) Jessica - Argentina Resistencia (Spanish)
10) Debbie - Minneapolis Minnesota (Spanish)
11) Steph - California San Diego
12) Rachel - Brazil Salvador South (Portuguese)
13) Kassandra - Honduras, San Pedro Sula (Spanish)
14) Bonnie - Chile Concepion North (Spanish)
16) Sydni - Argentina Buenos Aires North (Spanish)
17) Hilary - Slovenia/Croatia (Slovenian)
18) Elisabeth - Seattle Washington (Spanish)
19) Abby - Chile Santiago North (Spanish)
20) Melissa - Boston Massachusetts
This shows another facet of missionary service: it's everywhere. Popular culture believes (as shown in CNN's Explain it to me video and various Washington Post articles) that the Mormon Church is a "white bread" (or is it white bred?) sect. It's true - Mormonism is an American religion, as far as its roots technically come from America . However, throwing that label on it undervalues that only half - HALF! - of the church's membership resides in the United States. Missionary work - that is, bringing souls unto Christ - has been a part of Mormonism almost since the church formed. In addition, Mormons were visiting other countries during the middle and late 1800's (for example, they were in Hawaii by approximately 1850). Missionary work is not a contemporary phenomena - instead, it is a continuation of the groundwork laid by the early Saints.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a global gospel, unhindered by time. In a 1991 conference address entitled "The Gospel - A Global Faith," President Howard W. Hunter said the following:
"Mormonism, so-called, is a world religion, not simply because its members are now found throughout the world, but chiefly because it has a comprehensive and inclusive message based upon the acceptance of all truth, restored to meet the needs of all mankind...the validity, the power, of our faith is not bound by history, nationality, or culture. It is not the peculiar property of any one people or any one age...Ours is a perennial religion based on eternal, saving truth. Its message of love and brotherhood is lodged in scripture and in the revelations of the Lord to his living prophet. It embraces all truth. It circumscribes all wisdom—all that God has revealed to man, and all that he will yet reveal."
You should definitely read that article, Mormon or not. 'Twill make you think.
Now, I said the above list was just of girls I knew from my freshman ward. It doesn't include my coworkers who are serving in places like the Philippines, Minnesota, and Costa Rica, to name a few. It doesn't include my other friends and roommates who have missions calls. And it definitely doesn't include this common conversation:
Woman I've known for a long time: Oh, congratulations on your mission call!
WIKFALT: I remember when I served my mission...
Me: Wait, what?? You served a mission?
WIKFALT: Yep, I did!
Me: What the, how did I never know this??
It's like joining a secret society or something.
I'm grateful for the many examples of missionary service I have in my life, especially for the example of sister missionaries. I cannot wait to join their ranks. Overall, I'm most grateful for our savior, Jesus Christ, who gave us the ultimate gift in performing the atonement, and for Heavenly Father's gift of agency, or our ability to choose. I love this gospel, and I am so excited to put it in my brothers' and sisters' hands.