Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And you must wait yet a little while, for ye are not yet ordained

Hello dearest readers and loved ones. Some of you may be wondering what the status of everything is right now and if I had been writing this on Saturday, I would have written something like, "Oh I sill don't know what's happening! My papers STILL aren't started! Waaaahhhh!!!"

BUT, after two weeks of learning what it means to be patient (hahaha, "learning". More like stumbling through that experience) and weird unexplainable online confusions (for some reason I wasn't allowed to sign into the missionary online recommendation system which made me crey buckets of tears), I HAVE BEGUN AND ALMOST FINISHED MY PAPERS!!!

In layman's terms: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a very specific process when it comes to deciding where (and if) to send a prospective missionary. First off, I talk to my bishop (the leader of my local church that I attend). I did that and he asked me all sorts of questions, like if I'd read the Book of Mormon and if I had a testimony of its truth (I have! I do! It's wonderful and I would suggest it to anyone looking for peace or truth in their life), if I live up to the commandments of the Gospel, how I can pay for it all, etc. That talk went well and my bishop and I, here two weeks later, have begun the part of the process known as "The Papers".

Which is a funny thing to call them because they're all online now. Basically what happens is when I got approved by my bishop to do missionary work, I was signed up to access a website called the "Online Missionary Recommendation System" which is fancy talk for a big checklist of TO-DO items. When I sign in there, I have several TO-DO tasks, like filling out my personal history (DOB, place of birth, etc.), my educational history (Have I ever learned a language? Yes! Would I be interested in learning a language on the mission? By golly gumdrops, I do believe so!), and my personal health history (I have allergies but I'm not going to mention that on the form, don't tell anybody shhhh). In addition to those fun little questionnaires, there is also a place to upload a current picture of me, as well as several forms to print out.

These forms are for my dentist and my doctor and basically say, "I have looked at this person; they will be healthy for the next two years". These forms necessitate a physical, blood tests, immunizations, urine tests, and dental work. I had my dentist's appointment today. Only two fillings needed! I was really nervous I would need a root canal for some reason. I don't need a root canal. Thank you Jebus. Tomorrow I have my doctor's appointment and since I had a physical last October, I feel very confident that nothing will be totally messed up with me!

Once these appointments are completed (my doctor's appointment tomorrow and my tooth fillins on Monday), I will have officially completed my mission papers! After that they will be sent to my stake president who I will have an interview with. Depending on that interview, I will progress forward with the mission process or I'll, I don't know, hang out some more. But I have a good feeling about the interview. I have a good feeling about the whole process! After the interview with the stake president, the papers will be sent to the missionary department of the Church in Salt Lake City. They will look over my papers and process them. They'll get put into a system which will go to a general authority of the Church. A note on this: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is lead by a prophet (akin to the Catholic Pope, but without the bling/grillz). However, he has under him a quorum of twelve apostles (sound familiar? If you've read the New Testament it might) who are known as the General Authorities. These twelve men are charged with serving the general Church will pretty much all matters for the entire world. It's pretty crazy. One of the biggest tasks they have (besides the Church Education and Welfare systems) is assigning missionaries to certain missions in the world. When my papers get sent away to Salt Lake and they get processed, a general authority will sit down at a computer and go through several hundred missionary applications one-by-one and choose, by prayer and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, where each and every person should serve. After that intensely spiritual moment, I will be assigned to labor in a specific place at a specific time. The information is printed out and put into a package and then shipped to me. This whole process, from the time I finish my papers and have my interview with my stake president to the day I get my mission call (that's what the assignment is called, a "mission call" - because I am called to serve somewhere, get it?) takes anywhere from two to four weeks.

How exciting RIGHT? I AM EXCITED. I hope you all are too!

Write below in the comments if you have any questions or thoughts on all of this. I'll let you all know soon enough whether or not I have a urinary tract disorder and what my blood type is! Because one I get all of my proper appointments done with, I'll have my interview with my bishop wrapped up soon after and then we'll be sending the papers in. So the next time I write will be to tell you all, "IT'S DONE. PRAY FOR A PLACE WITH GOOD FOOD FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS."

