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Preparing to Serve a Fulltime Mission

Preparing to Serve a Fulltime Mission
Preparing to serve a full-time mission is no small feat. A mission is not just an aeroplane flight, a new suit and a name tag, nor can it be reduced to the number of baptisms performed, or the number of Books of Mormon handed out. Elder L. Tom Perry said that “…members must change the way they think about missionary work.” Once we look past the physical denotations of full time missionary service, we notice that a sweet, quiet spirit that should reside behind every missionary’s smile is the real spark behind every investigator wanting more.
missionaries

Changing the way we think about missionary work will change the way we prepare for missionary work. The most important preparation will be spiritual and personal, and done not with thought for one’s own glory, or to have stories to tell when one arrives back home, but for the bringing of souls unto Christ. President Thomas S. Monson tells us that there are lives to brighten, there are hearts to touch, there are souls to save. The tiniest of smiles or the heartfelt bearing of a simple testimony may not commit somebody to baptism, but there will be a seed, a crack in the concrete, a chink in the curtain, and the light will begin to trickle in.

A missionary recently wrote in a personal email to his sister, “I can’t carry on. It seems I am never good enough. I have handed out two Books of Mormon in the last week, and when people hear us knock, they draw the curtains. I can’t tell what it is that I am doing wrong.” A cardinal point in missionary preparation is developing a thick skin, but not skin thick enough that you do not feel the Spirit when it reaches out. It is always a possibility that others may tell you that you are not doing enough, or tell you are not progressing as you should. Advice from Elder Dallin H. Oaks begins our mental preparation. He says, “Never forget for a second who you serve and who is in charge.” The LDS church is not the building, nor the members. The gospel of Christ, and the love of the Father define it. As soon as we begin to think like Christ would, our preparation speeds up tenfold, and we begin to feel the Spirit on a deeper and more personal level. 
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In addition to changing how we think, and what we see as a “successful” mission, we can begin to prepare in very practical ways that also enrich our souls and bring us closer to Christ. This is the desired outcome of any way that we may try to prepare. We can only beckon others into the presence of the Divine if we ourselves are standing at Their feet. A recent Facebook post asked members of the Africa Southeast Area how they prepared for a mission, and various tips were given:

       “I prayed daily to develop love, to serve and love the people I was called to serve, and to study the scriptures prayerfully” – Elias Haingura Katjotjo Jr
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       “I started to study the Book of Mormon with real intent, to gain a strong testimony of it. I wanted to tell people that I meet on my mission that it IS true, without a doubt” – Smanga Billiat

       “I was going out to teach with missionaries, and learning from them” - M.D. Kgotobane

       “Learn to cook, shop for food, and clean” – Melodie Gren

There is only so much preparation we can do before a mission. Mission calls are personal requests from the Lord, telling us where we need to be and when. He has a plan for us, and as long as our best is what we give Him, He will work through us. Connor Hulley, a missionary from South Africa currently serving in Salt Lake City, Utah, said: “Never be discouraged just because you cannot see the Lord’s plans for others. Everything unfolds in time, and there is always a reason for why you were in a certain place, with certain people, saying certain things.” The Lord wants to gather His sheep. God accomplishes His miracles one prayer at a time, one person at a time.