Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Called To Serve...

I submitted my mission papers on Tuesday, August 25th and I had heard from a little birdie up at the church office building that my call had been assigned by the end of that week and was being sent to my residence at BYU on Tuesday, September 1st.  Naturally, one would assume that because of my living in close proximity to Church headquarters, my call would have arrived within the week.  Alas, that did not occur. 
This was me right after submitting my papers, wearing my mom's old tag and super excited to have my call on the way
Needless to say, by the time that Tuesday, September 8th had rolled around, I was an emotional wreck.  Normally it wouldn't have been a big deal for me to wait two weeks because I don't consider myself a terribly impatient person, but every single day I would wake up with hopes my call would arrive only to have them come crashing down around me by 3 or 4 each afternoon.  Knowing that my call SHOULD have gotten to me by that point and hadn't yet was agony, and I was not amused with Heavenly Father in His attempts to teach me patience, which I OBVIOUSLY didn't need. 
That afternoon by like 4 I had consigned myself to the fact that my call wasn't coming again, and then I was further depressed by the news that a former classmate of mine had put in his papers after my call had already been assigned, and his white envelope was sitting at his house.  I was so beyond the point of despair, I decided to take matters into my own hands and march down to the Provo post office that delivered to BYU and demand some sort of explanation as to why my call was taking so long to arrive from a city that was 45 minutes away.
After waiting in a long line at the post office, some worker told me that they had no idea what was happening with my call, that it was probably lost, and that I should check back again tomorrow.  Holding back tears, I walked back to my car where I had a total breakdown.  The entire way home I just cried because I was so frustrated with the situation.
When I arrived to my room, still crying, I offered Heavenly Father a very impassioned prayer.  I was very adamant (maybe more than I should have been in retrospect) that I was at my wits end.  I basically told Heavenly Father that emotionally I couldn't handle waiting anymore, and if He wanted me to serve a mission for Him, I needed my call RIGHT NOW.  I ended the prayer, and then went down to meet my friend Kawika for dinner at about 6.
Kawika was also waiting for his mission call, as we had been assigned on the same day.  However, his call never made it out of the mail room where we knew mine had.  We were eating our food and lamenting at our "woeful" circumstances, when I had the feeling I needed to check my phone randomly.  I pulled it out of my pocket and noticed that I had a voicemail from a strange number.  My heart started pounding as I realized what this could mean, but I tried to keep my emotions in check as I listened.
"Hi Alyssa, this is the Cannon Center front desk.  We are calling to let you know that we have your mission call here waiting to be picked up and...."
Whatever the rest of the message said was irrelevant. I jumped out of my seat and began shaking and crying in pure happiness.  When I had told Heavenly Father that I needed my call NOW, I had meant tomorrow, or MAYBE the next day.  But, it wasn't even fifteen minutes later from when I had offered the prayer to when the office called me about my call arriving.  It was SUCH a tender mercy, and I know with certainty that Heavenly Father was holding on to my call for me so I could have an incredibly real and personal answer to a prayer.  It was amazing and I am so grateful for the knowledge that He was in fact always listening to me.
When I went to pick up my call, we were pretty amused with its condition.  It was completely battered and bent and tearing open at some of the edges.  It looked like it had literally traveled around the world before arriving to me in Provo, but I didn't care one bit.  The fact that it was addressed to "Sister Alyssa Pickering" made it absolutely perfect in every way.
This picture was taken by a friend of mine about five minutes after I picked up my envelope.  If you couldn't tell, I was absolutely ecstatic.

