My dear brothers and sisters, my few followers who perhaps are still reading these letters home after two years in the field, my beloved family members, friends on missions...
This is it. This is the end.
It hurts. Thursday, at 5:00 PM, I catch the first plane, to arrive in rainy Seattle Washington at 10:30 AM the next day. I don't have much to write. What I have to say will be said in person here in a bit. But I wanted to share a few words to wrap up the blog and the last two years of my life.
1) Tears/Conversion- On Sunday we had an amazing sacrament meeting, a very spiritual experience. I was given the opportunity by the branch to sing a special musical number ("Joseph Smith's First Prayer" to the tune of "Come Thou Fount") with my companion , and to give a final talk. The tears I mention weren't mine (though on several occasions they were close by), but the tears of one of the investigators we brought. She saw her sister receive the Holy Ghost, her husband at her side in church for the first time, and was touched profoundly by the spirit. Tears ran down her face without stopping for half the meeting, and then a look of profound peace came upon her. It was an image that will stay with me long after the mission.
I spoke about conversion, which I defined as the search for perfection. Matthew 5:48 gives what I consider to be the hardest commandment: "Be ye therefore perfect." The Book of Mormon explains how this is possible in Moroni 10:32-33. This life is a struggle to, through the Atonement of Christ, be cleansed from sin, be better, and prepare to meet God and "be like him, for we shall see him as he is." These last two years have been full of difficulties, trials, joys, tears, and growth...but, most important of all, I feel that I can say that I am a better person, a more Christ-like person, now at the end of my mission than I was two years ago.
I'm so very far away from perfect. So far it hurts. But I want to be better. And I hope that counts for something.
2) Miracles- Another lesson from this week that applies, really, to my whole mission, were the miracles that happened. My last Saturday decided to be a repeat of so many Saturdays gone by--in the pouring rain, without an umbrella, knocking doors. I love it.
And I felt the Lord guiding us and, in a silent way, saying: "today, you're going to be My hands one last time." We made six visits within two hours, and every single one was to a suffering family. A family torn by fighting and misunderstanding, a mother who had lost her son two days before, a wife who had lost her husband the week before. A lonely old couple, injured by age. And finally, another elderly couple. For the last two years, the husband has been lying in bed after suffering a stroke. The wife takes care of him and doesn't leave his side. We entered and offered a prayer, quietly explained the Plan of Salvation, and I offered to give her husband a priesthood blessing. She agreed. Up to this point the man's eyes were closed tightly and his face was contorted as if with pain. My companion did the anointing, and the man cried out, repeatedly, as the hands were placed on his head. I sealed the anointing, and he soon calmed. As I offered the words of the blessing, I felt inspired to tell him that whatever pain he was feeling at that moment might be made light. As I ended the prayer, I looked down to see the man staring up at me with wide eyes that seemed, now, so peaceful and serene. He was relaxed. We left, and I felt truly that I was a representative of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These are the moments that stay with me. How I have loved being a missionary. I love this people. I love the work. And I love the Lord. I am so grateful for these last two years.
I love you all. Your prayers have always made the difference for me. Know that I have a testimony of this church, of this gospel, and of our Savior. Our Redeemer. My King. My best friend. Jesus Christ. Two years in his service is not enough. I think it will have to be a lifetime. Onward, ever onward.
Sweet is the work.