Спустя 6 лет (6 years later)
Six years ago last month I returned from the mysterious and wonderful land of Russia. You don't survive two years of relative isolation in the Russian Far East without undergoing some major life changes. Looking back it's hard to believe just how much that experience has affected the course of my life.
I didn't really have a choice. When I was 17 or so I made up my mind to prepare for missionary service with +The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I knew that part of the deal was to accept an assignment--to pick up and go wherever the Lord asked me to go. I was basically ok with this idea, as long as I didn't go to Brazil or anywhere near the equator (I'm notoriously averse to heat). Imagine my joy upon finding out I would be living in the frozen wastelands of Siberia and my horror when I arrived during August and promptly sweat right through my suit coat in 90+ degree, extremely humid weather!
I learned to think for myself and hold my own. A necessary skill set when discussing sensitive and personal topics with people known for their staunch opinions, eloquent language, and unabiding passion.
I learned to be a leader. Both by following the examples of great leaders in my mission and later by striving to lead and motivate missionaries to do their best under very difficult circumstances.
I learned to improvise. You're surrounded by shady, threatening characters in a darkened stairwell full of freshly used syringes and angry drunks. Quick, what will you do!
I learned to learn. To this day, as I recall experiences from my time in Russia or read over my notes and journals, I find new insights to guide my life into the future.
I went on to earn a BA in Russian Language and Literature and an MA in Translation and Localization Management (Russian to English translation).
My personal faith was stretched, tried, and grown. I now enjoy the blessings of choosing every day to follow Jesus Christ and his teachings. My commitment to Him and to his work were solidified during the course of my mission. I rely on that strength today to pilot me through rough waters.
I find joy in learning about and understanding different people and cultures. I have a great love for the purifying power of suffering--a theme that runs deeply through Russian art and culture.
by Tyler Smith