Saturday, July 6, 2013

Plans for the next few months

Well, I don't enter the MTC until November 27th. I get Thanksgiving and Black Friday with my family and then I'm off to the MTC!

This is such a huge blessing. I have a sister, Aubree, who was born while I was at college. I had been praying for months that I could have a relationship with her. This is such an answer to my prayers. This is Aubree crawling. I'm so excited to spend three months with my baby sister. This means the world to me.

Essentially, I'm going to stay in Utah until the end of August and then go home until November. I get about 3 months with my family and, other than my mission of course, no distractions. This gives me time to prepare to learn Spanish and the Gospel and I get to just be with my family before leaving them for a year and a half.

Right now, I'm working on getting a passport and a visa, getting my immunizations, and trying to learn about the culture of Monterrey (which hasn't been going great, because when I google "Monterrey" it's all tourist stuff, and considering that I'm not a tourist it's fairly unhelpful).

In addition, I got Preach My Gospel, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, Our Search for Happiness (by M. Russell Ballard), True to the Faith, Our Heritage, and Jesus the Christ (by James E. Talmage) all in Spanish!

I have a friend who speaks Spanish who is going through the Book of Mormon with me. Yesterday, I read aloud the entire first chapter of First Nephi! (or Nefi) My friend corrected my pronunciation and when I asked her what something meant, she would translate.

For example, when I would see words that repeated, a lot of times I asked her what they meant. Here are some of those.

Ay: Woe
Por tanto: Therefore
Oyó: heard

Some words, I was able to figure out. Here were some.

Sedequías: Zedekiah
Jerusalén: Jerusalem
Espíritu del Señor: Holy Spirit
Judíos: Jews

One word, I felt the Spirit tell me it was important, so I asked my friend what it meant. This was that word.

Oró. Prayer.

I love reading the scriptures! To be honest, I really don't understand it when I read it in Spanish but being so familiar with the scriptures in English has really helped.

Also, reading the scriptures out loud has helped me to learn the nature of the language. Here are some things I learned from reading aloud with my friend.
  • When a "d" is in the middle of the word, it's softer, almost a "th" sound.
  • When a "g" or a "c" is in front of certain vowels, it makes a regular sound, but in front of an "e" for example, the "g" becomes a "h" and the "c" becomes an "s."
  • "Ll" makes a "y" sound.
  • "H" is always silent
  • "Ch" makes the same sound as it does in English
  • All the vowels in Spanish only have one sound 
I've found this online resource that I've been using to help with my pronunciation.

A friend of mine who speaks Spanish as his second language told me that I should focus on learning pronunciation, not vocabulary, because vocabulary will come, but if you can't pronounce something it doesn't matter what words you know.

I've also been listening to music in Spanish and I've watched How to Train Your Dragon and The Incredibles in Spanish. I haven't learned too much from that, except for how to say "NO CAPES" in Spanish (CAPES NO), but I'm going to keep up with it and hope I can learn more conversational Spanish from movies.

In addition, I've been called as a ward missionary, and my "companion" and ward mission leader both "Hablas Español." We're going to try to teach some lessons in Spanish. How much Spanish...lets just say I'll find out.

Also, I've been opening my prayers with "Nuestro Padre Celestial" and ending them with "En el nombre de Jesucristo, Amén" I can't say too much in the middle in Spanish yet, but I have faith El Señor will help me.

The Road to the Mission Call

My name is Julie Brooks. I've been called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

My road to serving a mission has been really a life long one, it definitely was not flipping on a light switch.

When I was young, I was scared of the concept of going on a mission, so I didn't want to go. Girls are not expected the same way men are to serve missions, so I didn't feel bad about it or anything.

Then, as I started to mature, I saw serving a mission differently. I think the pivotal moment was when a sister in my ward, Sister Oliphant, came home from her mission in California and gave her homecoming talk. She made me, for the first time, really want to go on a mission. I told my dad, "Now I want to go on a mission." I guess my dad told Sister Oliphant's father that because her father asked me to relay what I said to her. So I told that after I had heard her speak, I wanted to go on a mission. But I felt weird saying it, because I wasn't sure, and I was still scared.

This is what I thought I'd be like on a mission
I started to see a mission not as a year and a half away on some deserted island (see image),
but as a chance to do absolutely NOTHING but serving The Lord (El Señor). As my love for El Señor grew and I matured, I strongly desired to serve a mission, but I also really wanted to do what God wanted me to do.

I wasn't quite sure what His plan was for me. My patriarchal blessing didn't say anything specific towards serving a mission. Also, I had never felt particularly inspired that serving a mission was what I was supposed to do. So I was unsure, and I told people that I didn't know if I would, but I was leaning towards not going.

Then the Missionary Announcement happened. If you missed it, here's the video below.

If that doesn't work, here is a link:

I was with my sister Tiffany when it happened. Tiffany screamed and started crying, she was so excited. I was happy, and I was talking about starting my papers, but I still wasn't sure. When I prayed about it, I asked "God, do you want me to go on a mission or not?" I got a dark, subtle feeling of "No."

So I took the answer as No.

This wasn't easy for me. I really wanted to go on a mission. I saw so many friends and others putting in their papers and getting their calls and I just wanted to go too. I wanted my call to serve.

