Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My Mission Experience!

Called to Serve 

Sister Kiera Colette Tanner 
New York New York North Mission 
May 28, 2014-December 10, 2015

Why I Decided to Serve:
While growing up, I never wanted to serve a mission. I loved to share the gospel with my friends, but serving a full time mission was never in the picture. I wanted to be a pediatric nurse, get married, and have a family. After I got my patriarchal blessing at age sixteen, my mom told me she thought I was going to serve a mission. I only laughed and brushed it off. During my junior year of high school I decided that if girls could go on missions at age nineteen then I would totally go. Well shortly after, the age change came and sure enough everyone looked to me. However, at that time things changed and I didn't feel like a mission was right for me. The thought of a full time mission scared me. I don't think I was willing to sacrifice 18 months. As college approached my mom nagged me about a mission all the time. I grew frustrated with her and pushed further away from wanting to go. When college started, I met my roommate who was preparing for her mission. I helped her with her papers and watched her learn and grow as she studied and prepared. It intrigued me and made me want to do the same. I too began to study preach my gospel. It was around that time that my dream to be a nurse changed, and I didn't know what I wanted to do anymore. My life went from being exactly planned out, to a dark unknown path. One night I heard the song "Lead Kindly, Light" and for the first time the words hit me. I knew that I needed God to lead me through this time. That's when I knew I needed to pray about a mission. As I prayed and prayed, I couldn't figure out the answer I was getting. Each day passed by and I got more and more worried. During that time I stumbled upon an Ensign talk about how sometimes God doesn't give us the answer to our prayers because He trusts us. It talked about how if choosing between two really good things, God would help us through whatever choice we make and if it's the wrong one then He will make it known to us. Finally, I came to the conclusion that serving a mission would be a good idea. I wanted to teach people about the gospel and serve others, and I knew that if it wasn't God's plan for me, He would make it known to me. When I first started my papers, I didn't tell anyone, nonetheless I felt so good about my choice. I just wanted it to be my decision and not anyone else's. Once I knew God wasn't going to change my plans, I told my family and friends.

When my call came to serve in New York, I was terrified. Just a year prior to receiving my call, I had visited New York with my family and I hated the city. I wanted to go somewhere exotic, or Spanish speaking, but that wasn't God's plan for me. However, I knew it would be okay and that the odds of me serving in the city were very slim.
As I got to the mission field, I found out my first area would be South Manhattan, right in the heart of the city! It was completely opposite of what I had expected. That is where the real journey began.

In the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 33:6 reads, "I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell." Throughout my mission, I felt I was able to find "MY Jesus" through several experiences. Some of those experiences included learning of the importance of doing Gods will because it's not about me, praying with faith, and using the Atonement.

"The Lord’s way is not hard. Life is hard, not the gospel. 'There is an opposition in all things,' everywhere, for everyone. Life is hard for all of us, but life is also simple. We have only two choices. We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy, or we can go some other way, any other way, whatever other way, and go it alone--without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair. And I ask, which way is easier?" - Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge October 2008 General Conference, The Way).

In the MTC the scripture Mark 8:35 really struck me as it moved from my head to my heart. It says "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it." (Mark 8:35.) I knew that was what I needed to do. It came through remembering that this time to serve is not about me.

One of the first things I instantly began to learn was that I needed to align my will with God's will. From the start, I knew that I needed to serve a mission because it was God's will for me. As I was called to serve in New York, a place I hated, I knew I was in Gods loving care. He knew what would be best for me and going somewhere I didn't like would help me remember that my mission was not about me. Spreading the gospel truly does require a lot of effort. I have never felt so physically, spiritually and mentally exhausted in my entire life. However, as I saw the joy of others that comes from serving them, I saw how it didn't really matter what I felt. It was all about serving Gods children and loving them. I grew so close to the members and investigators in Manhattan. As I did my best to turn outward and to think of others, I really felt like I was able to "get lost in the work" and that was a blessing to me. I wanted to serve in that ward my entire mission.

However, six months later, it was time to leave. I cried for three days straight. I was so sad. How could God want me to leave the place I had just grown to love, right before Thanksgiving and Christmas? Why was I going to be "banned" to Monticello? I just didn't understand what happened. However, as time passed, I saw Gods hand in the work. I again had to remind myself, "it's not about me." After one cycle there, I was called to be a trainer. That responsibility helped me to love like never before. We worked harder than ever and began to have much success. I knew that it didn't matter where I was serving. There is a quote I love by an unknown author that says "you are not called to serve in a place. You are called to serve in place of the Savior." God needed me in Monticello, which is actually such a sacred and wonderful place!

