Most of my patriarchal blessing talks about my being a missionary. It gives me every blessing a missionary would ever want, and being a missionary was the only thing I wanted to do when I grew up.
That may be why my biggest fear growing up was that America would go to war, I would get drafted, and I wouldn't be able to go on a mission. I'm not kidding - I would pray almost every night that the conflicts of the Middle East wouldn't escalate into global war.
When my mission call came while a sophomore at BYU, I picked it up from the mail room, went to my dorm, and quietly opened it. Alone. Just me and God. No fanfare or pictures or Skyping people across the globe. Then, after I finished reading it for myself, I called my parents. (Ironic: They didn't realize that I had already opened it when I called until about a year ago.)
I was called to serve a mission in Rome, Italy. I had studied German, French, Spanish, American Sign Language, Arabic, and Hebrew... and I got called to learn Italian. And it was beyond amazing. The fact that I had studied languages meant that I could trade real estate in my brain for Italian. I lost most of my other languages, but picked up Italian fast. And I ultimately had the opportunity to use every language I had studied as a missionary - teaching a woman from Israel in Hebrew or translating for members into Linguaggio Italiano dei Segni (Italian Sign).
My mission changed and set the stage for the rest of my life. It was the first time I had ever really lived with someone, and I'm sure I gave all my companions grief. But I had the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with God, to dedicate my life to Him completely, and together we saw countless miracles. People told most of us that Italy would be hard, and that we might not even see one baptism... and yet in every area the Lord had prepared people for us to teach.
Yeah, there were some hiccups - like getting robbed at gunpoint my first week, and experiencing emergency rooms firsthand in downtown Naples - but I learned to love people absolutely and completely. When you've taught professional assassins for the mob and intervened in the firefights of heated family feuds, and learned to love them and their families, no one else really seems all that daunting. You can love absolutely everyone. And no threat or objection really seems to matter.
Life since the mission has only gotten better... and my opportunities for missionary work have only increased. Once a missionary, always a missionary. That's why I blog - to share the gospel. It colors my scripture study and is a part of my prayers. And the results have been just as miraculous as before. Except that instead of stopping people while singing in Piazza della Signoria or buzzing the citofono for a high-rise palazzo, the interactions happen here - online. Or in the hallways of a chapel or the confines of an office.
Transfers are different, the medium is different, but the message is the same. Once a missionary, always a missionary.