Alaska Anchorage Mission Chronicles - Prelude [Reflections]Written by Sebastien Sinclair Dalin
By word of introduction, I have recently returned home from serving a two-year full-time mission in Alaska for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To clarify, I was not paid; I did not get to pick where I went, or when I got there, nor did I get to do a great many things that I would have liked to do with my time. I would now like to share my feelings about my experience, and how my service to others has truly changed my life. I have seen myself grow and change as I carried out my labors, I am not a different person because of my time in Alaska, but I am a better person. I want to share how I got to where I am today with those who may have questions about my time in Alaska, or who have questions about missionaries in general, or even those who have questions about the church.
To begin, I am at heart a child of God, a storyteller, and a gamer. My mission did not remove or add to these aspects, but it shaped and made me into who I am today. I will share a little bit about who I was before, but will not dwell on that subject as it is of little consequence.
I was your average teenage gamer guy – always playing something. I had strong violent opinions that I would post on the internet in the comment section of YouTube or Reddit. I will not apologize for that way, as it is in the past now. I would merely talk of writing, starting a blog, creating things. My ideas were childish and incomplete. My dream had no shape. I was foolish and naïve, my previously mentioned strong opinions were often formed by the words of others.
Now, I am different. I am still a gamer. I still love playing games. I collect a lot more games now than I did then, and I play them a little less often. I am intrigued by the stories and the worlds of games as I was before, but now I can sift through the good and the bad on my own. YouTube is not as frequent of a visit as I had made in the past, I still watch some, but it is all related to my industry and to uplifting messages and stories.
My worldview changed as a result of a set of experiences that I had while serving a mission in Alaska. Let me say this just for the record: missions are hard.
I do not say this lightly. My two years as a missionary were grueling and challenging in every way, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. These were also the two most rewarding years of my existence to date. The value of the experience is far beyond the financial cost of serving, of being away from home for two years – putting my whole life on hold. Regardless of how difficult it was, all of it as a whole was worth it.
The physical effort was to be expected. I received countless advance warnings regarding this. Physical strain was the easiest of the bunch to overcome, as it merely took sleep and some rest to bounce back, and even though there were times when it was more difficult than I had anticipated, rest still came and my physical strength still returned.
Emotionally, it was beyond exhausting. Trying to deal with not only your problems, but those of everyone else simply because you had a nametag and were far from home with a calling that made you somehow responsible enough to deal with all those problems at once was more than exhausting. You had so much responsibility trust upon your shoulders and you still might have had your own emotional problems to deal with, and maybe something was going on at home that also caused distress. Sometimes it was maddening and sometimes infuriating. This was a lot more difficult to overcome, as my usual tried-and-true methods of dealing with stress and anxiety (gaming, reading a fantasy novel, and other such things) were not available to me while I was still a missionary. It was an issue that simply never went away, and I cannot begin to explain with words that I currently know how much relief came over me when I finally realized that I would not have to deal with this level of intense emotional stress once I returned home.
Honestly, I could spend thousands of words to describe all the ways in which the emotional drama of serving a mission was seen as a nigh impossible obstacle to overcome. Nevertheless, even with all the hurt and many hours spent in emotional pain, the growth and experience from it was worth it. Serving others in nearly any way, teaching people about Jesus Christ, and being able to share my love of people with them was worth every ounce of pain, drama, frustration, illness, weakness, and trial that it cost.
From there, mental struggles were minimal at best and disastrous at worst. Sometimes I would go weeks without being able to release my mental creativity and that was probably the second most difficult thing to deal with, which also then fueled all the emotional stress that was going on. For the most part I was able to jot down ideas and create some small simple things. Even so, I was not actually able to sit down, staring at a blank page and with black markings create beautiful vivid stories. However, I am able to do just that to the fullness of my heart’s content now, so that pain while a sacrifice, was short-lived. It was reasonably easy enough to overcome.
Now, I do not mean to complain about my mission, or make you care about my personal struggles. I merely mean to relate my feelings, so you can understand the environment I was in while these changes were happening to my outlook and my desires and how that affects the way I live now.
Spiritually, while being exhausting, the time spent away from home serving those around was actually refreshing and energizing. For the most part I enjoyed this most out of all my other responsibilities. Service was the one task that no matter the day, even if things were rough emotionally, made living apart from those I cared about joyous and worth every tiny molecule of sacrifice. As long as I was serving others my spirt could rejoice and find happiness. This is where the majority of my growth has come from.
I love to help others, and I choose to see the good in people. I give other the benefit of the doubt, even when all others see only the black part of what could be and choose to think the worst of them. I choose to embrace all cultures and people regardless of where they come from, and I choose to be generous to everyone I can be. Being nice instead of rude, and being genuine and happy instead of fake and miserable. I choose how I live my life.
I have gained much knowledge about the world, the way people are, and the gospel. I know that regardless of the hard times and unpleasant memories and feelings I was meant to go the great Last Frontier and to serve the Lord and his children there for a while. I have completed that chapter of my life and I have returned to apply what I have to become the best version of me that I can be. I hope that you will enjoy this journey you will take with me.
Over the course of the next year, I will recount my experiences, and will share how I grew from each chapter of my mission. I will be revisiting each of my weekly letters home, grouping them by section and then posting each as a chapter of the full chronicle of my mission. The purpose of this series is not to convince or coerce anyone to believe anything; nor is too make anyone feel anything for me. I am merely sharing my personal feelings and experiences that have shaped how I view the world.
Latest from Sebastien Sinclair Dalin
Friday, 05 May 2017 20:54
posted by Marisa Munson
I love how you relay your message...
The imagery in this line is incredible: " Even so, I was not actually able to sit down, staring at a blank page and with black markings create beautiful vivid stories"
And I am so happy you are one to look for the goos in others. I feel that we all have good within us... whether it is clearly visible or hidden behind a wall. :)
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