Just to give you a little bit of background, I have always wanted to serve a mission, and I have always wanted to serve in a foreign country. I always thought that I would. I love adventure, people, food, music, and I love experiencing things that I'm not used to.
...Now it's super fun honesty time. When I opened my call I felt disappointment. Ah, I'm so ashamed to say that! It was a humbling experience to open my call, to read Mesa Arizona, and to claim my mission. It was a time in my life where the Lord told me to do something different than what I wanted. Telling people that I was serving in Mesa often led to a response like "Oh, wow, what are you going to do there? Everyone is Mormon already!" People often told me of their children serving in Europe or South America, and how hard their missions were and how lucky I was to be serving in an "easy mission". I lovingly refer to people who do this as "mission shamers".
Then, after a few months of that, I was finally able to come to Mesa. Oh man, I fell IN LOVE. The sunsets, the weather, the bikes, the members, the non-members(there are plenty of them to go around) It even smells good here. Arizona is the most wonderful place in the world. Anywaaaaaays, once I got here, I knew that it was my place. I knew that all of those thoughts of disappointment, and all of those comments of discouragement were wrong. I knew that even though I was speaking English, and I was eating normal, "Mormon mom food"(no complaints) Mesa AZ was going to give me an adventure, and I knew that it definitely wasn't going to be easy.
I often get asked by Mormons and non-Mormons, "What is it like to serve a mission here?" I usually just say "Oh, it's the best!" But, there is obviously much more to it than that.
So, what is it really like to serve a mission in a Mormon town? Let me tell you!
1. EVERYONE knows you.
Pro:When I go to Walmart on P-Day, I get a lot of friendly "Hey sisters!" That's always nice. Sometimes people even pay for our food (whoa, charity). Recently, we were walking around, and a little girl saw us, and recognized us as missionaries. She smiled and waved, and said: "HI ELDERS!" We got a good laugh.
Con: On all of the other days of the week, when we are trying to find someone to teach, people don't want to listen, because they are so used to it. Everyone knows the Mormons. Everyone already has three copies of the Book of Mormon. Everyone has already talked to the missionaries. The other churches around here even have "How to talk to the Mormon Missionaries" classes. C'mon guys. Would Jesus do that? ;)
2. Our areas are small.
Con: Some areas are 1 square mile. The areas are SUPER picked over. Good luck trying to find somebody that you haven't already talked to.
Pro: We get to interact a lot with our fellow missionaries. We play sports with each other in the morning. We sometimes eat lunch together. Guys, it's pretty cool. There is just something about people that have been called to the same mission as you. I will love the people that I served with here, forever.
3. We have a lot of members.
Pro: Members have been the BEST part of my mission. They take care of us. They love us like our moms would. They feed us. I love the members here more than anything. This is my favorite place in the world because of them.
Con: With so many members, a few of them are bound to make mistakes (We all do it. The Church isn't full of perfect people.). Then, people remember those mistakes, and use them against the missionaries. It usually goes like so:
-Me- "Hey! We are mission-"
- Old Guy On Street- "Oh, I hate Mormons, because, one time, when I was in High School..."
(Just so you know, nobody can say anything bad to me about Mesa Mormons. They are the best kind. I am their #1 fan. #mesa4liiiife)
- Cars (sometimes)
- iPads (be jealous)
- Dinner with members, EVERY NIGHT
- We use Facebook and blogs (obvi.)
- We work with a lot of strong church leadership.
- We have the coolest mission president in the church.
We are SO blessed in the Arizona Mesa Mission. I cannot deny that. We have a lot of things that other missions don't have. I am humbled by this. I often think "If I have all of these great things in my mission then why is it still hard?"
Luke 12:48 says: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required"
I am proud to be serving my mission in a Mormon town, where much has been given to me. When I say I'm proud, what I really mean is that I know with a surety that this is my place. It always was, and it always will be. I am full of gratitude and joy for the experience that it has been so far. I have different challenges than others have on their missions. That's ok. I have learned that you don't go on a mission to learn a new language. You don't go on a mission to go home and brag about your mission.You go on a mission to invite others to come to Christ, and to grow closer to Christ yourself.
So, don't be a mission shamer :) Know that mission calls are issued by a prophet of God, who hears God's voice. The Lord needs and trusts His missionaries in Utah, just as much as the missionaries serving in Africa. In fact, He even trusts you, wherever you are in your life right now, to be missionaries with your neighbors, coworkers, and friends, and to support the full-time missionaries in your area. Whoo. God trusts us, guys. Think about that. What are you doing to deserve that trust?
I love Mesa with all my heart. My mission is everything to me. I'm learning that when others put my mission down, it's only because they don't understand. I know that I am supposed to be here in Mesa. I know that the challenges that I have found here are bringing out the real me, the me that God sees. I was created by Him to become someone great. Mesa is part of His plan to help me become that person.
So. What's it like serving a mission in a Mormon town?... It's the best.