Joey’s Mission Farewell Talk
July 12, 2015
Good afternoon brothers and sisters, friends and family! Well…. this is it. Four months ago, I received the call to serve as a missionary in the Taiwan Taipei Mission speaking Mandarin Chinese and now the time has come to answer that call. Soon I will be set apart as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will leave for the Missionary Training Center on July 22 and my two year adventure in Taiwan begins.
Thinking back on the day that I received my call in the mail I don't remember exactly what I said as I held the white envelope in my trembling hands, but I do remember what I was feeling. At first, it was nervousness as I stared at the envelope… Questions came up in my mind - Would I be disappointed with my call? Would it feel right? Was this really what I was supposed to be doing with my life? What if I had gotten the wrong answer to serve when I had prayed and this wasn't what the Lord wanted me to be doing at this time?
But then I read aloud the familiar first words of every mission call: "Dear Elder Coletti, You have been called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." It was at that very moment that I felt an overwhelming sense of just absolute gratitude. I knew right then that the answer to my prayer had been correct, that this is what I am supposed to be doing with my life at this time. The gratitude I felt that day is something I don't think I could ever forget. I felt so grateful that I had been found worthy to have and accept this opportunity to serve God and His children. This was the right thing for me to do. This was an essential step for me in my eternal progression. After reading those words, it didn't matter what was in the next line about where I would be serving, a question that had occupied my mind a lot in the few weeks beforehand. I was going to serve the Lord where He needed me the most. And I would be happy to go anywhere to serve Him.
One of the questions that I have gotten asked a lot as I tell people of my choice to serve is this - Why did you decide to serve a mission? This question ties in perfectly with the topic I have been assigned to talk on today: “My Family Legacy”. From the time I was a little boy, I have wanted to serve a mission. My Dad was converted by missionaries when he was 20 and he is the only member of the church in his family. I know the reason that I have been blessed being brought up in the gospel is because of the missionaries that taught my Dad. I have often times thought that if the missionaries had not found my dad and if my dad had not listened to the missionaries, would I be here today? Missionaries hold a very special and tender spot in my Dad’s heart.
My Grandpa /my mom’s Dad is from Australia. He had run away from home when he was 15 and was living in a card board box in an olive grove in Adelaide, Australia. The missionaries found him there and taught him. My Grandpa joined the church because 2 young men left their homes for two years and accepted the call to serve in Australia and found him. My Grandma/my mom’s mother answered her apartment door one day and there stood two missionaries. They taught her and she joined the church as well. My family is full of conversion stories all come to pass by the efforts of missionary work. My Dad, my Grandpa and my Grandma joining the church as a result of missionary work completely changed the legacy of our family. Generations to come will forever be changed because of missionary work.
So, Why do I want to serve a mission?
First of all, what is a missionary? We toss the term “Missionary” around a lot. So what does that mean? Well in Preach My Gospel it says that a missionary is someone who “Invites others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” For me, personally, I like this statement: “A missionary is someone who leaves their family for a short time …. so others can be with their families for eternity.”
I recently read a story about an event that took place in a ward in Salt Lake City in 1974. It occurred during a sacrament meeting. A young man, just before leaving on his mission was giving his farewell talk and bore in essence the following testimony:
Brothers and Sisters, as you know, the past two weeks I've been waiting for my mission call. During the time I was waiting I had a dream. I knew it was not an ordinary dream. I dreamed I was in the pre-existence and awaiting my call to come to earth. I was filled with the same anticipation and excitement that I had before I received my mission call. In my dream I was talking to a friend, and I felt a special closeness to him, even though I've never met him in this life. As we talked a messenger came and gave me a letter. I knew it was my call to go to earth. In great excitement my friend and I opened the letter. I gave it to him and asked him to read it aloud. It said: "You've been called to earth in a special time and to a special land. You will be born to the true church and you will have the priesthood of God in your home. You will be born into a land of plenty, in a land of freedom. You will go to earth in the United States of America."
My friend and I rejoiced as we read my call, and while we were rejoicing the messenger returned. This time he had a letter for my friend. We knew it was his call to earth. My friend gave me the letter to read aloud. His letter said: "You've been called to go to the earth in circumstances of poverty and strife. You will not be raised in the true church. Many hardships will attend your life. Your land will be fraught with political and social difficulties - which will hinder the work of the Lord. You will be born in Costa Rica."
