Good Afternoon Brothers and sisters
I would like to start out by thanking everyone for coming today, I know the summer is a very busy time and people are pulled in a lot of directions. I am sincerely grateful that so many people that are important to me have come to hear me today. As many of you know, 9 weeks ago I was just straightening up my royal blue bow tie and vest and throwing on my white James Bond jacket, Bishop Pace’s Red Ferrari keys in hand when my sister told me my mission call had just arrived. I was just a kid at the time to say the least. Not knowing where my life was gonna go, not knowing what college I was going to attend, not knowing what professions interested me, and for sure not knowing where the Lord would have me spend the next two years of my life. I felt like a wanderer. The envelope I held would answer all my uncertainties. Where I was being called would dictate what language I learned, the people I met, and my spiritual development as well as my development as a person.
Fortunately, I have had a lot of great influences in my life that have led the moment that I held this envelope. School, academic and religious teachers, athletes and coaches, family, and good friends just to mention a few.
I think one my greatest blessing growing up here in New Canaan was how strong my bond was with my friends. Sometimes people say to me “I just don’t know how you do it?” growing up in a town where only 5 kids in my grade are Mormon would be tough, but I just have to shake my head and completely disagree, because I moved New Canaan when I was 5. I was able to go to Elementary School, Middle School and High School with my best friends. They were able to learn and know what my standards are and respect me for that, never tried to push it, or make me do anything I wouldn’t do.
In fact, whenever I was thinking of making a bad decision, one of my friends would say “No. I’m not letting you do that on my watch. Go with someone else.” My friends taught me how to be a good friend. Hopefully I can take their example and be a good friend to the people of Brazil.
Another person I have looked up to all my life is Lou Maraneli. Going into Sophomore year there was no way I was going to play football. I absolutely hated the freshman football experience and I remember my dad would come into my room at night and say “Come on Seth. You gotta play football.” And I would just start yelling and screaming and I would storm out saying, “Dad. I’m not doing it. I’m not playing football. It’s just not worth it.”
I remember this one time I was walking down the hall with a bunch of my buddies and I saw Lou walking from the other direction and I just turned around and ran. I didn’t want to face him. I just wanted to slip through the cracks. Until one day I was sitting in the back of Spanish class and the teacher picked up the phone and said “Seth. Go to Lou Marinelli’s room, immediately.” I’m looking around thinking “What is going on here?” So I’m walking there already thinking “He’s just a old guy. I’m gonna just tell him no. I’m just gonna tell him there is no way I am going to play football.” I get in his office and he said “Seth. It doesn’t matter how many touch downs you score or how many tackles you get, it’s about being part of the family and the tradition of New Canaan football.”
As soon as that hit me, I flashed back to being in the stands on Friday night lights, with my youth jersey on, telling myself that I was going to be on that field someday. He said the most perfect things to me. I ended up playing and never looked back. I loved every second of it. He told me its not about getting all the glory, its about being part of the family.
This relates to me on my mission cause it doesn’t matter how many baptisms I get, as long as I serve and love the people of Brazil I will be successful.
Another person who taught me a very important lesson in my life was Coach Buzzeo. He taught me to have faith in others. One of my biggest dreams was to play Division 1 lacrosse. The older I got, the less likely that dream seemed to happen. As I would go to camps, coaches would talk to me, and when I would tell them I was serving a two-year mission right out of high school, it would scare them cause a kid that is going on a mission for two years and not playing any competitive lacrosse is just a huge risk.
I know Coach Buzzeo has spent hours on the phone with different coaches, sticking his neck out for me helping me edit my highlight video, until he finally got his foot in the door with Loyola and the rest is history. I want to thank him for that, because Coach taught me to sacrifice for something that you care about, and that is why I am leaving for two years, because I really care about this church and it will really help me in the long run. He also taught me to have faith in others, and hopefully I will be able to have faith in the system in Brazil, and engulf myself in the Lords work.
I was also fortunate to have so many great leaders in this ward. One of the greatest people in my life is Bishop Pace. His love for others is just so unbelievable. The amount of time he spends on others to just proves his love and testimony for this church. I want to thank him for that.
There are so many really important people, and just to name a few, I’d like to thank Keith Dickenson, Bryan Blair, Craig Bench, Chip White, Brent Alvord, there are also so many more, but that is just to name a few of my most recent ones.
The number one reason I am serving a mission is because of my family. My family has gone through some rough times, just like all families do. If you haven’t gone through rough times as a family, “Buckle Up!” because it’s gonna happen sooner or later. But that’s why I love this church so much, because the foundation of this church is built around families. I know that if I didn’t have the church in my life my family would be crumble. I don’t know where I would be without it. One of the most comforting aspects of this gospel is that families can be together forever.
I know that tragedies happen and people eventually pass away, but I know that we are able to spend all eternity together. I can’t wait to share that comforting message with the people of Brazil.
Many of you don’t understand why I am doing this, why I am giving up the next two years of my life, so I will give you the quick down-low. I am dropping everything in my life, leaving for two years. No cell phone, no social media, no going to movies, limited contact with friends and family. I am basically removing myself from the world at large. The purpose is to remove all distractions, to get lost in the work of the Lord, sot that all your heart, might, mind and strength are being exerted to doing the will of God. The work of the Lord is to spread his gospel and bring people into His kingdom. People say, “I don’t understand why you are taking off for two years, leaving school, lacrosse, and your social life.” And sometimes I throw myself a little pity party and ask myself “Why? Why am I doing this? Why am I setting myself back for two years.”
I like to reflect on the scripture Matthew 10:39. “ He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for me shall find it.” I interpret this scripture to mean that the guy who just lives his life for himself isn’t successful, but the guy who loses himself in the work of the Lord will find an abundance of blessings.
Not only does the mission come with many benefits such as learning a language, teaching myself to live on my own, teaching me to live in a foreign country and improving my social skills, but there is also a huge spiritual aspect to it. For the 2 years I will be completely immersed in the work. I will eat, sleep, drink and breathe CHURCH. That’s hard to do that when you are going to school and everything, but these two years I will be able to access a spiritual side of myself that I have never seen any other time in my life. That makes me really excited. I am really excited to do this.
I know that me serving a mission in Brazil was decided a long time ago, even way before I was born. Missionaries don’t get to choose where they go, but I believe that our family has been so involved in Brazil that the calls are inspired. My grandpa was called to Brazil when the city I was called to, was under construction. My father, my uncle, my brother, and now my sister are now currently serving there. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that I was meant to grown up in this community to make me the best person that I can be. And I believe that I was born into a family of 9, so that they could watch over me and make sure I’m doing the right things.
I know this church is true. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the living prophet. I testify that the Book of Mormon is true and that it is the companion to the Bible and further testifies the life of Christ. I know that if we follow the Lords instructions, and do as he asks, that families can be together forever. Although I get a little nervous about leaving, and its not going to be easy, I am excited and anxious to go and serve the people of Brazil for the next two years of my life. I’d like to say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Nieces and Nephews!
These kids will look quite a bit different in 2 years!