There was so much work to do to get ready. As part of the application process I started last summer, I began the slew of dental, medical, and ecclesiastical appointments. Getting my wisdom teeth out was the worst of those appointments :-(
In November 2015 after I received my assignment, I started the legal process of going on a mission (passport, application for a Visa) and starting to get immunizations (yuck). There was also much work to do in terms of just figuring the process of preparation out, making sure that things were done in timely fashion. I had an online profile to set up, training videos to view. I was part of a missionary pilot program (i.e. not every pre-missionary receives this extra training at this time), wherein several returned missionaries worked with me on morale as well as training me on simple Japanese - such as learning to pray in Japanese. I took two years of Japanese in high school, but considering that a person of any language needs to know probably around 10,000 words to be completely fluent comparable to a native speaker., and that would be, knowing how to use those words in proper context of grammar and colloquial expression...two years of high school Japanese was just prep-time, not fluency. I received this extra training with returned missionaries up to week before I entered the training center. I also repeated the class, Preach My Gospel/Missionary Preparation over at the local community college this past Fall, to help me get familiar with the gospel concepts which I will be teaching to the people of Japan.
As this training continued into December and January, I also continued with my daily things -- a full-time job at NPS, which I needed to help pay for my missionary wardrobe, and I also increased my physical activity by getting a temporary membership at VASA Fitness. I continued with my prayer and scripture studies.
Some people do not realize, but when a person makes the decision to go on a mission, life becomes harder. Most of this is inner difficulty. The decision to go on a mission takes on a new dimension of realness. A person begins to further question one's ability to do a good job as a missionary, asking oneself also, am I ready to take this on and be away from family and friends for so many months? Then there are temptations to indulge in negative thinking, or to be distracted by the usual things that young people do, even just wasting time, or blowing the healthy eating plan just after working out. Relationships with family and friends go through a painful process of saying goodbye. Unresolved issues come to the forefront the closer departure time comes, unexpected money issues can pop up.
God is real, but so is the Devil. No, I don't think the devil runs around 24/7 in some silly red suit with a pitchfork (those are just symbols of his intent to destroy us), but he does afflict us in anyway that he can. Sometimes family or close friends will have increased problems, things that show than an opposition is in place trying to prevent the missionary from going to preach the message of Christ. This affected me even up to the day I left. Things require my best efforts to resolve, and the rest has to be left up to faith that God will help resolve the rest that I can't do myself. I have walked into mission life today, with the faith that God will not just bless and protect me, but bless my loved ones back home, while I am away.
My next blog I will introduce you to life at the Missionary Training Center (hereafter referred to, as the MTC).