Friday, June 18, 2010

The Call

My call was sent to our Grey Gables house in Rexburg, April 8, 2010. Victoria and I were in-between classes, talking in our room. I saw the mail truck parked outside of the house next door, and I must've stopped mid-sentence--or stopped Victoria mid-sentence--to walk to the window and watch. In what seemed like slow-motion, the mailman turned from the neighbor's mailbox toward our house. Beneath coupons and junk mail, I saw a big, white envelope in his right hand.

Immediately, I jumped down our twisted staircase, pushing myself off of the walls on the way down. I ran past a group of people on the couch and almost tripped in front of the mail slot by the door. The mailman tucked the envelope through the slot, and it landed on the floor. In heavy breaths, I picked it up and read the address label: Sister Alyssa Nicole Fort.

"It's here!" I screamed. Victoria paid more caution to the stairs but wasn't far behind.

We yelled and jumped together. My heart beat fast and hard. What was in that envelope determined what the next 18 months of my life would be like--where I would live, what I would eat, who I would come to know and teach and love. Would I go foreign? Would I learn a language?

I didn't always know I would go on a mission, and actually, I never really wanted to. As a teenager, when people in church would ask me about it, I'd say, "maybe?" with an awkward smile, knowing for sure that I would get married at 18 to a tall, dark, handsome man who would take care of me and our beautiful children forever. Needless to say, I've had to revise my life plans a few times.

During the Fall 2009 semester, I planned to graduate from BYU-Idaho Winter 2010, then sell pest control in Arkansas with Victoria for the summer. Or work at the downtown Austin Anthropologie until my room was purely saturated in merchandise. Or maybe find a great job at a publishing house in a big city--Seattle, New York, or London would work. But I leaned more toward practicality and pest control.

I watched the 179th Annual General Conference broadcast in the comfort of my own spandex pants and school hoodie, on the couch at our Snowed Inn house. During the Saturday morning session, there was a talk that impressed me greatly. I've since tried to look it up but haven't been able to find it. I'm not sure if the speaker said it or if I was just impressed personally by the Spirit, but I heard something along the lines of: just the fact that you have the gospel, means you have something wonderful to offer. The strong thought came to me: "Maybe I should serve a mission." I shared my impression with my mother and a few close friends. But still, I decided for myself that I would sell pest control first.

The next semester, I was sitting at the break desk in the back of the Writing Center, eating my dry turkey sandwich from Cafe McKay. Sister Morgan, my boss, was having a conversation with a friend, about his post-graduate plans. I listened intermittently, turning the pages of Huckleberry Finn--a required reading--trying to read but much too distracted to. I thought about my plans and wished that I knew someone I could talk to who had been through this particular decision-making process--graduating that semester, not knowing where to go from there. My plan made sense, but something didn't feel right. Their conversation ended, and they left. I tried to read, but my eyes watered over, and words got blurry. I said a silent prayer for comfort and direction and wiped my eyes. About a minute later, Sister Morgan came back to the break area.

"What are your plans, Aly?" She asked me.
I looked up from my book. "I don't know..."

I told her about my pest control idea. Her response was: first, this gurgle thing she does in the back of her throat when she's disgusted by something, then, "They make a lot of money. But God is in control of everything in this world--even money. If you serve Him, He'll take care of you. Have you thought about serving a mission?" I nodded and studied the Andrew Wyeth Helga painting in front of me. "Why would you sell something full-time that you don't believe in, when you could be preaching something full-time that you know?" I nodded and began to cry silently. "It's such a high calling," I remember her saying a few times. I knew this moment had been designed by Heavenly Father, specifically for me.

That Sunday, I went to my bishop and told him that I was pretty sure I should serve a mission. He told me I needed to be sure, sure and recommended I go to the temple with the question of a mission. I went, and the next Sunday I began filling out my papers.

When I got my call, I waited to open it, so my family could be on the phone to hear. Victoria called her RM friend and asked him about postage for foreign mission envelopes vs. stateside mission envelopes. She giggled and smiled to her friend on the phone, and I said, "don't tell me a thing." I waited until about 7:00pm.

Finally, with friends gathered in our Grey Gables living room and with family on the phone, I read:

"Dear Sister Fort:
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 Cauayan 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, August 4, 2010. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Tagalog language..."

There have been times when I've questioned my call, my ability to learn such a crazy language, whether or not I can live without Bvulgari perfume and Pier1 soy candles, or if I can survive on the opposite side of the world without iTunes. But there have been so many times when I've received perfect answers from God that I should go on this mission, and that He will protect me, guide me, provide for me, and be there when I pray to Him. I know that God would not call me to do His work, "save He shall prepare a way" (1 Nephi 3:7). I am grateful for this opportunity to serve Heavenly Father with my complete energy, time, and heart for the next year and a half.