Written for the Ada Evening News by Summer Day Hannah
Chris Sweeney, a 19 year old graduate of Ada High School and son of Attorney Kurt Brian Sweeney and Lori Jo Sweeney, R.N., has received a two-year mission call to the Dominican Republic, Santiago Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I don’t speak Spanish yet, but I am going to the Provo Utah Missionary Training Center (MTC) for 3 weeks, then to the Dominican Republic MTC for another 6 weeks. There I’ll have a crash course in Spanish and learn more about how to effectively teach the gospel. But it’s by working hard at my actual mission location that I’ll become fluent in the right dialect. The first few months are going to be a challenge, but I feel like once I’ve adjusted to the language and culture, I can comfortably preach.”
Sweeney attended college at Brigham Young University for the past year and eventually plans to go to medical school. Of his 4 siblings, 2 brothers have already served in Spanish speaking missions. His family, people from Ada and friends at college have all been an inspiration in Sweeney’s desire to serve a mission.
“Mike, my oldest brother served in Guadalajara, Mexico, and my older brother Matt served in Neuquén, Argentina. They had an influence on my going, but the truth is that I would never go on a mission unless I knew the gospel was true and the Lord wanted me to serve. I have a sincere desire to serve the Lord.”
“At school this past year, several young men that were my age got their calls to serve in missions throughout the world and their excitement was contagious. They were absolutely thrilled to be called to serve. I already knew that I wanted to serve the Lord with a mission, but now I see it as a necessity, a personal calling.”
“Another Ada resident recently served in the Chicago, Spanish speaking mission. He had come from a rough past. One day, a few years ago, his brother encouraged him to come to church. The difference in his spirituality between when he first attended church and a year later when he left on his mission was astounding. He suddenly had a desire to serve, he was smiling all the time, he was just so happy. That is something that I can emulate.”
Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ pay for their entire mission on their own, so Sweeney has done a lot to prepare for this journey. His preparation has been more than just financial. He says that there have been things throughout his entire life that have prepared him for this opportunity to serve.
“I played golf in junior high and at Ada High School. It was both the greatest and most frustrating part of my life to date. I would spend hours and hours on the golf course, only to never have won a tournament in high school. On the flip side, I got 11th at the state golf tournament my junior year. I have some very proud moments in golf, so to dwell on the more shameful moments would be foolish. That experience in high school had a huge influence on the man I am today. The hard work I put into improving my golf game was so worth the result. Similarly, I plan to work hard on my mission so that I can have the same success with the people I teach.”
“Spending some time with the missionaries in Ada was definitely a learning experience. What I pictured my mission being like and what actually happened when I went out with the missionaries were totally different. After getting a few doors slammed in our faces I realized it was not going to be success, success, success with an occasional failure, but the reverse. It would be failure the majority of the time. It’s something I’m glad I understand before leaving. I expect, based on my experience with the missionaries here, a lot of failure--to the point of frustration. But I also hope to have some success as well. Even with a tiny bit of success, all the work is worth it.”
Armed with his testimony, a picture of his family, a drawing from his 6 year old niece, and a sand dollar from California that his girlfriend gave him, Sweeney is ready to leave this week for the journey of his life.
“These few things are little reminders of home and just how much love and support I have from those around me. I know the benefits of my going are not just for the people I’ll be serving in the Dominican Republic for two years. In many ways, I will be the one who gains the most out of this experience.”
“Spiritually, I will come back a completely different person. I will learn more about people than I ever have in any life experience. Mentally, the two and a half hours I will spend a day in personal study will help me develop good study habits and self-discipline for when I continue on to medical school. Physically, I hope to put on a little weight with some Dominican style cookin’! “
“It is difficult. I am giving up my earthly belongings, my guitar, my phone, golf, my family, friends and a girlfriend. But the Lord always recognizes sacrifice and blesses those who give everything for His cause. I can’t wait to find those who are looking, honestly and sincerely looking, for something more. I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. That, in the end, is the reason I am doing this.”