As a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Russian Far East, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. My faith has always been the most important thing to me, and my missionary service was the one time that I could leave everything else behind and concentrate not only on living the principles I know, but also on teaching them to others and inviting them to join my Church.
As a missionary, I needed to show a desire to serve others and to live the teachings of Jesus Christ. I also had to be willing to volunteer anywhere in the world. I was called through inspiration, without any opportunity to request a certain place, to serve in eastern Russia, known in the Church as the Russia Vladivostok Mission. I was assigned to the cities of Vladivostok, Nakhodka, Ussuriysk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Khabarovsk and Artyom.
My Russian studies at Wake Forest gave me an excellent foundation for my work. I served a substantial portion of my two-year mission with missionaries who were native Russians, and I learned to deeply appreciate their culture. I returned from my trip able to speak Russian proficiently.
My service was rigorous, tiring and demanding. Day after day my fellow missionaries and I taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ as found in the Bible and in “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” Throughout our stay, we searched for people who were interested in learning more about the faith. It was hard work, and two years was a long time. Yet as a faithful missionary, I never wondered what I would get from such service or what would come of it.
During my time in Russia, the question I asked myself was, ‘What more can I give?’ Knowing the world, in general, and this part of the world, in particular, is thirsting for truth and fulfillment, we knew our message was the only one that could provide a permanent solution. For me this service exemplified better than anything else the University motto, “Pro Humanitate.”
The greatest lesson I brought back can be summed up in a single sentence, ‘Do it all for their sake.’ That was my reason for serving the mission. Fulfillment comes for serving others, not seeking your our own rewards. My service strengthened me in so many ways. I learned to value the things that really matter most in life — family, integrity, devotion to principles and hard work.
In conclusion, this missionary service shaped who I am and how I feel about life, helping me better understand what matters most and what things really make a difference for people. It was indeed the opportunity of a lifetime.
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