Stevens returns after 18 months of service

Special to The Sun
"Having the chance to belong to the Hispanic Ward opened a whole new world to me," said Ashlyn Stevens. Shown with her are Hermana Gea and Hermana Huetas Ulloa. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

After serving for more than 18 months on a mission in Las Vegas, Ashlyn Stevens returned home to a host of friends and relatives who greeted her at the airport. She decided early in her life to serve a mission. And from then on it was her goal.

When she began high school, she attended Seminary classes that helped her become better acquainted with the scriptures. After becoming a missionary, she studied the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and church history on her own for one hour and then with her companion for another hour on a daily basis. As part of her assignment, she and her companions provided various kinds of service to the people she met and taught.

To prepare for her mission she worked hard in high school to finish her Young Women Personal Progress, a series of tasks to promote spiritual growth that take more than 150 hours to accomplish. For her knowledge task, she chose learning to play the piano. The medallion they receive is cherished and worn throughout their lives. Completing and submitting the required paperwork and working full time to save money for her mission was the final step. When their letter of acceptance and their assignment is received, friends and family gather for the grand opening of this letter. Her most spiritual experience was when she was able to experience the moments in which people realized that the church was true and gained their own testimonies. One of these moments occurred as she visited the temple with a man that they were teaching. He saw the many people that were present for weddings and other temple ordinances and how important the Gospel is. He then realized that this was what he wanted in his own life.

As the hardest part of her mission came upon her, the most life changing aspect of her years of service happened.

“At that point, it was hard for me to want to do missionary work," Stevens said. "I felt useless; but because of what I was taught by my leaders at that time, I learned why I wanted to work hard and keep going and keep improving. I learned the purpose of having Jesus Christ as my savior in this life and how his atonement enables me to become more complete.”

She learned that anything is possible through Jesus Christ and that God loves us and is always watching over us. She learned that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important thing in this life and that when someone truly understands that Gospel, they both live it and share it.

Her advice for anyone planning to serve a mission is this, “The Book of Mormon is an accurate book from God and your mission can change the world even if it’s only one person at a time. When that happens, you will know that it’s worth everything that leads up to it.”

Her future plans are to go to BYU Idaho in January, graduate with a degree in English and become a writer. Other than that, she will “roll with whatever life throws at her.”

In the Fort Walton Beach Stake, encompassing Baker, Crestview, DeFuniak Springs, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach and Sandestin/Destin, there are serving missionaries and four more will leave in January. Ben Roof of Destin will serve in the Rio de Janeiro Mission, Aiden Ferrell from Niceville will serve in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Zachary Steele of Crestview 1st will serve in the Provo, Utah Mission. Anna Christopherson, of the Young Single Adult Ward, is serving in California and Stephen Boden is in Germany teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.