With the help of Kawika and some other friends, I spent the next 30 minutes on the telephone arranging for all of my friends and loved ones to come to my house in Saratoga Springs for me to open my call at 8 that night.  I was still shaking with happiness, and having my envelope in my hands was the best feeling in the world.  Knowing that I would know within a few short hours where I would be called to serve the Lord was exhilarating.
I piled in the car with my roommate, Kawika, and another friend, and we were homeward bound.  We listened to and sang hymns the entire drive in an attempt to calm my raging nerves.  I kept my call on my lap the entire drive because I think I was secretly scared if I let go of it, it would disappear again.
I got home and immediately hugged my parents.  They looked about as anxious as I was, but they were wonderful and were handling it with an incredible amount of grace.  Over the course of the next hour my house filled up with friends, family, ward members, teammates, and other amazing people.  I was touched by the sheer number of people who showed up to support me on such an important night.
Right before I opened my call, I slipped upstairs and offered a prayer of gratitude and humility to Heavenly Father and thanked Him for my chance to serve.  I also asked for a confirmation that I would know that I was assigned to where I needed to be.  I felt at peace after the prayer, and knew it would all be okay.  I also went and had a family prayer with my parents and siblings, because I went back inside already emotional and bawling again.  Then, it was time.
My parents both took a second to thank everyone for coming, then my Grandfather offered a prayer.  Then it was my turn to talk.  I thanked everyone for coming, and proceeded to offer my testimony.  The love that I felt for the gospel and everyone in that room in that moment was overwhelming.  It was a unique feeling that I am not sure I will ever feel again, nor would I necessarily want to replicate based on how special it was.

Here I am, delivering what I am sure was a grand speech
 I struggled opening the actual envelope because my eyes were already blurred with tears and I was shaking so badly.  Everyone seemed to be pretty amused with the situation however.
Having technical difficulties opening the call
When I finally got the letter open, I decided to be a diligent soul and use my information packet to cover the letter so I couldn't cheat and would only read line by line.
Here I am, right about to start reading, when I still have my emotions in check
When I read the words "Dear Sister Pickering", I absolutely lost it.  I started crying again (because I am a girl and apparently that is how I roll), and had to take a moment to collect myself.
I was so in shock that after years of dreaming, I was FINALLY opening my own mission call
"Dear Sister Pickering,
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  You are assigned to labor in the JAPAN KOBE mission.  It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months.  You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on January 6, 2016. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Japanese language."
I absolutely lost it after finishing.  The feeling was surreal.
Completely shocked wouldn't even be an adequate beginning to start to describe my feelings.  When I read the words "Japan Kobe", I literally gasped.  I was going to JAPAN.  Japan!  I couldn't believe it.  It made no logical sense in my head, and yet in my heart and soul I felt so at peace with my call, I knew that it had to be right.
I went and hugged my mom immediately and we cried together for a second.  But I felt her love and knew she was so proud of me, and it was amazing.

My dad was all too thrilled that I was going to Japan, a place he has always dreamed of visiting.  The first thing I said to him was "Daddy I can't speak Japanese" to which he immediately responded "Yes you can.  And you will."
 The next fifteen or so minutes was a blur of tears and hugging loved ones.  Everybody was in shock that I was going to Japan.  Because of my extensive Spanish background, nobody for a second dared to think I would be serving anywhere besides the States or a Latin American country.  However, I had two Japanese RM's in my midst: my Uncle Roland who served in Tokyo North, and Brian Sabey, the father of my best friend who served in Tokyo South.  They immediately got together and started looking at my call and going through my packet to find out the situation on where exactly I would be serving.  They were thrilled to add a future Japanese speaker into their lives. 
The Call Letter

Brian immediately hugged me and started speaking to me in excited Japanese.  I just stared at him wide-eyed until he offered his congratulations in English haha.

Hugging one of my best friends Rilee

Hugging another best friend Cheyenne

And yet another dramatic hugging shot.  P.S. Ignore my red crying face

My roommate was the best for putting up with my tumultuous emotions for two weeks straight.  Amber is an angel

As the night died down and people started filing out, I got to learn more about my mission.  Kobe is absolutely beautiful, and I was so excited to see pictures and want to start learning all about it.  I got to read some things on my mission president as well, and he seems wonderful.  All night people were emailing and texting me information about my mission, and it was the best.
Despite my complete and utter shock about being called to Japan, I am filled with absolute certainty that the Lord needs me to serve the people of Kobe.  I have had so many instances where this has been confirmed to me, and with every experience my testimony not only grows, but my excitement to serve as well.  The more I research and learn, the more I am convinced that the Lord called me to the most perfect mission for me, and I cannot wait to go and find the people that the Lord would have me meet.
I have such a strong testimony of missionary work, and I know it is a divine calling.  I feel so humbled and blessed to be a part of this magnificent blessing to mankind, and I know the Lord will help me through all the challenges that will inevitably come my way.  Because I have been given much, I too must give, and I am so excited to start giving on January 6th.

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