Good morning, brothers and sisters. As many of you know, I have been called to the Indonesia Jakarta Mission. Since it is so far away and unfamiliar, I thought I would share what I have learned with you.
9,000 miles away, Indonesia is a country of 17,000 islands that span the distance of Alaska to the East Coast. Only 900 of these are inhabited and only 8,000 are even named. Indonesia rests between Australia and continental Asia and receives much of its culture through religion. 90% of Indonesians are Suni Muslim, and the rest are pretty much Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Confucian. 250 million people live in Indonesia. In the US, we have about 320 million, and with Indonesia's land mass being about 3 times bigger than Texas, it is packed. And Jakarta, the nation's capital and 6th largest city in the world, is home to over 11 million people. TO put that in perspective, that is more people than New York City and the entire State of Utah combined. Compared to all of these people, the Church is very, very small in Indonesia. There are a little more than 7,000 members, with only 23 congregations, 2 stakes, and no temple. One reason that the Church has not grown very large is that Indonesia has some strict restrictions on LDS missionaries. For one, we cannot go tracting door to door, and second, we cannot even introduce ourselves as missionaries when talking to people. We are, however, allowed to share our message when it comes up in conversation and give humanitarian service. Those rules make it very hard to be a missionary. But the members who are in Indonesia are so strong in their testimonies, and that's really why I chose to serve a mission, for the people.
But in all honesty, I haven't always wanted to serve a mission. Ever since I could remember, I have been shy and have been nervous talking in front of people. During my childhood and teenage years, it was very difficult to talk to new people and even harder to talk to friends and family. Don't even get me started on public speaking. I would feel sick the entire day on the say I knew I would be speaking in front of class or giving the devotional in seminary. Knowing these things, I knew going on a mission wasn't for me. Yet when I received my patriarchal blessing, I knew my Heavenly Father needed me to go on a mission. I knew I was in trouble when the patriarch told of my role as a missionary and what I needed to do. So, since Freshman Year, I have followed my blessing's counsel and prepared for a mission.
But just because I made that decision doesn't mean that my social skills improved. Getting out of my comfort zone and talking in front of people was even more painful because I knew I would be doing it nonstop for 18 months. But, every talk and lesson I taught in Church, every school report I presented, every new person I talked to, got me to this point. No, it has not been easy. No, God didn't lighten my load just because I said I was going on a mission. No, I still don't feel good enought to be a missionary of the Church. But because I took that step of faith and promised the Lord that I would trust in Him, nothing wavering, and go on a mission, He has given me the experiences and uphill battles that have made me feel confident enough to do this. Ever since I made that decision nearly 4 years ago, I know that I have been supported and strengthened, but not enough that things have been easy. But if everything had been easy, I don't know if I would be ready for this next step in my life. And as time has gone on, my reasons for going on a mission home changed as well. At first, I was going only because I knew that's what God wants me to do. Now, I am going because people deserve to know the Gospel. They came to Earth for the same reasons we did, they just haven't had the same opportunities. They should enjoy the same truths and blessings that we do, and I want to help them.
Ever since I started having a more sincere desire to go on a mission, I've noticed that I reallt loced the people, even before I knew where I was going. And I still do; I'm really excited to go on this mission because I love the Indonesia people and I want to make their lives richer through the Gospel. And that's the point where I'm at right noe.
FOr the past few months, though, I have preparing myself for this mission more than ever. I have worked hard to make a regular habit of daily scripture study. Specifically, reading the Book of Mormon again, reading through the New TEstament, studying Preach My Gospel, and refining my scripture study skills. I have also been trying to strenghten my speaking skills through my work. In retail, one of my main purposes is to sell my store's products. While preaching the gospel isn't quite the same, the two share a common practice, in that I am helping each customer/investigator find what they are looking for in the store/gospel and then guiding them to even more products/gospel truths that will meet their needs and wants even more, even if they didn't know they needed it in the first place. My new job has also really helped me in being more comfortable talking to people, working in a team, reaching goals, and being on my feet for long periods of time. Something that has also helped ease my anxieties about going on a mission have been reading blogs of current missionaries. Before I got my call, I was really nervous about where I was going, the type of people i'd be teaching, the language, so I began reading all of these different blogs of people serving Peru or Sweden or Texas, and I found that every missionary LOVED her mission. Each sister loved her investigators, she had amazing experiences, she had times where she didn't think she'd make it, and she had times where it was definitely worth it. All of these blogs that I read eased my anxieties about going and gave me ideas on where I wanted to go. Of course, I had no clue about Indonesia. When I first saw the words "Indonesia Jakarta Mission" I was so shocked. I didn't even know there was a mission in Indonesia. REally, the only thing I knew about the country was that it was home to my favorite animal, the clouded leopard. I haven't gotten around the reading any blogs from missionaries in Indonesia, but I've heard different things about the mission, and it sounds like the perfect fit for me, with the humanitarian service and official-nonofficial non-proselytizing rule. I'm kind of bummed out that I won't be tracting, becaseu that seems kind of like something every missionary should experience, but it will also make this a really interesting mission, too, because I'll have to get creative in introducing the gospel to people's lives.
In reading the blogs from other missionaries, it has inspired me to make my own blog, which has helped me even more in practicing my journaling skills and better understanding myself and how I can prepare even more for this mission.
So, how does all of this help you? Many of you already served a mission, some of you many go when you're a couple years older, and some of you may go with your spouse some time from now, and some of you have no desire to serve a mission, and that's fine. What I want all of you to leave with today is the knowledge that your Heavenly Father wants only what is best for you. Sometimes you may feel He has abandoned you or left you on your own. Sometimes you may wonder if He knows ou or cares about you when He asks you to do something you'd rather not. And sometimes you fear He is angry with you because you're not doing what He's asked. I have felt all of these things, but I know that He has not once left my side, that He has never stopped believing in me. And I know that is the same for each of you. Your Heavenly Father will never forsake or abandon you, and He will always help and support you, and when you follow and trust His guidance, amazing things can happen, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
HOLLEY STRINGHAM: Salt Lake City, born and raised; returned missionary from the Indonesia Jakarta Mission.; a simple folk aimed on changing the world