"If we cling only to that which we know, then we'll only know that to which we cling."  

I served a mission for my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I spent two years in Curitiba, Brazil preaching the Gospel to strangers in a distant land. All worthy young men, after they've reached nineteen years of age, are expected to serve a two-year mission. Women, of course, may also serve, but are not expected to.

For me to fulfill my mission, I was required to learn the Portuguese language, which I began to study at the Missionary Training Center in Provo Utah. Learning a new language was both very difficult and very rewarding. My understanding of English is much greater having learned Portuguese.

In addition to learning a foreign language, I was required to seek out potential investigators to whom I could teach the Gospel. This sometimes meant that I had to knock on doors (in Brazil, they clap their hands rather than knock) and make a "cold call". This is, of course, the least desirable and possibly the least effective way to make new contacts; however, if there were no referrals, we would resort to such tactics.

Missionaries have varying levels of success. Success is often measured in how many people a missionary would baptize during his mission. This measure is not a fair evaluation of one's efforts, however. Some areas in the world might average 1 or 2 baptisms over a 2-year period, whereas other areas might average 25 or more. While bringing souls to the Gospel is one of the three primary missions of the Church, it is not the only method of measuring one's success. The personal development and experience of cohabitating and getting along with others is invaluable. Learning that putting others first (even total strangers), is the fastest and best way to know oneself and to overcome personal hardships in our lives. The only way for us to become whole individuals and to have great personal success is to give ourselves away. To experience this, the next time you're depressed, visit a children's burn ward at a hospital and read to them, you'll see what I mean. Many people learn this lesson very late, often too late, in life. Most missionaries reach a level of maturity in just 24 months that might otherwise be measured in years, perhaps for some, even decades.

My mission experiences and the memories I have will remain with me for the rest of my life and into the eternities. The two years of my mission are among the two very greatest years of my life.