TUPELO • Maren Thorderson said good-bye to her family in June of 2018 knowing that she would not see them for 18 months.

“I was called to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints (LDS) in the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission,” Thorderson said.

Thorderson, who returned to Tupelo Dec. 19, just in time to spend Christmas with her family and friends, started her missionary training in the Dominican Republic for six weeks.

“They taught us Spanish in the Missionary Training Center and also important principles of the Savior to share with the people of Puerto Rico. About once a week we got to go to a local university to practice sharing our message, which was scary and a lot of fun,” Thorderson said.

Thorderson was known as Hermana Thorderson, which means “Sister,” during her mission.

“We believe we all are God’s children, which makes us brothers and sisters. I learned to love the people of Puerto Rico like brothers and sisters,” she said.

Her father, Dr. Nels Thorderson of Tupelo, said, “It was hard to let her go, probably more for her mother, but we always knew it was what God wanted and would be an amazing experience for Maren.”

Maren Thorderson said she learned a great deal.

“Something that really impacted me on my mission was how the Lord perfects our imperfect efforts,” she said. “If we are involved in His work and we are doing what we can, He uses those very imperfect efforts to accomplish His very perfect purposes. The last 18 months have been a literally life–changing experience, and I will praise His name forever.”

Thorderson helped clean up after Hurricane Maria and also with lifting the spirits of those affected. As a missionary, she was assigned to a companion for a couple months at a time and they went out two-by-two preaching about Jesus and serving the people as He would. Her companions, 10 in all, came from the United States, Peru and Uraguay. Thorderson served in Guayama, Trujillo Alto, Toa Baja, Rio Grande, and Guayanilla. Although all of her areas had beautiful beaches, as a missionary she never touched the sand.

Missionaries for the LDS church leave school, jobs and “normal life” while paying their own way to serve. Moving forward, Thorderson will start back at college in the winter semester at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

“I can’t wait to try out some of my new Puerto Rican recipes and of course, add rice and beans to every meal,” Thorderson said.

“Living the Gospel is intentional. There are a lot of things that we don’t do that separate us from the ‘wicked,’ but even more we should be striving to live like our Savior. To do as He would do and say as He would say – not just do the things He wouldn’t do and not say the things He wouldn’t say,” Thorderson said.

During the Thanksgiving season, Thorderson spoke of teaching a local Sunday School class of young single adults.

“2 Timothy 4:7 really stood out to me,” she said. “I have fought the good fight. I have finished my race. I have kept the faith. My goal was to be able to say those words when I return home and also at the end of my life.”

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