Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Farewell Talk -- Why am I serving a Mission?

I am so thankful for my friends and family being here today and showing their love and support. I have been called to serve in the Chile, Concepción Mission and am so grateful for this opportunity in my life right now. 

But lets start with a few ‘Did You Know’s’ about Chile:

The fleas are unavoidable, better to just get use to the idea of them now.
I should be returning with some big guns from chopping wood all winter for heat.
It has 500 active volcanoes.
And you may want to run a few laps before your cold winter shower.
But also:
The full name is Republic of Chile.
Chile is the longest north-south country in the world.
The national sport of Chile is Rodeo.
Tennis is Chile’s most successful sport, while soccer is only the most popular.
If you were to ask me a few years ago if I was planning to serve a full time mission I would of actually told you yes.....but at an older age of 21. So when the mission age dropped to 19 you would of thought I would have been more than excited to take part in this sooner, but I wasn’t. 
The plan was always 21. So I had a lot to think about this past year at BYU. Being a 24 hour drive away from home I depended a lot on prayer and my Father in Heaven with adjusting to college. I had felt His love so much and was blessed with some of the most precious relationships and wonderful learning experiences at school. I have seen His love all throughout my life.

I see it in the gift of prayer.
I see it in my family and the knowledge that we have to be a family for eternity.
I see it in my kind friends.
I see it in this beautiful world He has created for us to live in.
I see it in the sacrifice of my Savior Jesus Christ. Who suffered and atoned for my mistakes. Who loved each of us so much that He atoned for our sins. An infinite atonement with no cap on the amount of mess ups we are allowed to have, but as many as we need to learn and grow from. And he would of done it for just one of us if he had to. 

During this time at school my poor roommate had known I was struggle with this decision for a while and was probably getting tired of it when one night before bed I was talking aloud about it when she dropped what she was doing, looked me in the eyes and said, “Mckenzie, do you desire to  serve a mission?”
Before I could even get a word out my eyes began to fill with tears and I could only whisper.....“I really want to serve a mission.”  

After reflecting on all these acts of love and so much more I realized there was no way I could not give the small time of 18 months to my Father in Heaven who has given me more than I could ever start to repay Him. 

The Gospel is a Gospel of service. Jesus Christ gave His life for us. In giving His life and giving up His body He gave us life. He gave us service. It is beyond our imagination the blessings that the Savior gave to us. 

As a missionary for the church you wear a name tag. The two most important parts are your name and the Savior’s name. One thing I have often thought about in preparing to serve a mission is how I can ensure that I represent the Savior as one of His disciples? 

Christ’s mission was to atone for the sins of this world. My mission is to bring souls unto Christ so they can be redeemed of their sins. 

In 2 Nephi 25:26 is says, “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” 

Christ is the perfect example of a teacher. 

In John 10 Christ teaches that he is the good shepherd.

In Luke 15 the parable of the good shepherd is taught as well.

15:4 - What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

15:5 - And when he hath found it, he layeth it  on his shoulders, rejoicing.

I love these scriptures because it shows Christ love for the one. And how He cares and watches over each one of us and celebrates are victories.  

In Doctrine Covenants the Lord taught, 

18:10 - Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

18:15 - And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! 

Every soul is important to the Lord. He is so happy when we repent and come unto Him and He also promises us happiness when we help others come unto Him. 

These scriptures are so comforting as a missionary. As we all go about sharing the gospel, facing rejection, we aren’t going to remember those that reject us but that accept us. And I truly believe that the Lord is beyond happy when we help even one of His children return to Him.   

In John 21 it teaches are part in the shepherds parable.

15: So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He said unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16: He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17: He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saidth unto him, Feed my sheep. 

Love demands action if it is to be continuing. Love is a process. Love is not a declaration. Love is not an announcement. “If ye love me feed my sheep” is God given proclamation that should remind us we can often best show our love through the process of serving. 

Think about the last time you were fed by a friend. When you were given helping hands with an overwhelming job. When others listen and shared your burdens of sorrow.

These can only be shared by someone who loves and cares. Our expressions of love and comfort are empty if our actions don’t match. And even more importantly if our desires to not match. 

