Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Me, Myself and I

I was born and partially raised in Carson, CA. I lived there until I was 10 years old than I moved to Faleniu, American Samoa and lived there for over 3 years and moved my Freshman year in high school (2005) to live in Eagan, Minnesota. Between all that hopping around, I did brief stints of life in Utah, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Alaska. My dad is in the military, but I'm not a military brat. My mom moved around alot with the airlines and that's how we ended up moving to the Midwest. My family and I are still trying to take that in. Living in Minnesota has been different, to say the least. If I were a betting man, I would put money on the fact that our family's "tour of duty" does not end in Minnesota and that there are still more states we have yet to live in.

I am a recent graduate of Eagan HS, class of 2009 and have opted to stay home and do a year of college at Inver Hills Community College and continue to save money for my mission next year. My parents would've preferred I'd left the state and go to college elsewhere but I think in order to prepare for my mission, I'm where I need to be. My family attends Eagan Ward in Burnsville, MN where I am one of 4 Priests. My cousin Ferron who does live with me, is also a Priest. There is not a huge LDS membership in Minnesota because it is a strong Lutheran and Catholic state. I thought of attending the Young Adult Wards in either Lakeville or Dinky Town (University of Minnesota area) but neither of the Wards appeal to me. There aren't alot of Youth in our Ward and I believe my cousin Ferron and I are the only Young Adults in attendance there. We have a few Single Adults, but that's a different story. I was sure our former Bishop, Bishop Lee Burdge was going to be the man sending me off to the MTC , but we have had a "changing of the guard" and our YMs Teacher Advisor is now in charge, Bishop Brent Preator. It all seems like a fresh start for me.

Living in Eagan and attending church here has been a very different experience for me. I grew up in very diverse neighborhoods and attended very mixed schools and Wards. A couple of Samoan Wards as well. My neighborhood association has two Hmong families, 2 Indian families, a family from our Ward (The Barringers) and a few adopted Chinese girls and the rest are White families. Then there is our family: my father- Black and part Filipino and very laid back, my mom- VERY Samoan (and at times very ghetto) and working on not being so high strung, my cousin Ferron- who has a German last name that people in Minnesota barely know how to pronounce for some odd reason and maybe says about four whole sentences on his 'talkative' days , my sister Mina- who is half Black and who thinks she's my boss, my little brother Jaelen- who is being held hostage somewhere in the US and for legal reasons, I won't go into that story and then there's me, formally known as Marley Nicholas Webber, a last name I REFUSED to use anywhere and now I am finally and legally known by the name I have always used growing up, Marley Nicholas Sete.

If you guessed my name Marley came from the reggae superstar Bob Marley, you would've guessed correctly. My mom says his lyrics are peaceful and smart and that's how she ended up naming me after the legend. She was also doing activities of a 'less active' nature. It was a toss up between Marley and Lennon (after John Lennon). Nicholas is from my uncle Nick aka Q, who past in October 2006 and Sete, my mama's maiden name. From what I am told, I am the only one left on my mom's side using my grandfather's name Sete. I am the very last of my grandpa's lineage to use it, so that's kinda' cool for me because when I get married, my kids will have a very new start.

My biological father was born and raised in both Samoas but he was German and Irish. Yeah, I know, strange, but I was raised strictly Samoan and do not claim to be anything but that. I hung out with the man a few times but he is definitely not the role model for loving dads or law abiding citizens. We don't have any contact and I'm not sure we'll ever see each other again because neither of us are looking to find one another. He was never a member of the Church and from what I understand, it was an unhealthy relationship for both my mom and that man. So after some years of being in a non-productive union, they split.

My mom is old school Samoan mentally and is working on shaking the 'hood' out of her. She was raised in the projects and her most traumatic life experience happened while she was in Sacrament meeting. Apparently, her dad (my grandpa Sete Sete Jr) was giving a Mother's Day speech at Compton II Ward and he just started coming back to church after years of being inactive, starting a side family and partying way too much. He literally fell over and died in front of her, the rest of the family and a packed chapel and cultural hall of about 200 members. True story. I know that's the main reason why my mom struggled with attending church for years. Moms is educated and street smart.

Now, the story has done a complete turn around for our household aka 'Wildflower Manor' or 'Casa de McKinney' when were feeling south of the border. The only dad I have ever known, Nikia, and my mom surrendered to the family they have always wanted: The American Dream with the house, 2 1/2 cars (1/2 because we have a Saturn hoopty I'm about to inherit with my cousin Ferron), 3 kids minus the white picket fence and the dog. Apparently no one in our home is responsible enough to take care of a fence or dog. Were all we got out here in Minnesota and everywhere else for that matter. Dad, Mom, Mina and I were sealed as a family in the Minnesota St.Paul temple on October 13, 2007. As an LDS member, that bond is more important than any legal document that states we are a family. There were some members from our Ward that were there to witness the event without us knowing. It was a very thoughtful surprise. Some experiences I have had with certain Ward members were not so pleasant, but as the saying goes, "that which does not kill you, will only make you stronger." I am determined to be STRONGER this go around with our members.

That's my story in the condensed version. My goals now all lead to preparing myself to enter the Minnesota St.Paul temple as an Elder. I look forward to the privilege of turning in my papers to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Not every day will be easy. Some days might be more of a struggle than others, but good or bad, my parents want me to be 100% REAL and confront the issues that are obstacles in finding out what opportunities and adventures the Lord has in stored for me.

Luckily, I have strong and loving parents and family members, great friends outside and inside the church and a bunch of Priesthood holders who encourage me to find myself while in the service of the Lord. I am also mindful of the fact that my uncle Nick, who passed away without getting the chance to serve an earthly mission himself, would have LOVED to give me a great big hug at the MTC. I know this is one of the things I was meant to do in my life. I have had great role models in the Primary, Youth, Scout and Young Men leaders. The Stake Presidencies, the Bishoprics, the Seminary teachers, my Dad, a convert himself August 2006, the many Elders and Sister missionaries who have gone in Faith that have influenced my decision to follow the Prophet and go forth and serve. I am only but one person, who quite honestly doesn't have a big clue on who I am right now, but I do have a powerful testimony of the greatness of the Lord and my foundation of beliefs are built solid upon the teachings and principles of this church. I do know that by serving a mission, my life can only be blessed even more abundant because of my willingness to do the Lord's work.

I have many challenges. I have a few demons. I have several things I question about the church. I have several questions of why I was sent here and why I am in the family I am in. It is my hope that through my own preparation, that I not only find some answers I'm looking for, but that I can have an even closer relationship with my Heavenly Father.

"Proclaiming the gospel is not a part-time priesthood obligation. It is not simply an activity in which we engage for a limited time or an assignment we must complete as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Rather, missionary work is a manifestation of our spiritual identity and heritage."

David A. Bednar
Oct. General Conference 2005