First things first: DO YOU HAVE A DESIRE? (D&C 4:3-5)
It took me weeks before I knew if I should serve/ if the Lord wanted me to serve. But I'm glad I took the time to find out, because now I have purpose. There's no point going through all this if you don't want to do it thoroughly. Besides which, you should consider career, education, and family.
Second: THE MISSION APPLICATION
Although this may seem like the spawn of Satan at times (it definitely brought me to tears on a number of occasions) it is a VERY IMPORTANT STEP (if not THE most important). A thorough application will ensure that your needs will be taken care of and that you are physically, mentally, and spiritually able to handle the rigors of mission life. You have to talk to your bishop first. He can open up an application for you online. BE PREPARED TO SPEND HOURS ON THIS PUPPY. It has a barrage of medical history and dental history forms that have to be signed just so, specific tests administered and documented accordingly, records of foreign language classes taken, etc. I made 4 trips to the doctor before I got all the medical stuff squared away. But don't let it get you down! Persevere! (D&C 14:7) Also just as importantly, BE HONEST. Don't play down any illness just because you don't want it to affect your call. Your call is inspired of God and he will take care of you, but the Brethren need to know your circumstances so they can know where to send you! A lot of the questions you can get filled out right away. Do as much as possible as soon as possible. The longer you take, the more likely you are to procrastinate the thing (coming from the horse's mouth). I probably finished a third of it the first night. The rest..... ehhhhh.... Also even when I had it completed and turned in the Stake Clerk called me about boxes that weren't checked and tests that weren't done (resulting in a total meltdown and another trip to the doc) but I got it done and turned in finally.
Everyone's favorite part: THE CALL
While you might think that getting the application done is hard, WAITING FOR YOUR CALL is like.... well I mean it's like waiting to find out where you will be spending the next 2 years (or 18 months) of your life! It's excruciating! Of course, if you live in Utah, it's practically same day service. Must be nice. I got my call after 3 weeks. BTW you can check the status of your call (at least, your bishop can). You can see when it has been assigned and estimate when it will get to you. Mine was assigned in 2 weeks but took another week to get sent to me. I opened it the same night with my family and friends (in true mormon style). Texas San Antonio Mission spanish speaking! In case you haven't figured that out yet. LOL. The surprise was that I will be reporting to the Mexico MTC (on October 16th). So I get to go foreign AND stateside! WOOO!
What now? POST CALL
1) I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE!!!
Your call will come in a fat packet (so don't try to guess foreign or stateside based on that, they're all kinda fat). It will have a packet outlining what you need for your mission and (if foreign) a passport application. There is an acceptance letter in the back of the packet (yes, because this is a mission CALL, not ORDER, so you have to formally accept it). Send that ASAP so your mission Pres. can start sending you more info. Mine was like... two sentences long. Just make it short, professional, and to the point. Thank you for this opportunity, I gratefully accept... etc.
2) ONLINE STUFF
Your call will direct you to the online mission portal. There you will fill out more info regarding immunizations, and be directed to do more things to prep for your mission i.e. watching The District, reading Preach my Gospel (PMG) etc. You will also be asked to create a mormon.org profile, so you can help share the gospel online! Look you're already doing missionary work!
3) PASSPORT PAINS
Getting a passport was a pain (for me anyway). If you're lucky, you already have one. If not, some tips (in no particular order):
a) they want a specific birth certificate (I brought the "abstract" [condensed] version-- NOT ACCEPTABLE)
b) they ONLY take checks and/or money orders. And you'll need multiple. One for the passport, one for the processing fee (and they want you to expedite it... it cost me about $200 total)
c) make an appointment early, some places are booked weeks ahead (I ran into this problem with USPS), OR
d) find a place that does walk ins (I got mine done at Fresno State)
e) make a copy of all your IDs (birth cert and driver's license, etc.) because they only want copies, and it'll make things go faster
f) set aside a good chunk of time to do this. you never know what DMV-like lines you may encounter
THEN... you have to apply for your visa! YAYYYY!!! Get all this done ASAP since they are time consuming processes.
Well, shopping has ever been one of our favorite things to do as women, but shopping for the mish is HARD. Boys have it easy. Suits, ties, one million white shirts. A pair of ugly yet durable mens dress shoes. Done. Easy. Sisters? Not so. These days, it's a nightmare to find modest, durable, easy care, CUTE clothes for the mish, although I have noticed the age change has geared sister missionary (sis miss) attire to a much younger and fresher generation (thank goodness!) My advice? (PS, I will post more about shopping, stay tuned) Get creative. But don't break the bank. A new wardrobe is possible on a budget. First off, go through the clothes you already have, to see if you already have pieces that can work on your mish. Things to consider: durability, versatility (mix-and-matchable), easy care (machine washable), mission specific climates (hot? cold? wet?), modesty, and above all, CUTENESS! Find things you WANT to wear. It'll make your few pieces more enjoyable. Another note, sometimes quality IS unavoidably more expensive. Be prepared to shell out more cash for a pair of shoes that'll last your whole mish over cheap shoes that won't (my cousin wore out 2 such pairs in her first 2 months...). For most of my things I have turned to Pinterest (for inspiration! check out my board here), Modcloth (I love the vintage looks, and whaddaya know? They're more modest!), Sis Miss, Dorothy Perkins (sometimes this site kinda whacks out though... #glitchybutgreat), ASOS, etc. I found the Sis Miss Mall lacking.... other good sites are Sorella Bella, Shabby Apple, Ruche, Banana Republic, and never underestimate Target or just some old fashioned thrifting! Simple skirts are also easy DIYs.
5) MISH PREP
If you haven't been doing it, START RIGHT NOW. Get PMG. Study it. Read it. Practice teaching from it. Read your scriptures. Say your prayers. Primary answers. But to be able to teach the gospel, you must KNOW the gospel... plus I have heard that you start teaching the first day in the MTC so... prepare NOW! You're going to spend 18-24 months of your life doing this, and you only have months (maybe even weeks) to prepare at home! Take advantage!
6) SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS EVERYBODY!
Especially if you're going foreign, you'll probably need more immunizations. I still need typhoid and flu before I leave....
Your mission packet outlines what dimensions of luggage you can have but basically, you get 2 suitcases. Keep that in mind while shopping. And I found this great packing article here.
8) SET APART- FAREWELL!
You'll probably be asked to speak in sacrament, I'm waiting for that any day now... And have an open house or something so your family and friends can come say goodbye to you. Then you'll be set apart right before you leave, and then it's off to the MTC with you!