1 Corinthians 9 it says

7 - ...so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

I have a few examples from my own life to show how I can better serve with true intent. 

One late night at college I had just gotten to bed after being out with my friends. I had just gotten to the point where I crawled into bed exhausted knowing the day is done. Well then there was a knock at my door. A girl from my hall and her friend popped their heads in and explained they have been asking everyone if they had a car because her friend’s truck died and she couldn’t drive back home where she was attending a neighboring university. 
My thought process was, I am half a sleep and could easily mutter no I don’t have one and be done with it. But I grudgingly got up, grabbed my keys, and helped the girls jump her truck. And even though they thanked me constantly my fake smile saying 'oh not a problem' wasn’t easily hidden. I can tell you that I didn’t get anything out of that service opportunity except knowing I had something I needed to work on. 

Now let’s compare that example to another. At my church at school there was a girl who had made a mistake she wasn’t proud of. She had tried seeking comfort from roommates and friends who had gotten tired of her venting and going on about what to do about it. 
So I would often find her on my bed when I would get back from class during the day ready to continue or discussion trying to comfort and encourage her. I didn’t think anything of it during all our late conversations and all the study and social time I had instead spent by her side until she was on her way out of my room one night. She got to the door and turned around to say, “I’m so sorry I’ve been taking so much of your time, you are the only one who doesn’t ignore me about this anymore and it’s just different, you care. Thank you.” And she was gone. 
That was the first time I had noticed the whole time I was severing her because I loved her. And I know all of us can have these experience too if we willing act on our love for others.

The opportunities for showing love for God in the home, communities, mission fields are endless. 

I know that Heavenly Father loves and cares for each of His children individually as stated in the scriptures earlier. That is why He is sending missionaries throughout the world. 

This again confirms my desire to serve a mission and express my love to my Father in Heaven for blessing me with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life and allowing me to share it with others.

In preparing this talk the Hymn I Stand All Amazed came to my mind and I would like to share a bit of it. 

193: I stand all amazed at the  love Jesus offers me, 
Confused at the grace that so fully the proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me Enough to
die for me! Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

I think of his hands pierce and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?

This act is such a marvelous act of love that can not be forgotten. Christ is the example of love. I owe all my happiness and hope to Him. And an 18 month mission is the least I can do to serve Him. 

When I talk to friends about my decision to serve a mission they common reaction is being shocked. That is crazy to give so much time during school, it isn’t the safest place to be, or that I will struggle with the language. And honestly, I agree. I wonder sometimes why I am willingly giving up television, cell phones, dating, time with loved ones and so much more for 18 months. 

Jeffrey R. Holland said this about missionary work. “I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is suppose to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul. If He (referring to Christ) could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father, if this cup can pass, let it pass,” then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.” 

I know that my knowledge of the atonement is what will carry me through my mission at the lowest points. I know that I will never be alone in any hardship and that I have a Savior who can 100% relate to my worries and fears. 

Holland went on, “When you struggle, when you are rejected, while you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived.” 

I feel so blessed to be given this opportunity to serve shoulder to shoulder with the Lord for 18 months. I know I will miss my family and friends terribly, but that I will be blessed with this time to strengthen my relationship with God and my Savior. 

Before I close, I wanted to speak to the primary children and youth of the church. When you turn 18 or 19 you will have the opportunity to work with your hand in the Lord’s in this work. In the scriptures the Lord weeps over the choices His children make. You can answer the call to serve. You have all seen movies with super heroes. But in this work, you are the hero. This story is real and you may be one of few, but the Lord will be laboring with you. And you will feel the love of God embrace you as you serve His children. 

I feel proud to be joining the other 83,000 missionaries and hope I can share the pure love of Christ with others. I have talked a lot about love today and I want to bear testimony that Heavenly Father’s love has no requirements. That He cares for everyone no matter what walk of life. That He waits for each of us to come unto Him through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I know that this is the true restored Church of Jesus Christ. I have a testimony in the Book of Mormon. And I have firm confidence that anyone who sincerely reads and prays  about the book will receive the answer of it’s truthfulness. It is not AN answer, it is THE answer it is true.  

And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen. 

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