Last week the stake president met with my parents and myself. Knowing how badly I desired to be a proselytizing missionary, he has been working without rest to help me reach that dream while still avoiding doing anything that would give me pain with the EDS.
It’s been a miracle. I thought I would have to stay at home and occasionally go with the missionaries to teach, but this is an almost complete fulfilment of the dream I’ve held for as long as I can remember. We’ll be going transfer by transfer (which are six weeks), testing how well I do. I’ll have a wheelchair, but mostly I’ll be doing what my companions do. I get to teach, proselytize, and work with the sisters to bring others to Christ. If it becomes too much, I get to go home for a transfer then go right back out again. We’re shooting for six months, but I’ll try to go the full eighteen.
There have been so many angels in this process. Angel #1 is President Williams, who hasn’t stopped fighting for me. President Sweeney, Bishop Kai, my parents … it’s been amazing beyond words. And as I went to be set apart as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I saw a couple I’ve known for a while sitting in the foyer. They have been my “adopted parents” when my own weren’t able to come to Gospel Doctrine class, sandwiching me between them and smiling, laughing and learning with me. Their appointment was before mine, then as the bishop came to fetch us, he gave my mom a big hug and whispered something in her ear, seeming very moved. The couple were in the room and the bishop and the husband set me apart. They were so excited and the lady kept hugging me. My mom later told me that they offered to pay for the entirety of my mission. I’m telling you: angels. Those God has sent into my path to help me fulfil this dream and bring others unto Him.
Unfortunately my father wasn’t able to be there (we’re trying to sell the house so we can move down to the city and join him) so we Skyped with him — he was dubbed the “electronic father” and “digital dad.” (My older sisters weren’t there, either — they don’t even live in my state and it’s really hard). When President Williams presented the idea that would allow me to go like this, my father started crying, he was so touched and happy. The Gospel means most to us. The Lord is everything. And everyone knows how much I want to go and serve Him. Even my best friend, who isn’t a member of the Church and so hasn’t grown up with the understanding of LDS missions, is such a support. It’s really hurting her, but she loves the Lord as much as I do and understands why I need to go. For us, He comes first.
I need to talk a little more about President Williams. Last Sunday when he called us in and told us what we could do and I immediately agreed, he then resolved to do everything he could to contact the mission president and have him come for another interview after church. Together they’re sending me off, working so hard to help me do this. I feel like Heavenly Father has just opened the floodgates to the blessings. I know it’s all pretty sudden, but I was given the option of going during this transfer or waiting until the next. I don’t wait, so it wasn’t even an option for me to hesitate.
I have the most amazing group of friends anyone could ever ask for. I’m going to miss them like crazy, but they love the Lord as much as I do and their love and support means so much to me. I’m excited to see how they grow as writers and as people while I’m gone, and I really hope Mirriam takes care of my baby Odd-Eyes. And Ice. If anything happens to him, Mirri, I might have to kill you. And Apollo had better wait for me — I’ll be his missionary then I will come back and love him forever and make pretty half-Korean quarter-Bolivian babies that he can chase after.
My family is the greatest blessing in my life after God. Despite our rather teasing, emotionless way of showing affection, I know they’re going to miss me and they’re the ones that, at night, I’ll be yearning for. Every day is an adventure with them, and I can’t wait to come home and continue that. And my baby sister is waiting for her call — so we’ll have two missionaries out! Kerri, if you go to Africa, I will laugh so hard I’ll need to be hospitalized.
My ward family swarmed around me today, showering me with hope and love. Guys, I’ll miss you and look forward to seeing you again. Brother Stepp asked me to sing (okay, he told me a couple weeks ago exactly what I was singing so I didn’t have a choice) and the bishop allowed me to sing I Know That My Redeemer Lives today, even if nothing had been planned in advance. Brother Vest, who is a WWII veteran and in his 90s told my mother that he had never heard the song so heartfelt before. I have a very difficult time singing in church because I get so wrapped up in the physical — is my diaphragm in place, is my throat open, oh, no, I missed that note — and the attention that it’s been known to become a performance rather than a song of worship. But my dear friend Shelby gave me a tip: pray that the congregation and yourself will feel the Spirit as God wants them to. It worked. I felt every word and I hope was able to bring something good to the meeting. Something I felt inspired to do was change many of the ‘I’s and ‘me’s to ‘ours’ and ‘we’s. I pray I helped someone through the music and my voice. (Thank you, Mama, for the vocal genes).
There’s so much more I could go into — but I’ll leave it at that. I may be home at intervals, but let’s hope I’m not back for a year and a half. I want to serve for as long as I can and with my full capacity, even if that capacity is less than others with healthy bodies. I have God on my side and whatever gets thrown at me, that’s why I’m out there. I’m out there for Him and to bring joy to those around me.
Love you guys!
Sister Ana Pinto-Haynes