Once I truly loved Monticello, I got a transfer call to go to Danbury! I was called as a Sister Training Leader which scared me a little bit but I knew that it was a calling from God. If it were up to me, I wouldn't have chosen to leave, but it's all about Him. God's plan is perfect. Danbury brought new and exciting adventures. It allowed me to serve others even more. I constantly found myself praying for the sisters I was over and finding ways to serve them and love them. However, at times it was really, really hard. I wanted to go back to Monticello. I wanted to continue teaching everyone there. The area in Monticello was growing quickly and there was so much success. I wondered why I had to leave right before my investigators got baptized. Well, God knew why. It wasn't about what I wanted but rather what God wanted for me. He needed me in Danbury to find specific people that I needed to teach. After two cycles in Danbury, I was called as a trainer. From the very start of meeting my new companion, Sister Brecken Standage, I knew that God needed me as her trainer and that I needed to learn from her. Together we found people that God needed us to teach. It was truly incredible. Many small yet incredible and sacred experiences happened that helped me to know that God is mindful of me and had a perfect path for me to accomplish His work.

As I received my last transfer call, I approached it with an open heart, knowing and understanding that whatever the call was going to be, it would come from God. He is my loving Heavenly Father. He knows me and He loves me. He always wants the best for me. He sees the bigger picture that I can't see. I can now honestly say, I trust Him.
God's will is always the best way. I now am a lot more open to changes that are to come as I try my best to align my will with His will. The words of a favorite hymn will forever ring true to me. "I'll go where you want me to go. I'll be who you want me to be."
Although understanding how to do God's will all of the time did not come all at once, I feel I really have learned that the time on my mission truly isn't about me. By learning this, I have put my trust in the Lord and have really come to know my Jesus.

Another huge thing I really learned to do on my mission is pray with faith. Prayer is simple and prayer is true. I have never prayed so much in my life, and I never want to pray any less anymore. I have come to know the power of prayer in a very real sense. It truly is communication with God. Before my mission there were times when I would remember to pray immediately after I laid down at night. It was those times that prayer was something that forced me to get out of my comfy and warm bed and onto my knees because that was the right thing to do. I knew it was good. I didn't have a hatred against it or anything, but it didn't come with power. It wasn't my first choice during hard times. Of course, I had times throughout my life that I saw my prayers get answered and I felt the power that came from them. But those were rare occasions and not everyday matters. I think my true testimony really began to grow in the MTC when I prayed with all my heart.

Monday, June 2, 2014
Wow, today was a rollercoaster!..During our first lesson with our TRC investigator, she told us that we shouldn't be missionaries. Even though that should not have mattered, it hit Sister Rasmussen and I hard. We began to question ourselves. We thought about why we are here and we got pretty angry. Later on, we went up to class and split into two groups. I went with Sister Redford, Elder Richan, and Brother Rasmussen. Brother Rasmussen asked us to write down a question to be answered in 1 Nephi 3. Mine was about becoming the missionary I am supposed to be and learning how to rely on the Spirit. I didn't intend on sharing or anything and I didn't want to share my thoughts at all really, but Brother Rasmussen truly is guided by the Spirit. He turned to me and asked what I thought. I started crying as I read a scripture about how God commanded ME to serve. He called ME and He wouldn't have if He didn't know I could do it. We talked a bit more and I felt SO overwhelmed. I felt inadequate, confused, and so frustrated that I couldn't figure out how to teach by the spirit. Nevertheless, he continued to get me to talk and I continued to cry. Luckily, Sister Redford joined in and cried too. That's when he had each of us go into separate classrooms and take time to just pray and talk to God. He told us that God was in the room and we needed to go open up and ask Him all of our questions and concerns. I felt a bit awkward at first and feared that someone would come in, but eventually I let it go and it turned out to be an incredible experience. I felt peace and comfort after I asked for just that."

That was an experience I'll never forget. It helped me to take a step back and really think about what prayer actually is. It is two way communication with my Father in Heaven who wants to hear from me so He can help me. It also helped me remember Christ and how when He was suffering in Gethsemane, He too turned to God in prayer. At that moment I understood and appreciated the Atonement just a little bit more. 
There were still many hard times after that, but at least I knew then that when those hard times came, I could kneel down and pray and talk to God because He is always waiting for me to turn to Him.

Throughout my entire mission I continued to turn to prayer during good times and bad. I really came to have a true relationship with God. I now am excited to talk to Him to tell Him about my day or whatever is on my mind!

In Monticello, I had another testimony building experience with prayer. I was having a really hard time with the area, my companion, and her adjustment to the mission. I was at the point where I was "over the mission" because it just wasn't happy anymore. I felt I was in a dark place. We had to stay inside a couple times here and there because my companion would get really really sad and depressed and didn't know why. I felt it was all my fault. I blamed myself even though it was something she had already had, just not as intensely until her mission. I didn't know that though. I beat myself up over it inside again and again. It was hard. I had to be positive and happy and loving on the outside, but inside I knew I was the worst trainer ever, or so I thought.