Love and some garbage to you all,


Friday, January 6, 2012

On Patience and Not Having Any

So! Here we are a few days after my super successful meeting with my bishop; you know, the one where he said, "You're going to serve a mission!" and I laughed really loudly with glee. The normal order of things is that I would have begun my papers immediately following that interview. The problem is that the papers are all done through an online system. So the bishop and I went into the little office with the computer in it that sits next to his office in the chapel. And I was actually kind of bouncing on my chair in excitement because, hey! Here we go! We're starting the papers! And he gets to the log in page for the online missionary recommendation site and says, "Uh oh". And then tries for ten minutes to remember his password and username. To no avail. So, we've got a slight delay. It's been two days or so and he's still having trouble logging in (that or he's just super busy and doesn't have time to get around to it, which is understandable seeing as how he's a lawyer for AT&T).

I have been sitting at home, typing my information into the website log in a few times every hour just hoping, on the off-chance that he's done it without telling me. I've been waiting very impatiently. I feel like God is teasing me. It's really funny to me that after everything, the one thing that stands between me and the papes is a forgotten password. Ohhhhh bishop.

This brings me to think about patience and peace. Can I have peace and assurance if I am really, really impatient? Because I am really impatient. I keep having these moments where I kind of half yell "Bishop!!!!" to myself. Like Shatner yelling, "Khannnn!!!" I've been super pushy about getting my papers in for like half a year now and, well, maybe the reason it's taken so long (or part of the reason) is because God is telling me to slowwwwww dowwwwnnnn and just take my time and get things in order. Because in the mean time He's doing things for me anyway. Like getting me two awesome jobs. In the course of the past two days. While I was sweating over this taking a tiny bit of time I was blessed to get hired into a company that helps people on government assistance get secure, well-maintained housing. I also got hired at a great mom and pop bookstore. I feel like the angels are like "Hush" to me banging my fists against the table.

Patience. What is it? What does it meannnnn? Shouldn't being faithful automatically endow you with patience? Isn't one of the lines in the scripture about being "long suffering"? I know the end goal of all of this: I will serve a mission. I will be able to go out into the world and teach about the love of Christ and blessings that the Lord showers us with daily. How can I do that well if I can't see or properly appreciate the blessings as they come?

I've been quite rankled by this waiting over the past two days. I won't be anymore. I'll just trust it's all going to come to pass in due time and that I need to just do my best in my current capacity. That's what patience is. And that comes from knowing that the Lord is truly watching over me and taking me forward each step at a time. It comes from trust in the plan; it's a practice of beliefs.

So, alright. I can do that. I can dig it. I'll let you all know when the code is cracked and the doors swing open and Nicolas Cage (me) can steal the Declaration of Independence (start my mission papers).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mission Statement (LOL)

First and foremost, welcome to this blog. You may be wondering what this blog is. Well, it is a blog dedicated to tracking my progress and eventual entry into two year service as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That's right, I'm LDS (or Mormon). And eventually I'll be one of these guys.


This is a really important thing for me. For years I struggled with whether or not I would serve a mission. I had a testimony of Jesus Christ and the Church, but I figured I would never measure up to the expectations that missionaries are held to. This past summer, however, I began to pray about whether or not I could do this, could give myself over for two years, live the gospel to its fullest, and offer to other people what the Church has given to me. The answer was a distinct, exciting, and strong yes.

So here I am! It's been something like over six months since I first talked to my church leader (so-called a "bishop") in my ward (my local church; the overall worldwide church is divided into geographic units, the smallest of which is a ward which often covers neighborhoods or towns). I've had to wait and experience a LOT in order to get to where I am today. And where am I today? Oh, since you happened to ask, I just had my interview with my bishop today about starting my missionary papers.

What does this entail, this missionary stuff?

