I distinctly remember my last Stake Conference before I left for college. I had been considering a mission but I still wasn’t sure if I was being serious or if I was only thinking about it because it seemed like the next step to take. I don’t really remember what caused me to pray about a mission, but I remember praying a lot before this because I wanted to do what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, but I knew that He did and I knew that if He wanted me to serve a mission, I would serve a mission. I remember sitting in the adult session and the entire meeting was about missionary work. And I don’t mean that I just felt the Spirit testify to me of missionary work, I mean every single speaker was given a topic relating to missionary work. There was even a video about missionary work. This is one of the videos played that night.
The song I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go became my mission song and every time I sang it from that time on, I cried. Each time I sang this song the Spirit reconfirmed to me that I was to serve a mission. And even when I sing it now, I'm filled with faith that I will be given the strength to fulfill my mission and that the Lord is pleased with my decision and desire to serve.
The day before I was supposed to get my call, I went to the temple with a group from my ward and there were so many people there that we were put in a side room until lockers opened up for us to use. We were seated in a small chapel-like room and we were singing hymns. I felt so overwhelmed because I knew this was the last time I’d come to the temple before I would receive my call. I couldn't stop thinking about all of the times I had gone to the temple looking for answers regarding a mission and the many times I had marked time with my visits. I had gone to the temple before I started my papers. I sat in the temple for the last time before I submitted my papers. And now here I was, sitting and singing and praying before I actually got my call. It was incredible.
I am definitely a crier, but I hadn’t cried yet. I had hoped to cry this particular evening because I felt so many mixed emotions: anxiety because I was about to be sent ANYWHERE for the next year and a half of my life; fear because I wasn’t sure if I could do it; excitement because I was finally at this point in the process; and joy because I had made the decision to serve. They were taking requests for hymns and I eventually requested my mission hymn, #270 I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go, and as soon as I read the first verse and started to sing, I broke down. I felt like this song had been one of my motivations to serve and now I felt as though it was a prayer I was earnestly offering up to heaven. But as I sang, I wasn’t telling Heavenly Father I was ready to go wherever He needed me, I was asking for the faith to be sent anywhere.
I didn’t end up getting my call until that Friday. I had had in my mind a place that I was fairly certain I would be sent, yet as I sat at work that morning I found myself involuntarily asking and pleading that I wouldn’t be sent there. I still wanted to be sent there because it was where I wanted to go and I saw that it would line up perfectly with where my life had been headed, but a part of me prayed against it nonetheless. I apologized over and over in my head and I hoped that my own selfish desires hadn’t ruined my chances of being sent where I NEEDED to go. That was one of my biggest worries—that I wouldn’t be sent to the place I was supposed to go.
I’m not kidding—moments after this experience I got a phone call that my call envelope had arrived and was waiting for me to go and pick it up at the dorm’s front desk. I broke down in the middle of the bookstore. I hoped all of my prayers hadn't been in vain and had already worked even though I felt it no longer mattered since my assignment was waiting for me at home. Was I nervous? Yes. Incredibly.
When I got my call, it was a shock to read that I would be serving stateside and be speaking English. I had honestly hoped to learn another language and I’ll admit that I was disappointed. It was very hard for the first few weeks because I felt unimportant. I felt like I had been set back and that there was no way I should be going to California, of all places. People around me were getting calls to exotic and distant places and here I was going two states over—going to Disneyland. I had been to Disneyland. I had been to Anaheim. I had spent weeks and weeks in California and here I was supposed to prepare to spend the next year and a half there? I didn’t understand. And the more I heard where other people were being called, I felt jealous. Why wasn’t I called to Sweden? Or India? Or Russia? Or Canada?
I think the attitudes of the people around me made me feel even worse. There is a certain stigma, of sorts, associated with stateside mission calls and I felt like people weren’t excited for me, at least not excited as someone called to the Netherlands. People would approach me and ask where I had been called and as soon as I said California Anaheim, their faces changed. I’ve heard it called the “stateside face.” It hurt every time. And even when people responded enthusiastically, I could still tell it was not the same. And then when they learned I was speaking English, their faces changed even more.
In all honesty, I felt cheated. I selfishly felt like I deserved better and that I was too special to be called to a stateside mission. And I felt mad at the people who treated me differently because I wasn’t going someplace “unique” or “hard” or “far away.” I also felt judged. I felt like people were looking at me and thinking to themselves, I wonder what she did wrong in her past that would make her have to serve stateside. And I don’t mean to condemn people who have thought this. I, too, have thought this and I’m truly sorry for it. I am no less worthy than someone who has been called to Japan and they are no more worthy than me. We both had to fill out the same papers and answer the same questions. They were needed in Japan; I am needed in California.
I took me a really long time to reach this point. I’m proud of my mission and now I know without a doubt that it is where I am supposed to serve. People still ask me where I’m going to serve and I still get the “stateside face,” but I’m learning to ignore it and just take their congratulations as nothing more and nothing less than a kind gesture. I’ve become protective of my mission and I don’t let anyone or anything make me feel like it’s not special. As my departure date looms closer, I’m becoming more and more convinced the California Anaheim Mission is going to be the best mission in the whole world.
It may not be on the mountain height or over the stormy sea, it may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me. But if by a still small voice He calls to paths that I do not know, I’ll answer dear Lord with my hand in thine: I’ll go where you want me to go.