In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, young men are strongly encouraged to serve a full-time mission (2 years for young men) when they are 19 years old, or in some cases, a little bit older. Young men in the church often grow up knowing they will serve a mission when they become of age, and they know it is their responsibility and duty to serve. For young women, however, there is no clear "Go" or "Don't Go." Families are an important part of our Heavenly Father's plan, so if they decide to marry or continue with school or follow their various plans, they can. Or, they can choose to serve a full time mission (18 months for young women). It was very difficult for me to decide whether or not to serve a mission, and to try to figure out what Heavenly Father wanted for me. I knew it would be a year and a half of my life, and that seemed like quite a long time, and I was concerned about school. I prayed intently asking Heavenly Father what he wanted me to do, but I was still unsure. I wasn't receiving my answer as quickly as I had hoped. I read my scriptures, prayed, went to church faithfully, went to the temple, etc. I thought I was doing all that I could do. I still wasn't getting my answer. I knew I would love to serve a mission, but I also knew I had a lot of schooling left, and a mission could jeopardize some of the time I had. I decided to talk to my bishop to see if he had any advice. I scheduled a time to talk with him, and told him my dilemma. When I entered his office, I secretly hoped he might make the decision for me and tell me whether I should or should not go. He listened carefully, and then, as I expected, did not decide for me, but instead counseled with me and gave me advice. He said that he believed I would be a good missionary, but that it wasn't necessarily the choice for me. I had to decide that for myself. He suggested that I counsel with my father and make a list of "pros" and "cons." I left his office feeling no less settled about my decision than I did when I entered. Instead of talking with my father at the beginning, I thought about it on my own and decided I'd better just stay home and continue with my school instead of a mission. I told my bishop in passing that I had decided not to go, to which he paused, and asked me if I had talked with my father yet. I replied that I had not, but that I thought I didn't need to go after all. He only said, "talk to your dad, and then we'll talk again." His reaction/response left me even more befuddled. I thought I knew, but suddenly I felt very unsure. Obviously I was not sure about my decision. I decided to take my bishop's advice and called my dad. I went down and visited him, and we had a really good talk. We made a list of the "pros of serving a mission" and the "pros of NOT serving a mission." As I wrote the list, I realized how lopsided the list was, heavy on the "pros of serving" side. My dad then shared a couple scriptures with me that he felt prompted to share: Doctrine and Covenants 4:3-4.
2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.
3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;
I have to admit, when I read these verses, I started crying like a baby. Verse 3 struck me in particular. I definitely had the desire to serve God. I was "called to the work." After reading this and talking with my dad, I was 99.9% positive that I was going to serve a mission. But there was still that 0.1% bit of doubt. I was so stubborn! Later that night, (Sunday), I saw a friend who had recently returned from serving a mission. I told her about my situation, and how I wasn't 100% sure if I should serve a mission or not. She looked at me and said, "Go. Just Go. GO." She talked about how much she had loved her mission and shared her testimony with me. After that conversation, I knew I had to just decide. I had to stop asking if it was right or not in my prayers, but instead put my faith in Heavenly Father and take a leap of faith. If it wasn't the right choice, I had to trust God to stop me. At that moment, I made up my mind. I was going to serve a mission.
I went home and told my Mom and Stepdad that I had made a decision that night. I was going to serve a full-time mission. As soon as I said it, I felt this warm feeling spread through my entire body. I knew Heavenly Father approved. I knew I had made the right choice. This is what Heavenly Father wanted for me. My mom and stepdad supported my decision all the way. Shortly afterwards, I called my dad and told him as well, to which he gave his full support.
Since that time I have filled out all my paperwork, and submitted it to Salt Lake City for my assignment to be made. I waited in suspense for a couple of weeks, interrupted twice with phone calls asking for more information. They finally had the completed package, and the decision was made. I waited in suspense, checking the mail box every day. That Thursday, I knew my mission call had to arrive. I checked my mail box three times before the mail finally arrived. When the mail came, I opened it, hardly breathing, heart pumping. When I reached in a grabbed the mail, I almost screamed with excitement. The big white envelope addressed to "Sister Amy Nichole Harston" had arrived!! My call had come!! I wanted so badly to open it right then and there to see where I was called to serve, but I knew I wanted my family to experience it with me. I had to wait until they got off work or finished school, etc. I set the envelope on the counter and waited. It seemed like forever for everyone to get home. When everyone was finally there, we put my dad and sister on speakerphone so they could "be there," too. :)
I was so nervous!! I opened the envelope slowly, the tears already starting to flow. (I'm a crier if you can't tell yet). The spirit was so strong. As I began to read, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love from my Heavenly Father.
"Dear Sister Harston:
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Philippines Quezon City Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months.
You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Tagalog language. Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president...."
Wow, I would be speaking Tagalog!! I am going to the Philippines!!! That is where God needs me. As I read the letter, it just felt RIGHT. That is where I am needed. I love God, and he has done so much for me. How could I NOT be willing to serve him full-time for 18 months? I am so indebted to Him. This is the least I can do. I am looking forward to serving his children in the Philippines and bringing His gospel to the Filipino people.
I can't wait to serve. The time is drawing near rather quickly. I have 20 days until I enter the MTC (Mission Training Center) now. :) Crazy!! I am so excited.