Sister Crystal Cleveland
Okay, let me tell you something about Crystal Cleveland. Not only have I known her for forever (really, we were friends in the spirit world ;] ), but she's always been an inspiration to me of strength, leadership, hard work, and grace. She's classy and kind and, I'm sure, will be a super-fantastic-awesome missionary.
We're both from New Jersey and both go to Southern Virginia University, and Crystal kills on the basketball court. Oh yeah, and we're both working on our mission papers right now!
Crystal answered a few of my questions and then wrote something of her own, which will be after the Q&A.
Absolutely! Around the age of 12 or 13 I was watching a general conference session with my family. After the session the Errand of Angels (female missionary movie) came on and I watched the whole movie. I remember with tears down my face telling my mom that one day I would serve a mission. I even wrote in my 12-13 journal which probably was the only spiritual and profound thing in there because (we all know we wrote about boys who we thought we liked/fights with our friends that lasted a day at that age).
Going through the teenage years most girls think about getting married and a boyfriend, and that was my attitude. Little did I know, when the Lord tells you something he means it! So when the announcement came I remember being in my dorm room and fixing my little snack before and being prompted to prayer. There were four minutes left on the countdown and I had time for a quick prayer. So I prayed that I could understand the revelation that the Lord would give me. I saw President Monson get up and I immediately thought new temples, which he announced, but then he began talking about missionary work and I thought he was just going to ask for more missionaries. He began talking about the young men and the spirit overcame me and I started crying, and when I say crying more like a rainfall. But then he announced sisters and there went the hurricane. I knew that that was for ME!
Why did you decide to serve a mission?
I guess the mission pick me! The Lord asked me to go and serve and love his children, to find them and bring them back to Him. My parents are converts, and if a missionary had ignored the prompting to go on a mission would my parents have found the word? I have no brothers, and no one has served from my family. I knew that not only would I be helping families (including my own), but I would be setting an example for my future children to love the Lord and serve Him. It was not a light decision, it is not one that should come without prayer, and willingness to submit to the Lord's will, but once those are accomplished and you receive your answer, do not ignore that answer. Don’t think "I’ll go back to it," or "when I can fit it in my time.." Because your Savior did not come down to earth and take upon Himself the sins of the world and suffer pains that you and I would feel because it was convenient to him! He came when the Lord asked him to, and so must we.
What are some things that you’ve done (so far) to prepare?
I started the BOM over again and this time when I read I now read with the question “What can I or my investigators learn from this chapter?” It’s also important to study Preach My Gospel; it is so much better to be prepared rather than not. My visiting teacher happens to be a returned missionary and she taught at the MTC. Every other month I teach from Preach My Gospel as if she and her companion were investigators. I absolutely love it. And she teaches me so much!
Best websites/talks to read:
BLOGS! (And Pinterest and lds.org) One of the best is this one! And here are some others I enjoy:
"The Divine Call of a Missionary" –Elder Rasband
The First Great Commandment- Elder Holland (actually everything by him seems fitting) I love him!
Favorite missionary scripture/quote?
3 Nephi 5:13 - "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."
Now I would like to touch on topic that maybe people don’t talk on so much.
Adversity. I’m not talking about the mission field or in the MTC; for some of us our first challenges come before we even finish our papers. How can this be? I thought it was easy for everyone. Some of you might be thinking, but it’s not true. Some of us have overcome one adversity and as we turn the corner the next one comes. Whatever the trial, finances, medical, family or anything else, they may come.
Sometimes I have wanted someone to just say to me "I’m sorry for your trial," but those words were never uttered because they knew as I told my story that God was molding me. There have been nights where I fall asleep crying, nights spent on my knees pleading with the Lord that this process would go smoothly after this trial.
And then comes another trial.
I spent hours talking to my friends, visiting teachers, and parents. There have been people who, whether they admit it or not, have felt that maybe I am not prepared in their eyes. That the things we are getting ready to do and covenants we are preparing to make, we are not ready for. There were nights that I quietly whispered in my bed “Heavenly Father what else can I do?” and with the most recent trial I quivered; I didn’t know what else to do. And because our Father has not forsaken us, the spirit whispered "receive a blessing." I agreed and said I would asked my bishop on Sunday. But the Lord had someone else in mind, and I quickly sent a text to my home teachers and they came the next day.
There have been times when I thought “maybe I’m not supposed to go,” but that is what Satan wanted me to think. In fact sisters, I cannot imagine my life right now without serving a mission. I just can’t picture the rest of my life if I gave up now. LISTEN TO PROMPINGS, LISTEN TO THE LORD. Through that priesthood blessing by worthy young men the Lord spoke to me, promising me to help me through my adversity and that, in time, my family and friends would understand why I wanted to serve a mission. He told me not to stop, and continue moving forward with my paperwork and preparation. He gave me peace and comfort. My worries were gone.
Now that's not to say I won’t face my trials whether with finishing my papers, in the MTC, or in the mission field. But sisters, with all the conviction of my soul, I testify that God loves His children. I testify that this announcement has been pondered and prayed about by the very mouthpieces of God. The Lord did not just give this announcement because He thought one 19- year old or 20 year old was ready. He knew He could count on His daughters, all of you, whether you serve or not, to recognize His will, and accept His call to love His children. This announcement comes from your Father, who gave you life and knows His children. HE TRUSTS YOU. HE LOVES YOU. And he loves his children, which is why he knows he can send you.
Whatever the adversity is, whatever trial comes, know that “all these things will give you experience” and the Lord will never leave you alone. You are prepared, and if you don’t think you are, get prepared. This is the time you have been reserved for to bring the world the truth and prepare His children to meet their God, so they too can recognize Him as more than our Savior but a brother and friend.
In Elder Holland's words, “If it was right when you prayed for it and trusted in it and lived for it, it is right now.” I testify that you are needed, whether in the mission field, as a wife or as a mother. He needs his daughters to do missionary work whether in the field or in the home. I testify that we all have calls, and whatever the adversity you may face, He will lead you along. Sisters bring something to the work that elders can’t offer. And in those trials know that even I am with you.