One day during lunch, I went into the bedroom and kneeled down and cried out to God. I told Him everything. I explained how sad I was and how I just wanted my companion to have a good mission experience and to learn something during the two cycles we were together. I pleaded with God to help me serve her and know how to love her and help her. I begged Him to help me be happy and I told Him I would do all I could. I promised to work hard and to love her no matter what. I prayed about a lot more and after a good while I ended my prayer and listened. I felt a peace come over me. A peace that told me my prayer was heard and that God is mindful of me. It was the same feeling I felt as I knelt in prayer that first week of the MTC, pleading with Heavenly Father. To me, the small moments that came as a result of my prayers, were big answers because they were from God and specific to me.

Now, as I kneel in prayer each night, I pray out loud and talk to my Heavenly Father. I see prayer as a way to feel peace, to talk about my blessings, struggles, worries, fears, and joys. I absolutely love it. I no longer see it as a chore or something we just have to do. It truly is a two way communication with God that I love.

I have seen the blessings of the Atonement really come to life over the past 18 months. It has been an incredible experience. Seeing others change because of the Atonement has truly brought me closer to Jesus Christ. Although I still do not fully understand the Atonement, nor can I comprehend it all, I feel I have learned a little bit more of what I need to know. Everything is centered on Jesus Christ. I have a Savior who loves me and wants the best for me. Studying the Atonement has helped me find my Jesus. There is a quote I have loved for quite some time now that says, "An innocent man was found guilty at an unfair trial so that
guilty men could be found innocent at a fair trial." Christ loves each of us and was willing to do His Fathers will all of the time. I really came to know on my mission that the Atonement covers everything in life! One of the key things I have focused on is how Christ has felt all of our pains and sufferings.

Alma 7:11 says, "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people."

I first felt the Atonement strike me so powerfully at the beginning of my mission when my family had some troubles. After a short couple weeks into the mission, I found out that my baby nephew who was just one year old was having reoccurring seizures and was in the hospital. As I read those words from an email my mom sent me, my heart broke. As tears rolled down my cheeks, I thought about how God has a perfect plan, and how even though it hurt and I knew my sister was probably really scared and angry, I had the knowledge that Christ knows exactly how we feel. My first nephew had passed away just two years prior. At this time however, I felt an overwhelming love from my Heavenly Father, especially as my companion and two roommates reached out to me in love. I knew God sent me to all of them that cycle so that they could help me better understand the Atonement. I could have let that experience take a toll on me, but I knew I didn't have time to waste. It wasn't about me and my feelings, it was always about Him. I decided that I just needed to serve with all my heart and use my experiences to help others. Because of that, I was able to really see the Atonement change others. I am truly different because I was able to watch and help others change and come unto Christ.

Sister Macuilt is a member in South Manhattan who I absolutely love. When I arrived in the mission, she was the first person I taught and she was very less active. We worked with her a lot and she wanted nothing more than her family all to be in the gospel. The last day of my service in the area, I was able to go to the temple to do baptisms and confirmations with her and her two granddaughters who she helped to join the church just a couple months prior. Sister Macuilt is now an active member with a calling as a Ward missionary and she is planning to receive her endowments this month. I truly saw the Atonement work within Sister Macuilt. She now glows with happiness and peace.

Barbara is an investigator from Monticello who embraced the Atonement of Jesus Christ like I had never seen before. She went through a lot and had made a lot of bad choices in her past. She had been in and out of jail but was ready to change. As we taught her, she became so much happier. As a result of reading each day and sometimes through the night, Barbara finished the Book of Mormon in a week and then immediately started it all over again. She was a huge example to me that proved that the Atonement is for everyone. No matter who we are now, or who we once were, there are no lost causes. We can all change.

Jenn is an investigator from Danbury who I truly saw the Atonement of Jesus Christ change. When we met Jenn, she was into a lot of bad things, breaking most of the commandments and dealing with evil spirit like things. However, when we met her, she was in a position to change. She wanted to become better and put bad habits behind her. As we taught Jenn about Jesus Christ and the Atonement, she glowed with excitement, her countenance changed, and she instantly chose things to improve on and stop doing. On her own, she put up positive pictures of Christ and Book of Mormon heroes and took down anything that invited Satan. She changed her computer and phone background to pictures that were in harmony with the teachings of Christ. She prayed and read the Book of Mormon daily. She attended church meetings and tried her best to keep the commandments. Jenn changed. She changed because the Atonement of Jesus Christ made it possible for her to change. She found the light that she needed to become better.