My parents weren't much of a help, or that's what I thought anyway. My mom didn't really care either way, but my dad and my stepmom were not happy I was not going on a mission. One time, Natalie, my stepmom, and I had the following conversation over a phone.

Me (really upset): This guy I have a huge crush on just got engaged!

Natalie: His fiancé is probably an RM. Guys like that.

Me: Thanks Natalie.

I knew it was her way of just trying to get me to go on a mission. After my Winter Semester of BYU, I had the opportunity to go home for a few days, and obviously the concept of a mission came up in our conversations.

I told my dad the Spirit told me not to go on a mission. My dad would then ask me, "Well, how did you ask? Did you follow the pattern in the scriptures?" He mentioned Doctrine and Covenants section 9, where it says:

"Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me."
I realised that my initial question, "Do you want me to go on a mission?" really didn't follow this pattern. I "took no thought save it was to ask." I started to wonder if the answer "No" was really from the Lord. The other thing that really stood out to me was that my parents, my dad and my stepmom, were active members of the church. They had stewardship over me. If someone who has stewardship over you tells you to do something, it's a good idea to at least try it.
My parents, who can receive revelation for me, were strongly encouraging me to go on a mission. I had no reason not to go, nothing was holding me back but me. 
The night before going back to Utah (I was going there to work), I prayed for about two and half hours out loud. I was in tears, telling my Padre Celestial about how much I wanted to go on a mission but I didn't want to go if it wasn't his will. I begged, pleaded, and cried. "Tell me I can go on a mission. Send me on a mission. Please, I want to go. Just tell me it's your will. Tell me that's where you want me, that's where you need me to be."
I was getting nothing but soaked cheeks and despair. I felt very alone, like no one heard me, because I heard no answer. Nothing. No change for good or for worse. I knew El Señor was there, but I wasn't getting an answer.
I got fed up with nothing. Eventually, I just said, "God, I'm going on a mission, and if you don't want me to go, then you better stop me because at this point that's where I'm going."
That's when I received an answer. My God in Heaven, Nuestro Padre Celestial, He sent His Spirit to tell me, "Okay. Go on your mission."
I was so happy. I realised that this whole time, I had not sought His will, but sought for him to tell me His will. I needed to find His will and do it. I finally sought His will, and He was happy.
I told my dad first. He needed to be the first one to know, I knew it just meant so much to him. Then I told my mom, and then my stepmom. My mom told me she was happy for me. My dad and my stepmom were in heaven. My brother Brandon, who was in Kindergarten at the time, went to school and bragged to all his friends (none of whom are LDS) about how his sister is going on a mission.
Right when I got back to Utah, I almost immediately started to meet with the bishop to work on my mission papers. I tried to get everything done as fast as I could, but it wasn't going as fast as I liked since I was new to the ward and my bishop had to talk to my last bishop and my home ward bishop before he could officially start my papers. When I finally completed them, I was able to have an interview with my stake president.
I told him about how I wanted to serve a mission. He told me, "Don't go on a mission-"
I was ready to go cry myself to sleep for the rest of my life. But then he finished his sentence.
He said, "Don't go on a mission. Be a missionary."
That was very comforting.
After my papers were submitted, I waited three LONG weeks until July 3rd.

I knew it was coming that day. On July 2nd, my roommate played this song for me.

"One Day More" from Les Miserables. Tomorrow we will see what our God in Heaven has in store!

Then, it wasn't One Day More. It WAS July 3rd. The day I would get my mission call.

I left work early and went home. I went to the mailbox. I opened it to see this AMAZING giant envelope inside. 
It was crazy. Unbelievable. My mission call was here. My fate for 18 months.
Me holding my mission call. It took a lot of pictures to finally get a good one.
I saw how thin the envelope was and I was like, "It's stateside...of course."
I told my parents it was here, but I couldn't open my call if my dad wasn't home. I was going to facetime my dad's family and put the phone on speaker with my mom. My stepmom tried to get me to open it, and not wait for Dad. 
I was like, "Natalie, do you know how heartbroken Dad would be?"
Natalie: "But what about my feelings!!!??? I've been waiting for this all day!"
Me: "What do you think I've been doing???"
She wants it known that she was waiting the whole day in agonising pain. At one point, I called her up to ask when Dad was getting home and I told her I opened it. She freaked out until I told her I was kidding. 
Finally, my dad got home. I got on Facetime and called my mom. I saw my dad, Natalie, my siblings Lauren, Brandon, Ashleigh, and Aubree, and my sister's best friend Abele. Natalie called up her family so they could hear. I checked to see if my mom could hear.
Then, I slowly opened the envelope. Natalie yelled, "JULIE! JUST OPEN IT!" I was trying not to maim it.
Then, I got the letter out of the envelope. A faded, yellow paper color. I have a habit of reading ahead, so I covered the first few paragraphs with my hands and tried to read every word in order.
I read aloud:
"Sister Julie Kristen Brooks, (I had read that wrong and then corrected myself) Sister Brooks,
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the México Monterrey West Mission. It is anticipated you will serve for a period of 18 months.
You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, November 27, 2013. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish Language."
I continued to read the rest of the mission call. Then, at the end, in his own hand was President Thomas S. Monson's signature. The Lord had called me on a mission.