I want to be like my brother Nephi of old, and write the things of my soul. I remember when I got my mission call. It was 2 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving on a frigid night in Rexburg. I had just taken a 4 hour shuttle with no heat, and was exhausted from traveling all day. That morning, I had been sitting in the San Fransisco airport when my roommate calls to tell me that my mission call finally had come. Woo Hoo!!!! It had taken 7 weeks. My 7 week roller coaster of emotion had finally come to an end; my call had come. I was anxious to hear where I would be serving. I had in my mind some far off destination like the jungles of Brazil, or the city streets of Paris, but I told myself that I would be happy no matter where I was called to labor.
I get home, call my Mom and open my call. I didn't even pause to read the line, "Dear Sister Buchanan, you have been called..." My eyes searched the first paragraph until I found what I was looking for- the destination. My heart dropped when I read Montana Billings Mission.
"What?!" I said into the phone. My mother was desperate to hear where I was going. I began to cry. "Montana?" She tried to console me, but I was so disappointed, and a little bit mad. How could this happen? I was convinced that there had been some sort of mistake. You know how everyone says that when they get their call and they read where they are going the spirit overcomes them, and they "just know" that that is where they are supposed to serve? Yeah, that didn't happen. I hung up the phone, and went to bed filled with despair at my horrific fate.
The next morning I woke up, and got on my knees. I was still furious, but it never crossed my mind not to fulfill my call to Montana, so I plead with the Lord to soften my heart. Over the next few months, people would ask me where I was going to serve. I would timidly reply each time, "Billings, Montana..." They would smirk a little, but offer their congratulations. This did little to ease my troubled heart.
You know how everyone says that once they get to the Missionary Training Center where all new missionaries learn the ropes, they suddenly realize that they needed to go to wherever they were called to? Yeah, that didn't happen either. In fact, the closer it got to me actually leaving to Montana, the more fearful I became. Of what, I couldn't tell you. All I knew is that I didn't want to come to Montana.
The airplane ride from Salt Lake City to Billings was stressful. I flew into Montana on March 3, 2010. Once we started our descent, I looked out the window, and all I saw was ugly. It looked dead, cold, and barren. I didn't want to hate my mission though, and prayed that it would all be okay. Immediately, the thought came to my mind of the potential the area had. It could be beautiful, and I bet I could love it. I decided right then and there to love everything about Montana, and about my mission. That experience changed the outcome of my service here in Montana.
By deciding to love it, I couldn't dislike it. That decision has come in handy on days where the windchill is -30; days when we tract for 4 hours; days when door after door is slammed in your face, and appointment after appointment is canceled, and you and your companion are still stuck outside in the snow. I can honestly say that I have loved every minute of my mission.
This is the power of of choices. God has given us the gift of agency, or freedom of choice. We can choose to be happy, or to be miserable. The same goes for how we keep the commandments. We can choose ahead of time to attend church each Sunday, live morally clean, serve others, and put God first. Then, when challenges come we will not deviate. I can't not love Montana, because I've already chosen to leave a part of my heart here.
In the Book of Mormon, Jacob, Nephi's brother teaches about the blessings of agency. "Cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves- to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life." (2 Nephi 10:23) Let us choose to be happy, and choose the path of discipleship as set forth by our Savior, Jesus Christ.