At age 21 my mother and some of her family moved from their home in Vietnam to the good ol' USA. Then she experienced a typical American love story... My father who was serving his mission in Atlanta, Georgia met my mother. Missionary meets girl on mission...missionary returns home from mission and marries said girl...happily ever after. Wait, that's not a typical American love story is it? Regardless, it's a good one. Don't ask me the details because I don't know any. So now this white guy from Utah that doesn't speak Vietnamese is married to a little Vietnamese girl that can't speak English. Ahhhhh looooooove. Apparently it makes people do ridiculous stuff. So mom learns English from dad, dad learns Vietnamese from mom. Two thumbs up for communication!
They were living in Georgia and my dad helped form an LDS Vietnamese branch. My two younger siblings and I come along, and this is the branch we attend. Then we move to Utah when I'm six. Honestly, I don't know much about our time living in Georgia. Trying to get stories about our time there is like trying to talk to someone is Guatemala using one of those can string things. You know, those things children make out of yarn and old cans. Point I'm trying to make is those stories are like ancient history.
Fast forward to me being 12. I imagine there was a conversation that went something like this:
"Don't you think it'll be such a great idea for Emily to go live in Vietnam for a summer and live with her aunt that she has only met once before? It will be a great way for her to learn Vietnamese."
"Oh yes, that is a wonderful idea, honey. Let's send off our weird daughter to this foreign country."
I do not recall agreeing to any of this; although, I'm sure I did. What was my thought process though? "Parents want me to live without them for a summer in Vietnam! This will be like when Lindsay Lohan went to summer camp in The Parent Trap." Nope. Not like that at all...
I don't recall preparing to leave, or even flying there. What I do remember is hugging my mom for literally an hour or so before she boarded her train to Saigon to go to the airport and go back home. And there I was. In Vietnam. Feeling alone. Emily = no Vietnamese. "Không biết nói tiếng việt."
That was indeed an interesting summer. I woke up in the mornings and studied for an hour, but refused to learn to read and write, I only wanted to be able to speak. Then sit the rest of the day and watch BBC or choose a movie from the extremely large collection of pirated films I had purchased for only 75 cents each. Seriously though, things were really tough sometimes, I loved Vietnam, but it was really difficult being without my family. So over the summer I learned a decent amount of Vietnamese...but when I came home to America I was so English deprived I refused to speak Vietnamese and forgot it all. Fabulous, right? Ultimately, I loved my time in Vietnam. I love that country with all my heart, it's my favorite place on earth.
Zoom past my awkward freshman and sophomore year to when I was 16 or 17. I began visiting the Vietnamese family I had living in Georgia. They all speak Vietnamese and I'm the white-washed, half Vietnamese girl who only remembers how to say things like "không đói bụng" (I'm not hungry). Well, I wasn't too fond of feeling like an idiot, so I tried to remember some of the Vietnamese I had learned back in my 12 year old glory days. That was a failed attempt.
Eighteen years old rolls along, and I'm off to college at Southern Virginia University. Because the school "Embraces LDS values" missions are the go-to topic. Aaaaaaaaall the time I had people asking me if I planned on serving a mission. (This was pre-announcement) I mean, serving would be amazing, but I had no idea what my life would be like when I was 21. C'mon, we all know that if you're running on Mormon Standard Time you'll probably be married by the time you're 21.
So I was asked to give a talk in my YSA ward...can you say disaster? Not kidding at all, my talk was awful. I think my entire ramble went on for about two minutes from the pulpit, and while I was up there I even apologized to the bishopric for not speaking the allotted seven minutes. And even though I had just humiliated myself, after sitting back down, I felt like a mission was something that I NEEDED to do. The Spirit I felt prompting me to serve was overwhelming. But why would I have this feeling to go out and talk to random people about Jesus, when I can't even put together a descent talk? Well, I put the thought off because serving was at least three years in the future.
Highlight reel: Then, on October 6, 2012, THE announcement was made!! It was announced that young men would now be able to serve at age 18; and before my favorite man, President Monson, even actually said anything regarding the young women, I knew he had a message for us. There was no way the men's age would get lowered and not women's. And then he said it, the few simple lines that would change my life. President Monson announced that young women would be able to serve missions at age 19! Right when I heard him say "nineteen" I started crying a river all over my dorm room. Like I could have filled a swimming pool with all of my tears. I immediately knew this was exactly what I was going to do. I was going to serve a full time mission for the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints! Saaaaaa-weeeet! And from that moment on, there was no turning back. I was completely committed to preparing to serve our Heavenly Father.
So the next go-to question at SVU, "Where do you want to get called?" That's easy, Vietnam! My mom's from there, I slightly/barely know the language, and that would just be freakin' sweet! Unfortunately, when I answered that I wanted to go to Vietnam, I had to follow up by saying "but there's not a mission in Vietnam. So I hope they open the country to proselyting missionaries before I turn in my papers." I probably had to repeat that a hundred times, and sometimes it would make me sad knowing there was a chance I would not go there, and other times it made me feel optimistic and hopeful that a mission would be created there.
Over seven months passed, and I was finally able to turn in my papers. (You can't turn them in until 120 days before your availability date.) Once I had my papers turned in there wasn't a mission in Vietnam, so I was just hoping that I would get called to a Vietnamese speaking mission.
April 26, 2013 was another amazing day to add to my highlight reel. My mission call was sent to my family in Utah, so with mission call in hand they came to Virginia. I went to my families hotel room to visit, and because I thought it would be funny, I decided to open the call in the hotel room even though I was supposed to open it the next day with tons of friends and family. In that small hotel room I opened my mission call with just my family and two friends.
"Dear Sister Egelund,
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Cambodia, Phnom Penh Mission."
Here's a geography lesson for you: CAMBODIA IS RIGHT NEXT TO VIETNAM
I didn't even get to finish reading my call before my family was shouting with excitement and my dad took the call from my hands. It wasn't until a couple minutes later that we saw that I would "preach the gospel in the Vietnamese language"! And the mission covers both Cambodia and Vietnam! This was not real life! There was no way that I was assigned to go to the place I wanted to go!
It was perfect. Heavenly Father had heard all my prayers to go to Vietnam, He had heard me constantly talking about it, He knew that I use to stay up at night and imagine myself opening my mission call to Vietnam. He knew, and knows everything about me. In that moment, life was perfect.
Doctrine and Covenants 87:8 says, "Stand ye in holy places..." A holy place isn't necessarily always a physical place. I holy place can be a moment in time. That night in the Comfort Inn, opening my mission call with six extremely important people in my life, that was my holy moment. At that moment I felt The Spirit stronger than I ever had before. I knew without a doubt of our Heavenly Father's love. I will never be able to deny His love for us, because at that moment I could feel His true, pure love.
And now here I am, in just five weeks I will be a missionary working on behalf of Jesus Christ. I cannot even describe my excitement! I understand that this will be a very difficult experience, but I know "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."