We wept, my friend and I, as we read his call. My friend looked at me with tears in his eyes, and said, "When we are down on earth, you in your choice land and me in Costa Rica, my friend, please come and find me."
Then this young missionary, with tears in his eyes, said, "Brothers and Sisters, I have received my mission call. I am going to Costa Rica."
About a year after the sacrament meeting, the bishop received a letter from the missionary in Costa Rica. The letter had one sheet of paper in it and on that sheet written in capital letters were four words: I FOUND MY FRIEND.
I have thought about this story as I have been preparing to serve my mission. During my sophomore year, one of my good friends decided to take Mandarin Chinese at Bingham High School. We all thought he was crazy. But, as the year went on he would tell me these great, fun stories about the class: watching Kung Fu Panda in Chinese, having Chow Mein eating contests, etc. I decided to take this Mandarin Chinese class as well in my Junior and Senior year. When my friend was preparing his mission papers, there was a section on the paperwork entitled: Is there anything you want the Brethren to know or consider? He wrote: I will go where ever the Lord wants me to go, but I would sure love to serve in Taiwan. My friend received his mission call to South Dakota. When I opened my mission call and it said Taiwan, I was so excited and I wrote my friend on his mission to tell him. He wrote me back and said: “You thought I was crazy when I decided to take Chinese. I took Chinese because I had always wanted to serve my mission in Taiwan, but the real reason I had felt prompted to take Chinese was because it would inspire you to take it, because you were meant to serve your mission in Taiwan.
When I opened my mission call and read that I would be serving in Taiwan, I was comforted because it felt so right. I knew that this is where the Lord wants me to go. As I think about the story of the missionary and his friend in heaven, I can’t help but wonder about the people that are waiting for me in Taiwan. If I had decided to not serve a mission, would they just be waiting forever?
Why do I want to serve a mission? I have come to realize that not everyone has the comforting reassurance that when a close friend or family member dies, that you can see them again, that families are forever. Not everyone knows of the truly amazing and humbling healing power that the Atonement can have in our lives, that we can repent and be free of the guilt of a past mistake, or we can make it through even the worst of trials with the help of Our Savior and His sacrifice for us. Not everyone knows that they are never alone, or that they can always have the guidance of a trusted companion, the Holy Ghost, who will guide them in the right path of life. Not everyone in the world knows even about the simple power of prayer, that divine guidance that can be given to anyone that simply asks. The happiness and light and comfort and guidance found in these, to us, basic known truths, are yet unknown to others. They have yet to come to know of the pure light of Christ. How could I not have the desire to share this light and the hope and happiness of the gospel with those who are still wandering and are lost in the darkness? How could I not want to share the light that I have been blessed with, the light that the missionaries brought into my Dad’s life?
I'm always reminded of the hymn, “Because I Have Been Given Much, I too must give” I'll just read the last verse, which says:
"Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord, I'll share thy love again, according to thy word. I shall give love to those in need; I'll show that love by word and deed; thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed."
I have been given so much. I have been blessed with an incredible and loving family. I have been raised in the gospel because of the missionaries. I have been surrounded by great men who are wonderful examples to me: grandfathers, uncles, friends, coaches, young men leaders, my bishop. I have amazing friends and teammates that always wanted what is best for me. I know in my heart that I am a better person for having been surrounded by these great influences. I sincerely appreciate all of you that have come here to listen to me talk about the gospel and to support me as I leave on my mission to Taiwan.
I would like to close with bearing my testimony: I know God lives. I know that the power of the Atonement is real. I have felt it in my life and seen it work miracles in those around me. I know that we have a living prophet on the earth today, President Thomas S. Monson, who leads us and receives divine revelation from the Lord that has the power to change lives. I know that Joseph Smith restored the gospel on the earth today and that this gospel is the true gospel of Jesus Christ. I bear testimony of the scriptures and that the words written in them were written by prophets of God, to lead and guide us in these latter days. I know these things to be true with all of my heart and I cannot wait to share these things with the people of Taiwan.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.