Alex Balinski is finally seeing his work come to fruition after taking a major leap of faith by quitting his job and dedicating the past eight months to a special project.
Balinski is a senior studying communications and the creator of PreparetoServe.com, a website that promotes better mission preparation by collecting and uploading short videos about specific regions or missions.
Balinski recently uploaded the ten thousandth video to the website, which contains a collection of YouTube videos about cultures as well as interviews conducted with return missionaries about their missions.
Balinski created PreparetoServe.com from scratch because he noticed that missionaries would receive mission calls and knew nothing about the place where they were going to serve. He said he created the website to help fill that void.
“I initially wanted to create documentaries but I realized that realistically, to create a documentary about every country in the world would take forever. To create a documentary about just one country would take a very long time. So then I decided to do shorter videos about each country,” Balinski said.
Sophomore Megan Dickey received her mission call to Peru in April. Dickey said she has been using PrepaertoServe.com as her starting place for basic information.
“When I first opened my mission call I was so curious about Peru. I wanted to know everything about it and just wanted as much information as I could find on the topic,” Dickey said.
The website required so much attention that Balinski eventually quit his job to pour more effort and time into the website. Even though he found companies to sponsor him, the shift began to worry his supportive wife, Rebecca.
“Towards the beginning I wasn’t quite gung-ho about this being Alex’s main source of income and I hoped it would work out, but I had my doubts,” Rebecca said.
Then, The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a change in missionary ages for both men and women. The announcement generated unprecedented curiosity in missionary work and essentially put PreparetoServe.com on the map.
“The changes got a lot of people interested in missionary work. Pre-missionaries, their families and social media sites for missionaries began visiting and sharing the website,” Balinski said.
Eventually, several major LDS sponsors such as dearelder.com and CTR Clothing began investing in the site, making it a self-sustaining project.
It had even caught the eye of dedicated Missionary Training Center instructors Stephen Fuller and Jason Painter, both of whom recommend missionaries acquaint themselves with their mission beforehand.
“This website is another resource where boys and girls that want to serve missions can expose themselves to different things within a culture, and one way to connect with people is by knowing their culture,” Painter said.
Fuller said most missionaries are farther along in their spiritual preparedness than they are culturally.
“A lot of missionaries show up in the MTC with a purpose but feeling unprepared,” Fuller said. “I like this website because it helps people understand that they can serve and contribute without needing to know everything.”