Jay is an investigator that we tracted into. He is from the Philippines and was here in the United States visiting his brother and looking for a new job. When we met him, he was wearing a Utah shirt because his boss is a member and invited him to Utah once. It turned out that Jay lived next to the missionaries in the Philippines as well. As we began teaching him, he quickly grabbed hold of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had many challenges within his family and was able to use the Atonement of Jesus Christ so quickly. He was able to give up bad habits that weren't in harmony with the gospel and move forward keeping the commandments with a full desire to be baptized. He ended up moving after a short couple of weeks because he got a job as a captain of a cargo ship. Although he has not been baptized yet, he still reads the Book of Mormon everyday and has full intentions on being baptized when he gets off the ship. It was incredible to see the Atonement change his life because he learned that he could move on from past mistakes and make them right though Jesus Christ.

Through all these experiences, I learned for myself how valuable the Atonement of Jesus Christ is. I think I use to take the knowledge I had for granted a little bit, or maybe I just didn't understand. However, now that I have seen the Atonement not only work to forgive us of sins, I have felt it change my heart as I used the Atonement to become better myself. Whenever I feel down, upset, or weak, I now truly believe and know that I can turn to my Father in Heaven because Christ knows exactly how I feel. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. He truly is, MY Jesus.

Closing Testimony:
Some may say I didn't have any huge experiences that changed me on my mission, but I know it was the little things and that was huge to me. I am different today because I chose to serve the Lord. I know this gospel is true. I know that God called me to serve in the New York New York North mission under the direction of President Morgan as well as President Smith. I know that I needed to learn from both Presidents. I know I needed to serve in south Manhattan, Monticello, and Danbury for specific reasons. I learned so much in each area and from each companion and I know it was part of Gods exact plan. I know Joseph Smith truly did restore this gospel. He went through a lot and he did it all because of his love for God and for all of us to have the gospel and the Book of Mormon today. I know the Book of Mormon is true, and that it truly was written by prophets of God. I know it brings us closer to God and that each and every time we study from it with the Spirit, we will learn knew things. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet on the Earth today. He guides us and directs us through revelation from God. I know families are eternal and that one day I will be able to meet my nephew and that both of my nephews will be whole. They will be able to live as brothers and run and play together happily. None of that would be possible without the Atonement of Jesus Christ. For that I know that Jesus really did die for me and each of us. He suffered for us and was resurrected for us. I know I will see God and Christ again because of the Atonement. I know my Heavenly Father loves me and knows me. He is mindful of me. He sends angels to watch over me and help me in His work. I cannot do this work without Him and the help He sends. This gospel is incredible. I love it all. I have loved serving as a representative of Jesus Christ these past 18 months. I will never be the same because of it. I close with these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Where I will be in the Future... 1 year from now:
I will be studying at BYU and just recently engaged to my best friend. We will be married in the San Diego temple this coming summer break. I will still be continuing good daily study and exercise habits to maintain the Spirit with me. I will still be doing a monthly self examination as well as monthly planning. Even though life will be busy, the gospel will still be my top priority.

5 years from now:
I will be finishing up my masters getting ready to be a pediatric occupational therapist (unless I change my mind again). I will be waking up and going to bed at the same time as my husband even when he has to wake up really early. I will have one baby and recently pregnant with my second. Together we will be raising our family based on the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

10 years from now:
I will have 3 beautiful children, with one more on the way. I will be a full time mom spending all my time and energy on my family. I will be using all the knowledge I gained on my mission to teach my children and help them come closer to Christ everyday as I share Gods love with them. I will be serving my husband daily. I will be having a meaningful family home evening every week and daily family scripture and prayer. I will help my children feel Gods love for them through my love to them. When my children are old enough, I will again work as a pediatric occupational therapist while they are at school.
(From the talk "Be with and Strengthen" by Elder David F. Evans, 25 June 2015)

Personal Spiritual Growth:
I will continue to do personal study every day. I will study in the morning before I go to class. I will read entirely through and study the Book of Mormon every year.
I will go back to school in January 2016 and then continue until I graduate with my Bachelors degree. I will then go on to get my masters in Occupational Therapy.
I will work smaller side jobs to get me by until I am qualified to work as a pediatric occupational therapist. However, I will do an internship along side to have training and experience.
Dating and Temple Marriage
I will only date men who have the same vision of a temple marriage in mind.
Temple Worship
I will attend the temple regularly, striving for twice a month for the rest of my life.
Sabbath Worship
I will attend church every Sunday and magnify my calling each week. I will ask my bishop for responsibilities in the Ward and do my part to always be a Ward builder.
I will always be taking a religious class at BYU which will be my institute class.
Life Planning for Social Media
I will unfriend those that I do not need to be connected to, and I will hide everyone except close family members and close friends so that I don't see everything in newsfeed. I will not spend any time on my phone in bed at night because that is a terrible habit. I will only log onto Facebook with a purpose. I will only post positive things that lift others up rather than drag them down. 

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