First off, a mission is a two year commitment to talk pretty much only about Jesus and God to anyone and everyone. During that two years, a missionary spends six to seven days a week walking around with a companion (of the same sex) (AKA, a new BEST FRIEND), knocking on doors, teaching lessons, meeting with members of the church, doing community service, studying the scriptures, and trying to talk to anyone who will listen. The missionary gets one day per week to do normal things like laundry, shopping, playing street hockey, eating at a homestyle buffet, etc. They also get to write home/email once a week. Calls home (sometime Skype depending on where you serve!) happen twice a year, one on Christmas and one on Mother's Day. The missionary lives in church-owned or church-rented housing and gets a monthly allowance from the Church for food and whatnot. The missionary is not, however, paid to go on the mission. As a missionary, I am responsible for paying for my mission. Every missionary in the world pays the same amount of money to go on a mission: somewhere around $10,000. Do I have this money? No, no I do not. But kind and gracious souls in the Church have decided to help me out and families have anonymously donated to my mission fund.

So that's a mission. But how does it all happen? What's the process of becoming a missionary? It's a multi-step process. The first step is deciding to go on a mission. I have done that. Check! Here are some other steps!

2. Meet with bishop to discuss whether or not serving a mission is possible. Check!
3. Begin the missionary papers. I will get more in depth with the papers here in the future, but the general overview is that I fill out relevant personal information, go to the doctor to get a thorough physical, go to the dentist to get my teeth scraped real clean and any holes gapped up.
4. Have an interview with the stake president (the church, if you'll recall, is divided up into wards, which are responsible for small geographic areas. A stake, then, is a collection of wards. And the person who is in charge of that collection of wards is called a "stake president").
5. Submit the papers!
6. Wait. 2-3 weeks probs.
7. Your call arrives.

A pause here. Up until that last one, number 7, a prospective missionary has no clue where they will be serving. They also have no clue when they will be leaving. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relies heavily on personal prayer and deep introspection to make some big decisions. Each missionary, every single one, is assigned and approved to serve in a specific mission at a specific time by one of the leaders of the Church, who make the decision based on prayer and ponderous meditation. The Prophet, our rough approximation of the Pope (but without the glitter), personally signs every mission call. It's pretty awesome. So, don't be alarmed or confused if when I say I'm going on a mission I also say I have no clue where or when. The whole point is that our church is heavy on the personal relationship with Jesus and God part. Even to the point where the leadership of our church personally prays over every prospective, dopey, smiling missionary picture. That'll be me some day soon! Smilin' up at Thomas S. Monson (our prophet). Anyways, more on the mission call in the future.

8. Report to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) on the assigned date that comes in your mission call.
9. Study in the MTC for a period of time. This time fluctuates depending on if you're learning a language, etc.
10. Go out into the field!

There you have it! A Campbell's Condensed version of what the next two years or so looks like. The next month is crucial for me; I'll be running around doing doctor's visits, double-checking my legal status as a citizen of the United States, not to mention working two jobs to help save up for the mission. As I progress further and further, I'll be updating this blog with information about the process. I figured that a lot of my friends and family have no clue what it is I'm doing right now and, well, maybe they'd like to know some? So it's not such a big confusing mystery? If you have any questions, please comment them and I'll be sure to answer.

I'm REALLY EXCITED about this WHOLE THING. It's such an honor and privilege to get to be a representative of my religion. I just have such a strong testimony of this church and of God's existence, His love for us. How could I not want to share that? It's like getting a sick BOGO for Papa Murphy's or something.

Anyways. Walk in this journey with me bros and sis-s. You might find at the end of it all, there was only one set of footprints in the sand. Because I carried you. Or because I left to get a snow cone. Or because the tide came in and washed my foot prints away. Either way, it should be AWESOME.


P.S. It was really hard not to make the title of my blog something like "Jesus Crust" or "Mission Possible" or "Latter-day Paints" or something awesome like that. I chose simplicity over glamor. Such a hard decision.

For more information see also: