by Senior Airman Keenan Berry
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
2/27/2015 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- To have resilience means to be able to withstand difficult conditions and come out on top.
In every Air Force career, Airmen are taught to be resilient when they are away from their homes and families.
However, for Airman 1st Class Henry Sorenson, 509th Security Forces
Squadron member, this was a trait he learned before joining the Air
Sorenson, who is from the small town of Cedar City, Utah, was born and
raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He was chosen to serve a mission in Brazil for two years. While there,
Sorenson learned a great deal about the Brazilian culture.
"The process for applying for missions is similar to joining the Air
Force," said Sorenson. "I had to do an interview, a screening and a
background check to ensure I met the qualifications for the mission. The
church then selects and sends qualified applicants to different places
around the world. I happened to be chosen for Brazil. For two years, I
went around communicating to the locals about the church."
Adjusting to different cultures can be tough, and for Sorenson that was a lesson he learned firsthand.
"When I first arrived in Brazil, I figured the local language was
Spanish because I was in South America," said Sorenson, "but I was
wrong. I went to a place called the Missionary Training Center in Sao
Paulo, Brazil, where I received training for eight weeks along with
other American missionaries. I had to room with Brazilian locals and
none of them spoke English. It was a bit awkward and challenging trying
to communicate with them with the little knowledge I had."
Sorenson eventually became fluent in Portuguese, but it was a rather difficult experience.
After eight weeks of training, Sorenson was sent to the missionary field
where he was accompanied by a fluent expert. They assisted him with
communicating to the locals whenever he required interaction. Throughout
22 months he began to pick up on the language the more he spoke with
the locals. It was still a struggle.
"It was really awkward at times trying to convey religious messages to
the locals," said Sorenson. "There were times I would go to someone with
a memorized line and when they started to talk I would look to the
expert for help. Some locals would hear my American accent and would
shun me away; others were sincere enough to assist me with communicating
Despite the difficulties with learning Portuguese, Sorenson learned the significance of work ethic.
"I was frustrated a lot of times because I didn't understand the
language," said Sorenson. "Also I was a bit homesick missing my family
and friends, but I kept persevering and eventually came out on top. A
good life lesson I learned is when things get tough, that's the time
when you really have to stand up and keep going."
Sorenson became resilient in his struggle to master the language and
communicate his religious messages to the locals. Because of his
dedication, Sorenson was able to pull through and accomplish his
"Life is full of trials," said Master Sgt. Andrew Wells, 509th Civil
Engineer Squadron assistant chief of hazardous material safety. "That
adversity will give us experience and has the potential to strengthen
us. An attitude of resiliency comes when we view mistakes and weakness
as opportunities to learn, to the point that we accept losing as
learning. This will help us focus on what we can do to change the
situation instead of worrying about what is outside of our control."
Not only did Sorenson receive knowledge, he spent time giving back by teaching English to some of his friends.
"I didn't just go to Brazil for the religious aspect," said Sorenson. "I
taught English to a few people who were going to universities. All the
textbooks are written in English and they have to know it in order to
progress through college. I think that benefited them in their endeavor
to pursue a higher education."
Sorenson demonstrated resiliency on several accounts throughout his
mission in Brazil. Despite his time away from family and friends, he
gained new experiences that will last him a lifetime.
"I was able to make close friends and I still communicate with them via
social media, which also keeps me fluent in the language," said
Sorenson. "I've had the opportunity of visiting different locations,
trying new foods and many activities others don't get a chance to
experience. It's taught me life lessons which have carried on into my
Air Force career, making me the Airman I am today."