Sister Anna Ray
Meet Sister Anna Ray, called to serve in the Jackson, Mississippi mission! She reports to the MTC on May 8, and I asked her to stop by and share a little bit of her mission prep experience so far.
Did President Monson’s announcement affect your choice to serve a mission at all?
The announcement definitely did change everything for me! Although I always felt like serving a mission would be an amazing experience, for some reason that I have yet to figure out, I never thought that I would serve. I guess I always thought that by the time I was 21 I would either be married or almost into my career. Although I think a mission is a wonderful experience and I am so excited to serve, I have never felt that Heavenly Father expects me to serve. I believe that this choice was entirely up to me, and I guess I thought I would choose to do something else, because by that point, I would be serving another kind of mission.
It was actually kind of funny, because the week before general conference, I attended a mission farewell and I had a conversation with my friend Nick. I remember talking to him about how much I wished that girls served missions at 19. One week later, my wish came true! Months of questions about school and work and what direction my life was going were all answered when I heard about the announcement. I had to work that Saturday unfortunately, but my little sister came and told me and I started crying I was so happy!
Although I do not feel in any way like I am required to go, and I know that this has been completely my decision, I do feel like I was guided to be here. After my last semester of school, I felt like BYU-Idaho was no longer the place for me, and I moved home. I guess I have to back up to explain my feelings here. When I first decided where to go to school, I had an overwhelming confirmation that BYUI was where I was supposed to go. After spending a year there, I have a solid testimony that I was guided to attend there. I learned lessons and grew in ways that I couldn’t have anywhere else. So, when I no longer felt the need to be there, I assumed there was someplace else that I had to be. I looked into quite a few universities, but nothing felt right the way BYUI had at first. I didn’t feel like any of them were exactly the right place for me . So, I waited and researched and had quite a few sleepless nights about what I was going to do with the next few years of my life.
Like I mentioned before, as soon as I heard the announcement I knew that I had been prepared for this, and that it was what I had been waiting for. That being said, I was definitely tested in the process of turning in my papers. I felt so motivated at first, but it seemed like every time I took a step towards my mission, another delay would pop up. I started working on mission prep as soon as the announcement was made, but I was not able to turn in my papers until late February. I had moments of doubt. There was even a week in late January that I had decided not to go. I was so scared and I felt very unprepared. I was terrified, so I decided not to go. I was talking to my friend Christien and the Newman family, and Christien said something that I couldn’t let go. They were talking about how some girls may have rushed into the decision after the announcement and might not be ready to go. Christien said that it might be hard on them at first but, and I quote “they won’t regret the decision to serve. A mission is always a good thing.” As soon as he said that, I knew I wouldn’t regret this decision. I knew I needed to stop living life in fear, because then I wouldn’t be anything more than the servant who buried his talents. Even though I’ve known for months that I wanted to go, it has been a long road making the final decision. I really do know that it is the right decision.
What are some things that you’ve done (so far) to prepare?
I’ve been working on reading the Book of Mormon again, because I think that is a good foundation to have. When I wrote my friends who are out serving missions, almost all of them had the same advice, which was to read and study the Book of Mormon as much as you possibly can. It’s been a great experience. Another thing that I have been doing is looking over past personal progress stuff. A lot of those experiences have so many great resources! So, that has definitely helped in the preparation process. Honestly, there are so many things you can do to study and prepare that I don’t even know where to begin!
Best websites/talks to read:
My favorite thing so far has been reading letters and blogs from the missionaries who I know who are serving. Also, after receiving my call, it has been fantastic to read blogs of missionaries who have served/are serving in my mission, and that took one Google search.
What is the best mission advice you’ve ever received?
It’s hard to say what the very best mission advice I’ve received is, because so many people have influenced me for better in this journey. That being said, something that hit me hard was from my aunt Becky. She told me to make sure that I felt 100% committed before turning in my mission papers and leaving, because once you are out there you’ll get homesick and discouraged. Not all the time, but it happens. I know because of her advice, I did definitely take the situation in a more serious way.
Favorite missionary scripture/quote?
My favorite quote about missionary work is “A missionary is someone who leaves their family for a time to enable others to be with their families forever”. I don’t know who said it, because I saw it with cheesy cursive and a picture of the temple on the internet. I love the quote though, because it reminds me of the big picture. Yes, it may be very hard to leave everything for a while, but it is really only a short moment that will bless the lives of you and your brothers and sisters in God’s Kingdom forever.
Tips on staying positive during the preparation process?
I think that it is very important to continue to read your scriptures and pray daily NO MATTER WHAT. I found that while I was trying to prepare, one thing that was very hard for me was music and other media. Even though those things are good, too much can distract from the spirit. If there is anything in your life that is keeping you too busy or preoccupied to have a spiritual moment, try to eliminate it, because I know I was tested during this time. Once you start considering serving a mission, I think Satan has a target on you, because now you are directly threatening his kingdom.
What is the best mission advice you could give to someone preparing to serve?
Don’t stress. Really, it will all work out! Heavenly Father knows what he is doing and whatever is supposed to happen will happen. Really, everything is going to be alright. If the timing is frustrating, remember that the Lord knows what He is doing! That probably isn’t all that comforting, but really, just have faith in His timing.
How long did it take you to complete your paperwork and submit it?
Oh goodness. Well, I started the process right after the announcement, but I did not actually begin my paperwork until mid December. After that, I finished most of it by mid January. Filling out the information actually only takes a couple hours. After that, it is mostly just making sure all of the information is where it should be. For example, making sure that your Doctor sends the paperwork to your Bishop right away. That slowed me down. Then, making sure that your Bishop sends all of the stuff to the Stake President ASAP. It took me 3 months to get my call from when I started my paperwork, and a lot of that was by chance, but I would just try to stay as organized and on top of it as you possibly can. I didn’t want to be pushy, but in hindsight, I wish I had been more pushy.
5 cool things about the area you will serve:
Only 5?? Honestly, I could go off forever about how amazing Mississippi is, but I am not sure it would come across as exciting. One of my best friends has actually been planning to move there for the summer, and to be completely honest, at first, my thought was, why Mississippi? Who would want to move there? Boring. But the moment I opened my call it became the most exciting place in the universe. I am not sure what 5 facts to put here, but something I thought was awesome is that Mississippi has the most church buildings (not LDS, just churches in general) out of all of the states. I am so excited to go to a place that already has such strong Christian roots. Also, I have heard that the food is amazing. And my mission covers quite a bit of the deep south, so I just get to experience all of that awesome culture!
5 things you will miss about home:
I think I’ll miss the people more than any other aspect of home. I’ll miss my friends and family. I’ll also really miss the mountains, because that is what keeps me sane. When I lived in Idaho (instead of Utah), there were only little hills and it got to the point where I would literally start twitching. So, hopefully I get over that quickly… I’ll miss my blog. That sounds terrible, but I really will miss being able to just sit down and type and type and type until it feels like I’ve made life a little bit simpler. I’ll also miss the temple by my house, because I love it so much. I’ll miss music as well. I know we can listen to hymns, but it really isn’t the same. That’s okay, because it will be good. I know it is for the best. I’m scared for homesickness, but things will be okay. I’ll be in the right place, becoming the person who I need to be.
Thanks so much, Anna!