Hard to believe that it's already arrived. I think this was the fastest December I can remember. It's wonderful to feel the Christmas spirit, sing carols, and do the Lord's work. I love this time of year, no matter the place or the temperature!
1) Hit the Streets- This week saw a lot of contacting. Elder Dunford and I didn't have a lot lessons marked due to investigators going on Christmas vacations, but we didn't let that prevent us from working hard and trying to find new people. We are talking to everyone we see, inviting them to hear about Christ. Everyone. I'm a missionary, that's what I'm called to do, so I'm going to talk to everyone I see in the streets, houses, wherever. Elder Dunford and I have a contest going for what we call the "best and worst contacts of the day." The worst rejections and the best acceptances. It makes things a bit more entertaining, and we always feel good coming away from contacts fist-bumping and claiming best contact. There are some great, prepared people out there.
The mission has begun to try to focus even more on working with families. Lots of missionaries tend to just baptize one family member, the children, etc. So anytime we see a couple or family on the street we run (figuratively, sometimes literally) after them. This message is for families! We also sang carols as a zone in the park, and got a lot of attention that way. I love singing, and it's a good way to help people feel the Spirit.
2) Conference- This week we also had the mission Christmas conference, which was an amazing experience. It started with the musical program, which I participated in. It has been a long time since I felt the Spirit touch me as strongly as it did during the songs. For me the best part was getting to testify by singing "This is the Christ" and seeing it touch the listeners, including a few tears running down the face of our mission president. What a spiritual giant he is.
It was my turn to cry a bit when we sang the classic EFY medley as an entire mission. I echo the words of the song: "I have been born as Nephi of old, to goodly parents who love the Lord...we are as the army of Helaman, I have been taught in my youth. And I will be the Lord's missionary to teach the world his truth." I am so grateful for my loving parents who did teach me the truth and raised me in a gospel-centered home. That has been such a blessing in my life, and helped me become the missionary I am today. (I hope Mom is crying right now :)
Afterwards I got to talk to all of my good friends that I have made while on the mission. That's a cool part about being financial secretary: I know all the missionaries and can call a majority of them my friends. Lots of picture taking, lots of food and chocolate, and lots of singing of Christmas carols as an entire mission, ending (of course) with a rousing rendition of "Called to Serve" that nearly brought the chapel down around us. Missionaries have got power!
3) Remembering- And in the midst of all this, there has been a lot of remembering. Of course, remembering of Christmases past (cabins with friends and family, sledding, snow-shoeing, caroling, Christmas mornings and dinners), but that hasn't been what most dominates my thoughts or memories. Of course I miss it, but I'm making Christmas memories now that I will also never forget. What I actually ended up remembering most was my motives and feelings at the beginning of the mission. I know I already had a "looking back" segment a couple weeks ago, but this was a little different for me. I remembered the excitement I had, the desire to serve, to be the best missionary ever. I felt, during the conference, a spirit that I remember telling myself over a year ago: "Don't ever forget this feeling. Don't get caught up in the mechanics, the numbers of missionary work. You are going to help others experience this for themselves. How? I don't know yet. But don't you forget it." I hope that I have remembered it. Because now I've learned the "how". But it's worth nothing without the "why." I'm now reinvigorated to bring these feeling of joy, peace, and certainty to the hearts of the people I teach.
So here we go. A very merry Christmas to all of you. I hope it is wonderful. I hope you make new memories. But I also hope you never forget the true meaning of Christmas. Which is Christ. Our Savior. My Redeemer. How I love him. What a wonderful time of year. What a wonderful life.