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New website helps missionaries 'Prepare to Serve'

Erin Jones - November 28, 2012
source: LDS Living

This website run completely by volunteers aims to be a one-stop for prospective missionaries looking to learn more about full-time missionary work, the culture they'll be teaching in, and discuss questions with other prospective or returned missionaries.

With the lowering of the age requirements for missionaries, more and more missionaries are preparing to serve. A new website—appropriately named Prepare to Serve—aims to help them do so. 

With resources such as cultural videos from different countries and interviews from returned missionaries and converts from around the world, the website will help future missionaries prepare for missionary service and explore the culture and people of their specific missions.

The website project is headed by BYU student Alex Balinski. Balinski first thought of the idea when he was preparing for his mission in Argentina, and wished there was something out there to prepare him for the unique cultural experience he was about to embark on. When he returned from his mission, he felt the same way.

“Looking back, I still don’t feel like I understood Argentine culture very well,” he says. “I feel that missionaries would be better prepared if they also understood more about the culture and could kind of see where people are coming from and relate to them.”

Balinski had been overwhelmed choosing a major at BYU, but felt a strong impression that he should study broadcast journalism. As he started creating news videos for the program, he began to get new ideas of projects he could do of resources that did not yet exist. The one most on his mind, however, was the Prepare to Serve website. 

About a month ago, Balinski felt impressed that he needed to dedicate a lot of time to the website. He began recruiting the help of other BYU students, who helped him with interviews and sorting through YouTube videos to find uplifting travel videos to post on the website.

So far, the website contains videos to prepare missionaries for mission life. Soon, it will contain more country-specific and U.S. state-specific videos. Balinski eventually would like to include a forum, links to blogs of missionaries serving throughout the world, and photos by city, where returned missionaries could browse the areas they’ve served in and future missionaries could see the areas they might one day serve in.

“Eventually I’d like it be more like a one-stop location you can go to to kind of prepare in a cultural sense and get some interesting ideas,” says Balinski.

The website could also be a good resource for others, such as travelers and military families, who want to get a sense of the country they’ll be visiting.

Balinski believes the project is inspired, and as soon as he started to work on it, things started lining up. The website layout he had bought suddenly had the perfect theme update. He quit his job to work as much as possible on the website, and then two days later, he was offered free rent.

“We feel very blessed,” says Balinski. “Things have been lining up very nicely for us, and we just plan on working on it until it’s where it needs to be.”

Visit the website at preparetoserve.com. If you would like to volunteer to help with the Prepare to Serve website, email Alex Balinski at alexbalinski@gmail.com.

© LDS Living, 2012.
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