I put a ring on it.

It’s official.

I’m no longer a visa waiter.

“Choose your love. Love your choice.” Thomas S. Monson

A year and a half ago I put my papers in and received a call to serve in the Brazil Ribierão Preto Mission. And honestly it scared me to death. I’m a little white girl from Oklahoma and after 5 years of Spanish–I could BARELY get by. How was I supposed to learn a whole other language? In six weeks!

But after some very long prayers and with a lot of encouragement, I decided to do it. I got my wisdom teeth pulled, got about 15 shots, and I put in for my visa.

Not surprisingly, five months later, I ended up in the Provo MTC. My visa hadn’t come through yet. But I wasn’t worried.  Most people didn’t get their visas–at least for the first few months. And that felt right to me. I’d always thought that I would serve a stateside mission. And I wasn’t too bothered about getting my feet under me before trying to immerse in a whole new culture.

My six weeks came and went and I received my temporary reassignment to serve in the Oregon Portland Mission. I was actually really thrilled. Oregon seemed exactly right. And it has been. It’s really been good to me in the last year.

And that brings me to the #visadecision.

A month and a half ago, President came to me and asked me to make a decision on whether or not I would stay in the mission. He gave me a week. That week was one of the hardest weeks of my life.

I felt like Adam and Eve in the garden. Given the option to “choose for [themselves]” what they would. I felt like there must be a clearly wrong decision. One that would completely change life as I knew it. But, hard as I prayed, I could not seem to come to an answer.

So I asked for a priesthood blessing. Because that’s the closest thing I can think of to having a sit down with God. In the blessing I was told that it was my choice. That neither choice would dramatically alter the course of my life. And that if I chose Brazil, that I would see its people and teach them. That should have been comforting. Knowing that I couldn’t choose wrong. But I still struggled. I felt that somehow choosing one would mean that the other was less important to me. That if I chose to stick it out for Brazil I’d be choosing against Portland and all of the people I’ve grown to love here.

Stupid. I know.

But that’s what was in my head.

So I deliberated.

I started out with going. Fully committed myself to that. And then, the next hour, fully committed myself to staying. Asked myself what would be different? What would be the same? What were the benefits? What were the drawbacks? How each option would help to prepare me for future service to God’s children?

By the evening. I had almost decided to go.

But I wanted to be sure.

So I asked for another blessing.

This time the focus was different. This time I was assured that I’d made relationships here that would last forever. That what The Lord wanted to happen would happen and that the decision I was considering was a good one. And feeling confident in that, I made the decision to go. I only had a month left before I was reassigned anyway. So why not??

And if there were any doubts, they were completely removed the next day when I received a very timely fortune cookie.

But as the weeks went on, I began to doubt. How could The Lord be sure that I would choose what He wanted for me? Unless my choice didn’t matter?

And then I heard that the powers that be in Salt Lake had adopted a new policy of NOT reassigning missionaries.

And then I called into the travel office.

And then I found out that once again my paperwork had to be redone.

So I decided to reevaluate the #visadecision.

Because with six months left to go. I’m not so sure anymore that I even want to.

First off. I love here. I love everything about here. I love seeing Mount Hood looming in the distance. I love the rolling hills of Damascus. I love going to Portland on P-days and finding any and every excuse to drive up the hill to the temple in Lake Oswego. But more than that I love the people. I’ve found a family out here in Portland. And it would break my heart to leave.

And then there’s the social media revolution. Here in the Oregon Portland Mission we’ve been given pretty much every opportunity to share the gospel. Every tool. Every advantage. And, being a
communications grad, I know a thing or two about social media. So there are things that I can do here to progress the work that I can’t do anywhere else.

So I took it to The Lord. Finally satisfied that He wasn’t going to settle this one for me. No matter how long I chose to put off the decision.

So I looked back over the past month. On how things had changed since I realized that no one was going to make my decision for me. And you know what. I discovered something very interesting. I’d altogether stopped. I’d stopped studying. I’d stopped checking my visa. I’d stopped even thinking about going. And it occurred to me that I’d made the decision a long time ago to stay.

So I got down on my knees. And I said a very different sort of prayer. This time I wasn’t asking what The Lord wanted me to do. I wasn’t asking what was right. I’d studied it out. I’d come to a conclusion. But I wanted to know that my decision was one that he would support.

And with that confirmation I called President and told him to let them know they could finally quit trying to push my papers.

They made a good effort. But I’m choosing to stay!


