When I found out that I was going to be serving in Brooklyn for the last three months of my mission, I was beyond excited. I wanted to end the mission in the city, as I had spent the last nine months or so in upstate New York and Connecticut. By the time I got to our little apartment in South Brooklyn, I was shocked. I was expecting the loud, crowded, bustling subways of North Brooklyn, where many of the tourist attractions are located in the borough. With sparse public transportation and streets, what I got almost felt like the boonies of New York City.
The missionary work also proved to be more difficult than I was used to. At first it seemed as though there weren’t any hispanic people at all, just Chinese, Itallians, and Russians. It was frustrating to feel as though at times we couldn’t even find anyone who spoke English or Spanish, let alone find anyone who was interested in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The difficult circumstances were slowly chipping away at my morale.
We weren’t the only missionaries in Brooklyn who were struggling. I was serving as one of the missionary leaders my time there, so I had others to worry about as well. Our mission President asked us to figure out what we could do to help the missionaries improve the work they were doing. One of the ideas we implemented was called the Reason Why initiative. We invited all the missionaries in Brooklyn and Staten Island to ponder the reasons that they were missionaries. Why they decided to come out and volunteer 18-24 months of their lives, what were their reasons for staying out in the moment, and what they wanted their reasons to be. Every day for two weeks, a couple of missionaries shared one of their reasons with the other missionaries, and at the end we compiled a video of all the reasons why.
Over the coming weeks, we slowly saw more and more little miracles. The initiative was a part in helping the missionaries improve the way they were working, but I think the biggest impact I saw was the one that it had on me personally. 16 months into my 18 month mission, I was surprised when I was honest with myself what the reasons for me being on the mission still were at that point. Was I really out here sometimes because it was easier than going home? Was the only motivation and energy I had inertia from the past several months? I felt a desire to change and have a higher purpose. I wanted to be here because I was exactly where I was supposed to be, because I was on the Lord’s errand.
Once I had that in my mind, it was easier to get excited about missionary work, and a little easier to share with every opportunity I received. It didn’t matter as much that South Brooklyn didn’t meet my North Brooklyn expectations, because I really was called to serve a mission, no matter where that was. When I found out that I was going to New York City on my mission, I knew that was exactly where I was supposed to be. Why would being in South Brooklyn be any different from that? The people here need the Gospel just as much as anywhere else, even if it was a little bit harder to find the people. I was happy to be there, when it came down to it, and I wanted the other missionaries to feel that as well.
Soon enough though, my time in New York City as a missionary came to a close. Coming home from my mission in the thick of COVID-19 put a dent in many of my plans for going home and getting right back into things. I had crafted most of my goals to be social related- something I that hasn’t been at the top of my list for quite some time. Now that my top social goal is social distancing as much as possible, I kind of lost purpose in everything else.
If South Brooklyn taught me anything though, it would be if I was feeling down and unmotivated, I was going to have to figure out what my reason why is. This blog is one of my reasons right now, and I decided that I want the reasons for my blog to be my kids.Not only for the children that I hope to raise one day, but also for the student that I hope to teach one day. Thinking of you helps me put my own life more into perspective, and helps me to be happier on a day to day basis. We’ll save journaling and recording for another day, but I know that as we make our experiences meaningful and sacred by writing them down or remembering in some way, it will make our lives all the much more meaningful and sacred.
I hope you know that I already love you all so much, and I hope that these articles and letters will be a help to you. Every post is a piece of me and my time, a little sacrifice that brings me closer to you. I hope that I can remember that and keep it going for you.