Monday, November 10, 2014

Days to Serve

First and foremost, I am incredibly grateful to be a guest on the Missionary Mommas Blog. I met Heidi and many other women in your group about a month ago at the LDS Missionary Expo and immediately felt welcomed into your community. You are all truly amazing women who stand for what is good in this life and I am grateful to associate with you. 

Heidi asked me to give some background on how Days to Serve came about and then share my story. Earlier this year, in April I was meeting with a great client I had met two years prior about replacing and remodeling the front door of her home. While going over the design and just talking about things in general the topic came up that her son was leaving on his mission in a few weeks to the Dominican Republic. She mentioned he was not being himself and struggling with leaving. This might sound familiar to some of you.
Through our conversation I felt impressed to share
my story with her in hopes it would help in some way.  After sharing the experience she immediately called her son Hunter to come up stairs and meet me.  She then asked  me to share the story again with him. Up until this point I had only shared this experience a few times and had always felt reserved in sharing such a personal experience that changed my life.  After sharing it with him and discussing it with Patti, she said, "you really need to write this experience down and share this with missionaries and their families".  I was flattered by what she said and decided to write it down that night. Before I left, I told her I had wanted to have some emblems made to give out as gifts to family and close friends. She thought it was a great idea and wanted one for Hunter. I gladly obliged when I had some items made.

After getting my kids to bed that night I began writing down my experience in greater detail. I felt the spirit as I wrote the experience down. I felt peace and gratitude just like I felt that day in Alabama where I served my mission.  I sent the story over the next day to Patti not knowing she was an editor for many large corporations. Without any expectations from me,
PJ Hatch-Beck edited my story for grammatical errors and other minor changes and sent it back to me. I appreciated the gesture and told her she could share the story if she felt impressed. But Patti had a different idea.......

About a week went by and she called me back and said what an affect the story had on her son, and his preparation to leave on his mission. She then told me again that this story needs to be shared. So after a combination of ongoing pep-talk conversations with Patti, and some whacking on the head accompanied by impressions from the spirit, I began to feel that there was a higher power at work. Heavenly Father was working through Patti to get me going on this project. I had been so busy with my typical work schedule in construction that starting another company was just not in the cards for me at the moment. But this continued to evolve whether I liked it or not. Heavenly Father shared the message with me, and now it was my turn to share the same message with his missionaries. The Lord is hastening his work, with the increased number of missionaries in the field. I really started catching the vision of why this message needed to be shared, and why now.

Many missionaries are struggling just like I did. They need something to help solidify their decision to serve a mission, just like I did. Many need a change of heart, just like I did, and still do sometimes.  It made sense why this needs to get out there. It was not about money, it was about the cause. 

My wife and I had made plans over the two years to build our next home, but it seemed that every direction we turned, we hit a wall. We began to look at heaven and wonder if building our new home was the right thing to do. It wasn't. On a Sunday after church, my wife and I talked and decided to go a different direction. This was a hard decision, but it was the right decision. The down payment we planned to put down on our house was to be used for something else. We felt we needed to take that money and invest it into what we now call Days to Serve.  We somehow knew it was going to be okay.

Ever since, my mind has flooded with ideas of ways to share the message, and create items that would act as a reminder to anyone who received the gift.
I would go to bed vary late, and wake up very early to research how to get this company started. The name came naturally as it was part of the original message given to me. I then began designing the way I wanted everything to look, from the logo, to the graphics on the website, to the products. It continues to evolve. It has been fun to be creative and build something with meaning.

It has now been seven months since I first met with Patti and shared my experience, and we now have missionaries all over the world wearing the gift of Days to Serve. We had no idea what to expect when starting this, all we knew is we had to do it and we are incredibly grateful we did. We completely took an "if you build it, they will come" approach to Days to Serve. (which is normally not a great way to start a business) but we had to believe the outcome would be good.

This is what I know. Heavenly Father knows us all personally. He knows what we need, and knows what we need to do, even though we might not always understand it at first. I know now He wanted me to pay it forward and share this gift with others.
I know this with absolute certainty. I had prayed and knew this is what I needed to do. As it says in the last scripture in the book of Second Nephi, "for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey."

The story that inspired "Days to Serve"  

It was a typical morning in the mission field where we got out early to share the gospel with the people we hoped to find that day. I had only been out serving the people of Alabama a few months as a new missionary and I still thought of home, family, friends, and the experiences I might be missing. I longed for the excitement of my young life and it was incredibly hard for me, as it is for a lot of new young missionaries. Homesickness seemed to swallow me whole at times and I wrestled to have an optimistic attitude. In my heart, I knew I was where I was needed, sharing the Lords message, and yet part of me was still home. My parents had made significant sacrifices for me to be there and I did not want to let them down. I had been praying morning and night for anything to help change my young heart and solidify this monumental decision of serving a mission. It was a struggle having one foot in the mission, and one foot home with those I missed and loved.

