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Alex Balinski is an LDS web entrepreneur who has introduced a resource to help with mission preparation and pre-mission anxiety.
Prepare to Serve demonstrates to its visitors how each mission is different and gives an inside perspective on tips for mission preparation. Balinski’s website and blog include both female and male returned missionaries from missions around the world. Balinski organized the missions alphabetically, which he hopes will make the site easy to maneuver for all who visit the video sections.
Mara Thomas, Prepare to Serve participant and a returned missionary from the Chile Santiago North mission, said she was excited to help with mission preparation.
“I just hoped that I could help other kids who were preparing to go out,” Thomas said. “I just wanted to help them be more prepared than I was.”
Thomas mentioned that she received the opportunity to do a video interview by randomly meeting Balinski at the Wilkinson Student Center. In her online interview video, Thomas stated that she had not planned on going on a mission but went because of how she felt when the mission age was changed.
Balinski said he was grateful for the opportunity to interview these returned missionaries and said he ran into just one obstacle when he created the website.
“I think the biggest obstacle in taking on any major task is to become fully committed to the task,” Balinski said. “Creating Prepare to Serve has taught me that if you desire strongly to serve God’s children, God can give you inspired desires to do the things he’d like you to do.”
With the mission age change, an overflow of Church members were eager to put in their papers. According to the Mormon Newsroom website, there are 88,000 missionaries that are currently serving full-time missions, 406 missions and 15 missionary training centers.
In his introductory video on the Prepare to Serve website, Balinski said he quit his job in order to devote all his time toward making the video interviews. With his background in broadcast journalism, Balinski managed to make more than 400 video interviews.
As the video interviews multiplied, Balinski focused on the impact his videos had on the LDS community.
“I think Prepare to Serve is affecting pre-missionaries in several ways. For those going to foreign countries, I believe the videos can provide a sense of peace, comfort and confidence to confront new challenges in a foreign culture,” Balinski said. “I believe the videos can get pre-missionaries called to serve stateside excited to serve stateside.”
The interview videos were meant to build faith in pre-missionaries about their mission calls.
As missionary work for the Church continues to grow, the need for mission preparation tips has also grown, allowing Balinski’s videos to make a larger impact.
Chris Skaggs, a pre-missionary sophomore with a call to Argentina, said although he was not familiar with the website, it would be helpful to hear from returned missionaries about their missions.
“I think it would be nice to talk to people who have served in that area because it would give advice on what to do and what not to do,” Skaggs said. “Also you could get insight into the culture, which would be really nice.”
Balinski said he’s received a few responses from visitors of the Prepare to Serve site. Although anonymous, these pre-missionary responses illustrate the impact the interview videos have on viewers.
“I am so impressed by how many returned missionary interviews you have done. I am preparing to serve a mission, so I go to YouTube and can’t stop watching your videos. They’re so well done, and I love your decision to help future missionaries like myself. Thank you.”
Balinski said he was approached once by an 18-year-old who thanked him and told him how the videos were helping her prepare for her mission. This face-to-face conversation with a fan of the website showed Balinski his videos were making a difference.