Monday, January 05, 2009


date: dec. 30, 2008

evidently a lot of noteworthy things happened in my life ten years ago, because i've been commemorating events lately.
it was ten years ago today that i went into the missionary training center,  called to the japan kobe mission.

i've never talked a whole lot about my mission.  mostly, i didn't want to be another byu student continually talking about his mission and how wonderful it was.

but, similar to one of laurie jayne's recent posts, i'm going to break the silence.
this has proven to be one of the hardest posts i've even written.  nothing has come out right.  perhaps the hardest reason to talk about a mission is that it can so quickly become cliche: "i grew so much;" "my mission president was amazing;" "i wasn't prepared for what i was getting into." anyone could say that.
i'm going to say what i want; they are my own words and not of anyone else.

i learned a lot things in japan.  skills across the entire spectrum.  learning to live on my own, to wisely buy groceries for myself, and how to actually cook some things.  i biked more than i even had, so much that my legs hurt for the first few months.  certainly i learned how to speak and read japanese, but that seems so narrow when compared with all other skills.  being placed around all sorts of people very different from the circle i grew up with, and learning how to work with them.  i learned to responsible, honest, and to value integrity.  i saw wonders of the world, and learned met people and friends from all over the globe.

in the mtc, we were once asked to write down all the things that we were grateful for.  i listed my friends, my family, my car, my cds.  i wasn't being materialistic; rather, i was trying to be grateful for what i did have.  the speaker then helped us review our list.  did we list our families?  yes.  the church, the priesthood?  i think i listed those.  Jesus Christ?  His name was on my jacket, but not my list.
that exemplifies how i grew most during those two years.  never again would i make that mistake, and not for fear of a social faux pas.  i had always held a testimony of the gospel and been active in church.  i went on a mission because it was the right thing do.  that's a good reason to go, but i came home with a much deeper understanding of it all.  the scores of bricks that made up my conviction of its verity were now cemented together.  i began to understand and really love the scriptures.  i was aware of what the gift of the Holy Ghost could do for me and how important that is.  and i held in much more hallowed reverence the Name of Jesus Christ and a solemn gratitude for what He did, with an active desire to keep following Him.

during a personal interview, a teacher described a serving a mission like tempering steel: people will look at you and remark that you're still the same person, but you know that you've changed.  walking through the byu bookstore a year or two later, i found myself thinking about something, and realized that i learned it on my mission.  it was something mundane, like how to shop for groceries or learning to read a map when you're trying to find an address in a big city (or old country village, for that matter); i don't remember what it was, but it was something i learned as a missionary in japan.  and i remembered how i once kept a bottle of bleach under my bed.  it only fit on its side, and despite the cap being tight, some had leaked out, which we didn't discover until the chris rearranged the furniture.  part of the spot had been turned white, but there was a hole where the bleach had eaten away entirely.  it didn't happen all at once; it continued to react with the carpet long after i'd stored the bottle somewhere else.  such is that black name tag.  
an elder in my mtc district came from a family long in the Chruch. as i commented on how cool it was to be carrying on the family legacy, he saw the glory of my situation, of being the first person to wear the "elder gustafson" badge.


Jack said...

i don't know how to word this, so i'll just try. i loved this post and the deleted scenes. your writing took me back in time and not only to japan, but to d.c. thanks for the insight into a rarely seen part of Jeff:)

Becky said...

I like the bleach analogy--you told it to me before, but I like it again