Last September I received my mission call with news that I would be serving in Florida, Tallahassee, a "stateside" mission. Upon initial response I was so excited and honored to even have a call in my hands and a place known that Heavenly Father wanted to send me to. As the weeks passed I became somewhat apprehensive and even a little bit embarrassed that I wasn't going to a foreign mission. This increased the disappointment for my mission assignment, but did not waver my decision to serve my Savior.
From the moment I entered the MTC I believed that I needed to be in this mission because of the companions I've had the honor to serve with, this was only the tip of the iceberg. In my first assigned area, Fort Walton Beach 2nd Ward, the Eglin Military Air Force Base was just outside the city limits. Many of the individuals we worked with had strong ties to the military and most of them were veterans themselves. I grew up with two grandfathers who were vets, and serving with the military so close deepened my appreciation for the men and women who defend our freedoms. A month ago I was transferred to my second area, the Marianna Ward in Jackson county. The miracle it has been to serve in Marianna has completely changed who I am and my vision of serving the Lord as a missionary in the United States of America.
The United States gained it's independence and was preserved as a nation by the grace of our Almighty King. In small town America, I have understood what this country means to God....
Last Wednesday night I sat on the front porch and of a black woman's home. She works a full-time job, while raising her two kids, and being a football coach- Brandi believes in God. I sat across from her as mosquitoes buzzed around us, and sweat gathered on the back of our necks. This quiet neighborhood seemed completely still as we testified to her of Joseph Smith's first vision. The spirit that engulfed the three of us that evening was unlike anything I've ever experienced. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. I know that this is Christ's church back on the Earth. The spirit pounded in my heart and tears streamed down our faces as we shared with our sister her divine destiny. Reflecting on this moment in my mission seemed to make everything about my mission call clear. I finally understood through the testifying power of the spirit that this is God's chosen country. He provided this land to lay the foundation for the restoration of the gospel. This is a choice land above all other lands. Stateside missionaries are here fortifying the homeland to ensure that we can continue to be a standard for all nations. High on the mountain top our banner is unfurled, nations now look up, it waves to all the world. I am a soldier in God's army, an American Soldier, beside my brothers and my sisters, and I am proud to be an American.
Last June I went to Disneyland with my family. (: As the 10 of us adults and baby Daniel rode through the "It's a Small World" boat ride, I saw a preview of God's plan for His children. Throughout the ride all different cultures that Disney has represented through it's films are shown but when you come to the final room of the ride, all the characters are wearing white and the whole room is lit up. America is the standard for the nations, we are the light of the world, but this light will shine brighter and brighter until the perfect day, when all nations, kindreds, and tongues, will unite and declare with one voice, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last." Because of the Savior of the world who is Jesus Christ, we will finally be free from all bondage. I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior. I know that He is the light and the life of this world. I know that this country is a special and holy land. His love does not discriminate between the sinner and the saint. He is perfect, and he's calling our names to join with him and rejoice in the freedom that did not come free. As brothers and sisters, we are one nation under God.
"As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free. His truth is marching on."
-sister P E T E R S E N