Chinese Classes At Edina High School Pay Off For 2010 Graduate

Second generation Edina High School graduate, Lauren A. Barden, to serve an 18-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Taiwan at her own expense.

Many will remember Lauren Barden who graduated from Edina High School (EHS) in 2010. She made her mark as an AP Scholar with Distinction. Interested in politics and civics from a young age, Barden was chosen "Girls State" representative for EHS. She played on the girls tennis team and signed up for Chinese (Mandarin) the first year it was offered.

Afterwards Barden went on to Brigham Young University-Provo (BYU). It wasn't long before she was recognized as the excellent student she is. Her freshman year Barden was nominated to represent BYU in the Model United Nations Competition in New York City (at the UN building). Her team won. Last year Barden was invited back as a Team Leader. Her team won again competing against more than 200 international colleges. During the same school year she was also taking Mandarin.

Always enthusiastic about life, Barden spent last summer in Jerusalem and traveled to Istanbul, Petra, and Jordan while she was there. Soon after her return to BYU for fall term, life took a dramatic turn.

In October 2012, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it was lowering the age from 21 to 19 for young women to serve missions. Barden was excited! This meant she was eligible. After submitting formal paperwork, all the Chinese classes at EHS and BYU were about to pay off. On November 14, Barden received an official letter calling her to the Taiwan Taipei Mission for 18-months.

On her blog Barden shared, "Ever since I received my mission call to Taiwan...friends and family continually make fun of me as my massive smile and lit up eyes creepily follow unsuspecting Asian families anywhere I see them. I always say, Look! My people!...In a few short weeks I will be serving them with every little bit of strength that this little 5'4″ body can muster...which isn't much but thank goodness God will be helping."

Barden leaves for the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, on April 3. She will spend the next nine weeks in intensive study of the Mandarin language before flying to Taipei the end of May with a group of 30 young men and women--more than half will be young women like Barden. She will be assigned a missionary companion to live and work with while there.

Taipei is a city of bicyclists, and that will be Barden's mode of transportation. In Taiwan, where there are 54,529 members of the Church (Mormon missionaries first went to Taiwan in 1956), people recognize the pairs of missionaries in the sea of cyclists. Taipei is considered one of the safest cities in the world. The Taiwanese people are outgoing and befriend the missionaries as they peddle around town.

Every day will be an adventure of meeting new people, learning the culture, savoring the cuisine, and, most important, teaching the gospel and serving the people. For those interested, Barden will be sharing her mission experiences on her blog, "See Things as They Really Are,"

Lauren Barden is the daughter of Robin and R. Chris Barden of Edina. Barden's father, R. Chris Barden, was a graduate of Edina East High School in 1972 and, if the name sounds familiar, he was the Republican endorsed candidate for Attorney General of Minnesota in 2010.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than 54,000 full-time young men and women serving missions in 162 nations. These young missionaries pay their own way for an 18-month or 2-year duration. Missionaries do not choose where they go but are called to serve where they are needed.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strive to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Church has over 30,000 members in 80 congregations in Minnesota and over 14 million members worldwide.