Hey family, and friends! So technically I am home now, but I wanted to send this out to put on the blog and send out to any other people you sent my emails to so we don't have anymore surprises...haha.
But here is how my last week in the mission went.
First, it was heartbreaking, because I knew I would be leaving my beloved Ecuador, and I love everything about it. Also, I wasn't able to work very much, so I stayed inside with Hermana Stewart most of the time, and we passed the time by assigning callings to the cast of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Haha. Missionaries...
I think the absolute best part of the week though, and the biggest tender mercy, was that Saturday night we had a BAPTISM!!!!!!! It was so cool to be able to end my mission with a baptism. Not only that, but the three girls who were baptized were real converts. You could tell they really understood the promise they were making with God, and the Spirit was way strong, in fact it was the most spiritual baptism I attended my whole mission, I think. We also had 2 families of investigators there, so I hope they were able to feel the Spirit as well!! Hermana Stewart, Hermana Monzon, and I sang for the musical number "O Mi Padre" to the tune of "Come Thou Fount" (p.s. you can also do that for Joseph Smith's First Prayer, and it is equally amazing) and it was great. Before the mission, I wasn't bit about singing or playing the piano, but now I really enjoy it. Maybe it's just because music sort of doesn't exist in Ecuador haha.
But then right after church, I got all packed up and our WML's wife drove us to Quito to wait for President and Hermana Ghent, and when we met up with them there was another huge tender mercy: one of my old companions in Ambato had given Hna Ghent some cards and little gift things from Johanna and Domenica to give to me, so they literally got to me just in time, as I was leaving, and I probably couldn't have asked for anything better than that. I love those girls like I don't even know how to explain.
So then we drove to the airport, and I decided that maybe it would've been easier to leave Ecuador if it was super ugly, but it isn't, it's such a beautiful country and that alone was causing me so much grief, on top of leaving all of the people I've grown to love here so much, ward members, missionaries, investigators and converts and everyone in between. Leaving my mission was without a doubt the most heartbreaking thing I've ever done.
But after we got me all settled with my flight and my luggage checked and everything, and as we were walking me to security, Hna Ghent gave me probably the best advice I've received yet. She assured me that this trial I'm going through will bless my future family more than if I had stayed in the mission. That was super comforting, and I believe it, although right now I can't really see why I know that someday I will.
So then I traveled all through Sunday night and Monday. I've decided that I like traveling, but I can't stand airplanes, so I'm just going to have to learn how to teleport myself so I can fulfill my dream of visiting every continent. I traveled home with a Senior couple so that was another tender mercy that I didn't have to figure out airports and flights all by my lone, uneducated self. I flew from Quito to Lima, to Atlanta, to LA, to Salt Lake. Meeehhh. But the flight from Atlanta to LA was incredible, and another huge tender mercy. The Lord placed me next to someone who was so incredibly prepared to receive the Gospel. We just got talking, and I was reading my Book of Mormon, and she asked if I was reading the Bible, and that gave me the chance to explain to her a little bit about the Book of Mormon and introduce the Church, and then she was like "I need a church. I really need to get back to church." !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How come nobody in Ecuador never said that to me?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? But we
talked about repentance and Jesus Christ, and I gave her a Plan of
Salvation pamphlet, because I had randomly decided to hang onto all my
english pamphlets my entire mission, and it was so cool because every
time I told her something she would say "Really?? I did not know that!!"
So at the end of the flight, I invited her to pray about all the things
we had talked about and the pamphlet, and she was like "I will, I
definitely will" And I promised her that God would answer her prayer,
and she was like "Really??!" And I was like "Yes!!" and then she said
"Yes, I know he will answer my prayer." It was so cool, she was just so
ready to hear the Gospel. I know she'll benefit a ton from the things we
talked about, but I feel like I benefitted even more just by having the
chance to be a missionary like how I always dreamed it would be before
the mission. Because we do see miracles in the mission but stuff like
that just didn't really happen that much for me.
And then, that was it, I got home that night, on Monday, and I was released Tuesday night. I have been praying, studying, and pondering a lot to figure out what is the purpose behind all of this and what do I need to do now, and I don't really know yet. I know there is a purpose in me being home now, I don't know if I'm supposed to try to get back out into a different mission or if I need to be here, but I'm still weighing my options and trying to be receptive to knowing what God needs me to do here.
One thing I want to say though, is that the mission is the most unique experience that anyone can ever have. It absolutely changed my life, and I know it changed me a ton. It was the hardest thing I've ever done but absolutely the most rewarding. I'm grateful for the many testimonies I've gained on the mission, the biggest and best being that I know Jesus Christ is my Savior, and that he is our Redeemer, for all of us. Every single one of us! He waits with open arms to receive us and take upon himself all of our hardships and pains and sorrows. I know that He has helped me a ton throughout all of what I've been going through, and I would not be who I am or where I'm at today without Him. One scripture that's really helped me during this time has been Matthew 11:28-30
"Venid a mi, todos los que estais trabajados y cargados, y yo os hare descansar. Llevad mi yugo sobre vosotros y aprended de me, por que yo soy manso y humilde de corazon, y hallareis descanso para vuestras almas. Por que mi yugo es facil, y ligera mi carga."
Haha sorry, I don't know it in English. Just Spanish. haha...sorry.
But another big lesson I've learned since being home is this: In the mission, I thought a lot about all the things I had taken for granted, and all the things I was so excited to have when I got home, like clean water, or movies, or getting to sleep in, etc. But the thing is, the mission is worth more than all of those. You only get 18 to 24 months of a mission, or in my case, 7. You have all those things, the luxuries, you could say, all the things you're consecrated from, for your entire life. But the mission, the full time, called, consecrated service is only once. What I realized when I got home and had all of those luxuries was that I didn't enjoy them as much as I thought I would in the mission. The mission is only once, even if you serve missions when you're married, the young mission is only once and it is so unique and wonderful, so enjoy it. Enjoy every moment. Enjoy the mission like you think you're going to enjoy all the other things when you get home.
Well, that's about all I wanted to say. I do want to thank you all for your incredible, never failing support. I love you all so much! My civilian email is firstname.lastname@example.org, so probably use that just incase my missionary email gets shut down during this time. But I still love hearing from you all and getting your mass emails and stuff, so keep those coming my way, please. I may have been released but that doesn't mean I'm not a missionary anymore :) Anyways, I love you all so much, family, friends, and everyone who has been such an amazing support to me during my whole mission! The best advice I can give is just to be a missionary every day for all of your lives, because the mission is the best, and I know it doesn't "end" once you take off the badge. :)
Love you! Thanks for everything!