The time has come for me to end my full time missionary service in the Tennessee Nashville Mission. It's hard. Just like everyone said it would be, but now that it's actually happening, I feel like I'm performing my own Atonement! It is physically and spiritually hard to be closing this part of my life.
I know that my missionary service will continue on after I am released. Trust me. I will not just forget everything I've ever learned. I promise I will be that annoying member that is just gun-ho about missionary work all the time! Y'all will love me for it though - Whether in this life or the next.
I've tried to gather my thoughts and share them with y'all in a testimony, but it's hard. No mission can ever be described. It's impossible. Every mission is hand crafted by God. Mine was for me. I guess I can start at the beginning though.
When the announcement was made that sisters could serve missions beginning at age 19, I immediately thought “Shoot..... now I have to serve a mission. Mom and Dad are never going to let me get out of that!” I really didn't want to go! I prayed though and the most powerful feeling swept over me. I knew without any flicker of doubt that I HAD to serve. Not for my parents, but for me. That feeling was once again confirmed as I prayed a few months later up at school while deciding if I really did need to go on a mission. The answer was so strong that I knew if I ignored it, I might be struck down.
So I put my papers in and was called to serve in the Tennessee Nashville Mission. I was excited... or acted excited, but deep down I was terrified. I had no clue what a mission was and what I was getting myself into.
September 2013 came and I left. I was dropped off at the curb that I had passed so many times before in my life. I felt as if I was just doing a trial run and everyone else was really going on missions. I could practically see my house from the hill of the temple. I saw my home teacher several times and many of my friends. It was a cool experience, but I'd be able to go home soon and return to the comfortable life I had before.
All of a sudden, doubt bombarded me. Up until that point in my life I had never questioned my beliefs. I had gone to church and read my scriptures and prophets were real and the church was true, and that was it! I never questioned anything! It was really scary for me actually. I feared that my questions would overtake me and that it was a sin to question. I emailed my dad wanting to quit and come home. I didn't know what I believed anymore.
Well... my dad happened to have a business trip the day I left the MTC and so he lovingly shoved me on the plane and told me I'd do great. He also gave me some great words of advice that I read on my flight. My first thought as the plane took off was “What have I done?!” It wasn't a trial run anymore. I was leaving. Gone. Bye bye Utah! I had no choice. I was going to Tennessee and that was it. I couldn't go back.
As I arrived, my doubts didn't go away. I didn't understand how anyone could love missionary work. I was exhausted and hot all the time, tracting was miserable, and it was just hard! How could anyone walk around with a smile ALL DAY and tell people about this gospel?! I didn't even know if it was true! I couldn't tell people about something that I was questioning myself!
Well.... I overcame my doubts. It took several months of serious study and prayer and loads of faith. Trusting God that He would answer me. He did. Not all at once in a big booming flashing lights way, but He answered bits and pieces at a time to let me know He was there and He loved me. It was frustrating at times. I just wanted to know!!! Couldn't He see that?! Why was He waiting and not giving me the full piece! All those times where doubt kept choking me, I was humbled to my knees, begging for answers. I had never felt real power in prayer before. I always felt I was more talking to myself in my head than talking to God. As I pleaded for light and direction, I felt a connection stronger than anything else. I felt as if I was REALLY talking to God. And I was!
One morning I woke up and realized a prayer had been answered. I found out through a really special way that Jesus Christ lives! He lives and He died for me and He is my Savior! I will always remember that experience and how much joy I felt as I realized that God had answered my prayer from months before asking for some manifestation to know that Christ was real. He was answering my prayers!
Now as I have been out here studying deeply in the scriptures, I have come to know that God lives! I know that He loves me so perfectly. Sometimes I don't always remember that, but I do know it. Looking at His church set up here on earth I see how perfect and glorious it is! It is flawless and organized perfectly so we can know that clear path that we need to take to get back to Him!
I cannot describe my mission and how it was. It was my mission and each experience was for my growth. Every person I taught, ended up teaching me some valuable lesson either about myself or about God or about life. I had experiences that gave me a small taste of the suffering the Savior felt in Gethsemane. I would never want to experience those again because the pain was so bitter and awful, but I am forever grateful for those experiences. I couldn't have learned more about the Savior and His Atonement than through those experiences.
I can't imagine trying to live life without having served my mission. I encourage EVERYONE who is able, to serve. Whether or not it's your first desire. I've heard some people say that a mission is not for everyone but I think otherwise. A mission IS for everyone. A mission is life. The Second Coming will happen! We have to serve with all we have! We have to tell people! This gospel is life. The gospel isn't something I just believe or do, it is who I am. I am a member of Christ's true church! It's everything I live for. I live for God! Life isn't school or work or sports or sleep or hiking or cars. Some of those things are important or fun, but life is more. Gain an eternal perspective. Serve God to the fullest of your capacity. Hold back nothing! Give yourself to Him!!!
I know without any doubt that this church IS true! It's true because it's Christ's. I respect all other religions. I have made many friends of other faiths who are devout in their religion. I love spending time with them and talking and finding things we have in common. I know though, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the Lord's kingdom. I will remain firm in my faith and I will constantly share it with all those around me.
I have a solid testimony of the Book of Mormon. I just finished reading it again yesterday. I took Moroni's challenge and I knelt down to ask God if it was true. I already knew it was true though. I didn't even have to ask. I could declare to my God that I knew the Book of Mormon was His word, given to me to learn of Him and of His Son. The Book of Mormon is not something that was made up, or just another good book, it is the word of God. He inspired His holy prophets to write the things they did and God preserved that record for hundreds of years! If you doubt this, ask God. He knows. And if He did bring forth that book, He will tell you. God desires all of us to know the truth and light He prepared for us. All you have to do is ask.
I love God with all of my heart, mind, and strength. I have felt His love and His spirit countless times. I know this work is true and I know it's His. I know He guides His servants. I know that keeping God's commandments is true happiness. You'll be able to see that when I get home. I smile so much! Because I have something to smile about.
Thank you all for your love, support, letters, emails, prayers (they were a great strength to me), and for letting me leave to serve God. I will never regret my mission. It changed me. That is what the Atonement does. It changes you. Allow the Atonement to change you. You won't regret it. If you don't know what that means, find out. I love y'all.
“Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of Him to declare His word among His people, that they might have everlasting life.”
~3 Nephi 5:13~
My favorite bus driver
Our bishop and his wife
My matching church buddies