After much pleading and prayer with the Lord, this confirmation was received. On this particular morning while following our typical mission routine, my mission companion and I were biking down an old country road in Decatur Alabama. I was pedaling as hard as I could to get to the destination we had planned to proselyte the night before. I had a clear lead in front of my companion as I hugged the side of the road with no sidewalk and only about ten inches of space to ride. In a flash my attention was captured by a reflection of light off an object lying on the ground that quickly passed beneath me. I felt compelled to stop and examine what that object was and I turned around to find it. My companion had not yet caught up with me so I had a moment to contemplate what it was that I held in my hands. I imagined this object to be some kind of decal that had fallen off of a car, but looking at it in that moment, and aware of my prayers and willingness to receive an answer in any form, I knew this was an emblem meant just for me. 

The silver plated emblem was simple; it was the number 740, no bigger than the palm of my hand.  I thought for a moment, and began repeating the number in my mind, 740. The thought then occurred to me there are 365 days in a year, and times two that is 730. THEN, I remembered, the date I was to be released from my full time duties as a missionary.  I had entered my mission May 10th, the year 1998, and my release date was May 20th the year 2000, EXACTLY 740 DAYS!

For just a moment time stood still, everything seemed so quiet. The spirit then softly whispered to me 'You have 740 days to serve your mission, and a lifetime to remember how you served, MAKE THE MOST OF IT!'

It was so random and simple, and yet very profound. As it says in Alma, “but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass”. (a) In that small moment I became keenly aware that Heavenly Father knew me and that he had answered my prayer in a way that I never would have expected. I knew He was aware of my allotted time to serve and was acutely aware of my struggles and heart ache.  Ultimately, Heavenly Father knew what was needed to change my heart. In a conference address many years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson once said, “When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed”. (b)

My mission and life changed that day as I chose to rededicate myself to our Savior's work, and to follow Him more diligently. This experience has had a profound effect on the outcome of my life. I often refer to this experience and had I not been given this individual gift, I can only speculate about the honor in which I served my mission and the trajectory of my life going forward, and where I would be now. Until recently I have only shared this experience a few times. As more family and friends leave their young lives to serve missions as I did, it has been my sacred privilege to remind them of the short amount of time they have to fully dedicate themselves as messengers for the Lord.

For me, the number of days to serve was 740, but for others in their specific mission, it states that it is anticipated they will serve for a period of 24 months (730 days) or, 18 months (548 days) for sister missionaries. Whether it is more or less does not alter the relevance and importance of this personal and sacred call to serve. Every missionary needs to remember that as they set themselves apart from the world, they must give all of oneself, every single day and to do so is an honor and a privilege. They will NEVER have this mission and it's individual and particular capacities again.

I share my personal experience and pass on this message to our young missionaries that the Lord shared with me on that old country road in Alabama. Missionaries need to make every day count, one day at a time. When it is over, the returned missionary will look back on this time served for the rest of his or her life with great personal joy and gratitude for the tremendous growth and service that they willingly dedicated to "further the missionary efforts in proclaiming the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." This individual dedication and whole heart effort will bless  numerous lives forever. Upon release, with name tag in hand, many with genuine understanding and sincere reflection may weep from what they have learned and experienced.  Our missionaries will have 'A LIFETIME to remember how they SERVED' and like me, they will forever be changed.
Josh Prazen                              
Served May 10th 1998 – May 20th 2000
Alabama Birmingham Mission

(a) Book of Alma 37:6
(b) Conference Report  -  October 1985,  pp. 4-5.
Edited by PJ Hatch-Beck -
Linkedin proifle 

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  1. Great story! Something to remember going into it and a great way to remember your mission when you are done.

  2. Such a blessing to have those 730 days to live a fully dedicated life! Great story.

  3. I love it. So touching, thanks for sharing.

  4. Wow that story hit me like a ton of rocks brought tears to my eyes thank you so much for sharing !

  5. Thank you for this! Can't wait to share it with my missionary daughter ! Bro Prazen and his darling family just moved into my ward and I look forward to getting to know them!

  6. I thought these were awesome before I knew the backstory! Now this is just amazing! What a wonderful token of the greatest experience!

  7. I love this! I can relate although I didn't serve a mission, my young family (at the time, just my husband and I and our oldest who is currently serving in Mongolia) was sent to live in Singapore. I spent some miserable months trying to live with one foot in Singapore and one foot in Arizona. I had an answer to prayer come that changed my perspective and those years became became a great blessing to me, my husband and our little family!

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