I forgot to tell about something really important that happened last week: I drove all the way from our church building to the Kasson branch building all by myself, without any maps or GPS or navigational help whatsoever!! This is a big deal. A while ago, I looked back at my study journal from the beginning of my mission where I’d set some goals for my mission, and one thing I wanted was to get better at navigating. So I felt pretty great being able to drive somewhere without a GPS. My mission has clearly been a great success.
Well . . . this is the last letter. Things are feeling pretty surreal right now. I keep waking up early with this super nervous feeling, and continuing to feel nervous for no reason.
“That’s called anxiety,” Sister Woodward told me.
I had my final interview with President Barney yesterday, and when he started talking about going home and finding someone to marry, I started crying. Sister Woodward is probably right.
Despite the crazy emotions we’ve all been experiencing this week, we’ve had a pretty great week. We’ve met a few really neat people who would like to meet with us again, which is awesome, and we’ve had some great experiences with some of the people we’ve been meeting with regularly. One guy we met during the solar eclipse when we let people use our awesome glasses — that turned out to be a great missionary opportunity!
We had a special last lesson with one of our friends last night, Scrunched in our assistant ward mission leader’s little apartment, we had our last lesson together — the assistant ward mission leader and his wife (the Petittas) are leaving this week as well. After sharing a message, we asked our friend what he thought. “I feel sad,” he said. Yeah, me too. 😦 But dispose the sadness, we were able to share some very special testimonies and feel the spirit so sweetly in that little apartment. And then sweet Sister Petitta brought out chocolate chip cookies and milk. 🙂
The man I mentioned in the past couple of emails has been doing really well not smoking! He was having a bad day, though, yesterday morning, but after a 25 minute phone call, he came to church with the Petittas! Sister Woodward had told him that it’s on the days that we really don’t feel like going to church that we need it the most, and she promised it would help him. Now I owe him KFC. 🙂 It was my last Sunday, and it just so happened that President and Sister Barney had been invited by Bishop to come speak. I was also invited on the spot to bear my testimony. I appreciated that opportunity. It is so hard to express everything I’d like to share.
Something that I did share in my testimony is a quote by a former prophet and president of our church, Ezra Taft Benson. This is one of my favorites:
“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life.”
I believe that this is true with all my heart. I am so grateful that I have come on this mission at this time. I am able to see some of the ways that God has used this sacrifice of my time to truly bless me. I don’t think we can truly sacrifice anything to God: whatever we bring as an offering to Him, He will magnify and make more abundant in our lives.
I am grateful for all the people who have supported me on my mission. Thank you so much for your prayers and letters and all kinds of support and encouragement. I am so grateful for the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve made. Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke so poignantly of the way the Lord’s influence can guide our lives and our encounters when he said, “Recall the new star that announced the birth at Bethlehem? It was in its precise orbit long before it so shone. We are likewise placed in human orbits to illuminate. Divine correlation functions not only in the cosmos but on this planet, too” (Encircled in the Arms of His Love,” October 2002).
I love the knowing that that same God who placed the Star of Bethlehem in its precise orbit to shine over Bethlehem the night of Christ’s birth also inspired my mission call, sending me here to serve in Minnesota. I am so grateful for the people placed in my human orbit over these past 18 months, and I know that these experiences are only a part of His plan for me. (I feel like quoting “For Good” from Wicked here, but that doesn’t seem totally missionary appropriate . . . Wicked can wait a few more days. 😉
When I was transferred from Minnetonka to Eden Prairie, someone told me not to think of my mission not in discrete chunks, separate experiences based on which area I was serving in, but as a continuum of learning and growth and service. I feel the same applies to my mission as a whole. I want to think that this week will not be the end of my mission, but another step forward in the continuum of growth and experiences and service that Heavenly Father has in store for me.
I love this quote by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the first presidency of our church:
“There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings. Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny. The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. …How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings” (President Uchdorf, “Grateful in Any Circumstances,” April 2014)
How true that is! I want to express my gratitude for this special experience and my testimony that God lives. He is our Heavenly Father. Pray to Him — he really does hear our prayers. I have seen His hand in my life. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that His Atonement has real power to heal and strengthen us, and ultimately bring us back to our heavenly home. I have a testimony that Joseph Smith was truly a prophet, called by Jesus Christ to restore His Priesthood and His Church to the earth. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. Please read it every day! The scriptures are truly help us come to know our Savior and trust that His promises will all be fulfilled. I love Him, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity to serve Him.
This is not an ending, this is another beginning. 🙂