Overcoming Pre-Mission Fear

October 6, 2012 was a day that completely changed missionary work in the LDS Church, because this announcement was made --

It may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people. Sooo boys can leave a year earlier, girls can leave two years earlier ... what's the big deal? Well, the numbers show that it WAS a big deal, because during the first few weeks after the announcement was made, "the number of new missionary applications surged by 471 percent, from about 700 new applications per week to about 4,000 each week, with young women comprising more than half of the new applicants." In just one year, the total number of full time missionaries serving for the Church increased from 58,500 to 80,333. Young men and women were reinvigorated with the desire to serve. There's an excitement associated with missionary work now that I don't think was as strong 3 years ago. 

I was four months from turning 17 that October, and the missionary age change FREAKED. ME. OUT.

I think most girls my age were probably jumping for joy, but not me -- I was terrifed. I've always been a planner. I like to know exactly what I'm going to do before I do it. I'd wanted to serve a mission since I was little. My goal was that after high school, I would go to college and get a degree, then go on a mission. That was the plan. After the announcement, everything I'd been so sure of was suddenly not so sure. My future was now completely uncertain, and that terrified me.

I remember my bishop asking me what I thought of the missionary age change the next week at Church, and me telling him, "I'm not so sure..." He was surprised that I wasn't completely excited about it, and I remember thinking "It's not that simple ..." It might seem kind of ridiculous that it affected me so much. (And maybe I overreacted a little ...) But I think the real reason I was so affected is because it made me realize how soon I could serve a mission. It suddenly seemed more real, more impending, not something that I always attributed to happening years down the road. And being the over-thinker that I am, all I could think about was the scary aspects of serving a mission. I was forgetting about how rewarding and wonderful missions are supposed to be.

After the announcement, I started praying earnestly whether or not it was God's will for me to serve a mission. The answer didn't come all at once like I hoped it would.

Should I Serve?

Since then, I've had many experiences that, in hindsight, I think were ways Heavenly Father helped me become more open to the idea of serving at 19. I was lucky enough to have my older brother leave for a mission in March 2013, and I got caught up in the excitement of missionary work. I realized how rewarding missions can be, and I regained that desire to serve.

But my fears were still there. Over the next two years, I flip-flopped back and forth between being totally dedicated to serving, and being unsure that I could do it. In the worst times, I would sometimes tell myself that maybe I would be better off just staying home. I wasn't strong enough to serve, and girls don't have to serve anyways, right?

Deep in my heart, I knew this wasn't true. Even though I wasn't 100% sold on the idea to serve a mission, I decided to prepare for one anyway. I started attending mission prep in April 2014, and it was one of the best decisions I could have made. There have been times when I've doubted, and mission prep on Sunday nights brought me such clarity and desire to serve.

A few months before I turned 19, I really wanted to KNOW if a mission was right for me. And then a question came to mind: What's holding you back?

I realized that what kept me from being totally committed to serving a mission was my fear. I was scared of being away from my family for 18 months, of meeting and living with people I've never met, of putting myself out of my comfort zone, of rejection, of persecution, of a new culture, of possibly learning a new language ... all of these things had been running through my mind, and I wondered if it meant the answer was no. I shouldn't serve a mission.

But then I found this scripture.
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." -2 Timothy 1:7
I realized that this fear was not my answer from God! God has not given us the spirit of fear! Satan is responsible for these fears. Why would Satan be planting these doubts in my mind unless he was trying to prevent me from accomplishing something BIG ... for doing GREAT things.

After this revelation, I spent a lot of time studying the scriptures looking for ways to conquer this fear. I came to realize that what conquers fear is faith in the Lord.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" -Psalms 27:1
Just as darkness cannot exist with light, fear cannot exist with faith.