Visitors Welcome

I remember my first day in the mission field. I’d gotten up that morning at 3:30, done a final weight check on my luggage and gone to the Travel Office to grab my plane ticket and bus passes. I said farewell to the remainder of my district and got on the bus to Salt Lake.

I’d barely sat down when I heard two girls up front talking about their calls: they were going to the Oregon Portland Mission—my reassignment. I yelled up to them that that was my mission as well. And they explained that they were going to be Visitors Center sisters—I didn’t even know Oregon had a Visitors Center!—naturally, I began to wish that I would be lucky enough to serve in the Visitors Center.

I almost, for certain, knew that I wouldn’t.

I was on visa wait.

And they don’t just let any sister serve in a Visitors Center.

But a girl can dream.

After we’d gotten off the plane and met with President and Sister Morby, we loaded our luggage into a couple of vans and headed to the Temple. They took our picture, walked us around the grounds, and then took us all to the Visitors Center.

Immediately I felt the spirit of this place.

I remember that Elder and Sister Johnston called Sister Riley and Sister Quent up to the front because they’d be working in the center—I longed to be up there with them. But I was sure I’d be transferred out to some remote area of the mission and never set foot inside again.

After what felt like only a few moments in the center, they took us to the Lake Oswego Stake Center for transfers. We ate lunch and then they took us down to the Relief Society room to meet our new companions. As I watched the crowd of missionaries around me diminish, I began to get nervous. There weren’t any companions left. And it was just us visa waiters left.

President Morby explained that our companions would be meeting us later at Transfer meeting. He advised me that mine would be Sister Schmutz and Sister Priday.

A little before the meeting started Sister Brandt came up to me. She told me that she knew my companions. And that I’d be in the Visitors Center. I choked, “What?” She said, “Yeah, Sister Schmutz and Sister Priday are in the Visitors Center. They’re really cute. You’ll love them.” I could hardly believe my ears. I didn’t even dare to believe that she was right.

And then, after my name flashed on that screen and I could hardly believe my eyes.

I was going to serve in the visitors center.

And then almost as soon as I’d stood up, out of the pew, Elder and Sister Johnston were right there to welcome me. Sister Johnston gave me a hug and Elder Johnston shook my hand. And then they said something that I will never forget. They said, “We’ll keep you as long as we can, but you’re going to want to stay forever.”

And they were right.

I’ve never been happier than I am now.

Never more productive. And never in a better cause.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Yesterday was transfer day.

Transfer to the mission field.

Pretty scary, exciting stuff.

Mostly exciting. But a little nerve racking at the same time.

I started the transfer at 2:45 AM when I got up. Tried to be a little more presentable. And shoved the last of my belongings into my suitcase. Then I did a last minute weigh of my suitcases to make sure I wasn’t over 50 lbs. and rushed out the door with my temporary companions to the Travel Office.

Then back into my building because I forgot my itinerary.

And once again back to the travel office.

I waited in line, dropped off my key, handed back my lock, and swiped my card to pick up my ticket. Then I walked outside to find my place in line for the bus.

And there were our Elders. Just waiting there to say goodbye.

They woke up at 2:30 in the morning just to see us off.

I love them.

So we said our goodbyes. And with a firm handshake we were off.

We loaded our luggage in a truck.

Loaded ourselves into a bus and took a ride to the train station.

Then I got really excited.

Because I’ve never been on a train before.

Turns out its not as exciting at 4:00 in the morning.

When we got to our stop, 200+ missionaries filed up an escalator and into a TRAX car headed for the SLC Int’l Airport. Then we yanked our luggage off the truck that was waiting there for us and went inside to check our baggage.

Delta had additional staff to accommodate us and they were very gracious.

And the people at the airports were nice enough to let us use their cell phones to call our parents and let them know we made it out of the MTC alive (:

And then after about an hour waiting around in the airport I met up with my travel companion on the plane.

Her name is Sister Lyons. And she is super fly.

She studied in Jerusalem last year.

And when we finally made it to Oregon, she marveled with me about the ridiculous number of clouds. They cover the entire Portland area like a blanket.

I wanted to take a nap in them.

She agreed.

She didn’t, however, marvel with me about the number of trees.

Because she is from Colorado.

And they have just as many.

We don’t in Oklahoma. So I kept marveling.

And am actually STILL marveling.

I mean whoa!!

It is so green here.

Even the parking garage is covered in green. Literally, the vines have almost reclaimed that edifice.

So, yah. Portland’s green.

And lovely.

And I’m super stoked to be here.