When I was little, I decided that wanted to go out into the world and teach people the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I got older, I made choices that enabled me to learn and grow in the ways that are required to be a Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I studied the Bible and the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I attended Seminary (mostly for the pancakes on Finals days), I didn't do anything too obnoxious, and most importantly; I ate my vegetables before dessert.
So, when I was 18 1/2 I went and talked to my Bishop, the leader of my congregation, and told him that I want to be a full-time Missionary (full-time because every member of my church is expected to be a missionary in their everyday lives). We went through a process that involved him asking questions about my faith and worthiness, physicians threatening to check me for hernias, and visiting a really nice dentist who seemed inexplicably bent on pulling out every last one of my beautiful crooked teeth. After a few months, we determined that I am spiritually and physically ready to spend 730 consecutive 15-hour days walking, biking, or driving around any major city in the world. I had a couple interviews with my Stake President, the leader of half a dozen congregations in my area, and then I sent off my application to Church Headquarters in Salt Lake.
The relationship between calling and volunteering in my church can be easily misunderstood (even amongst our members), so let me explain it: we in the LDS Church refer to God telling us to do something as a "calling". We can be called to teach a lesson or sermon, help someone move, or hold a position of responsibility in our congregation for a time. Our Father knows what we will choose, but we believe we're on this Earth to learn to choose to do good for ourselves. By accepting callings we're not just volunteering to clean the church or collect canned foods, we're proving to ourselves that we can do as God requires. He knows what we're capable of, we just have to figure it out, too.
The Prophet, the leader of my entire Church, has said that every worthy (see: the 10 commandments) young man and woman should serve a full-time mission. God has called (or essentially told) us to bring the world His truth in the latter days (the years leading up to the second coming of our savior Jesus Christ, which we are now in). We believe that it is necessary for every man, woman, and child to hear our message in their own language, and choose to accept or reject it. Thus, I have been called (or told by God) to serve a mission.
I know that the LDS Church is the Kingdom of God on the earth. I know that being a member of the Church has made me happy, secure, and confident in ways that nothing on this planet can. I have chosen to "give up" 2 of the best years of my life to share the knowledge I have of how to be truly and lastingly happy. I (really; my family) have saved up more than $10,000 to pay for my mission, which is pretty good considering it's $400 a month to live anywhere in the world as long as you do what's expected of you. I believe it is necessary for me to give back to the Lord as much as I can, and 2 years is honestly the least I can do. This, I have chosen (or volunteered) to serve a mission.
So; with my bags packed, my face shaved, my hair cut, and a promise not misbehave with women, I'm 3 weeks away from stepping onto flight DL 1831 and flying to Provo, Utah. There, I'll learn how to preach in Cantonese, talk to people without sounding like a moron, and eat as much food as possible in as little time as possible. I'll be living with 3-5 other similarly aged guys for the entire time, none of us allowed to touch women, watch tv, listen to the radio, stay up past 10:30, or sleep in past 6:30. And we're going to love every second of it, the summer monsoons, the winter monsoons, constantly speaking a foreign language, and even the street vendors selling us dog as BBQ pork.
I have been called to do this work, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to have fun doing it. I'll still take fuzzy pictures, write bad poetry, miss baskets from the free-throw line, but yet manage to throw a perfect spiral. I'll still pull dumb pranks on my buddies, do eating challenges, make dumb jokes, and be oblivious to 98% of everything around me. I'm going to laugh, cry, sneeze, yell, beg, and preach my way through the most exciting years of my life, and I hope you stick with it. I won't always be 100% spiritually minded, but I will always do my best to leave you smiling when you finish my post.