Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Week 80: The Good Fight

Well.  This is it.  How surreal.  Yesterday was one of the greatest days of my mission, and probably my life.  It was a perfect ending to a glorious journey.
The whole weekend was stellar actually.  I spoke in sacrament about becoming Christlike, via the two great commandments, loving Heavenly Father and loving one another.  I hugged everyone goodbye, got my pictures, and everyone had kind things to say, thanking me for my service (and trying to predict my date of engagement, but we won't talk about that.)  Yesterday, I guess I should have spent the day packing, but there were too many people to see.  We taught three lessons instead.  We visited an investigator at the hospital, about the reality of the Resurrection through Jesus Christ.  Her poor health and tired body will be so relieved when that day comes.  We visited a member of the ward in the same hospital, and sang to her : Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing.  Words that have always been near to my heart.  "Here's my heart, o take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above."  We taught her about the Atonement and repentance.
This whole last week, we had many opportunities to testify specifically about the Savior and His Atonement.  Either that, or I took every chance I could to testify of such things.  My daily experiences have never been so joyful or fulfilling.  We dropped our young agnostic on a mutual understanding that maybe this just wasn't the right time for him.  But we testified of the Plan of Salvation, of a God who loves him, and made him promise to look up the missionaries when that day does come that his heart yearns again to know his Maker.  We taught twice more the woman who's working on being baptized, and she receives our message of the Plan of Salvation like a child  would - eagerly and gratefully.  She told us she feels so good after our lessons, like she doesn't have any worries anymore, and I wanted to shout for joy.  That's the Spirit!
Anyway, we finished yesterday at Lonnie's, and Junior was there!  Back from the dead!  We leapt on the opportunity to teach him again, asked him about baptism again, how we do it to follow Jesus Christ, and how the Father promises us the Holy Ghost.  For a moment I remembered what it was like to be seventeen as Junior pondered how such a gift could help him in his life.  "I know I want to be baptized," he said.  "I'm just not sure when."  He's on his way.  I have no doubt.  He knows Jesus died for him, and that's enough to get him started.  To top it off, we had dinner with K-dog who is already planning to see me next winter when he goes through the temple for the first time in Salt Lake City.  That's all a missionary ever wants to hear from their converts.  That their conversion is deep and will last.  So maybe I didn't get completely packed until 3:00 this morning and am currently running on two hours of sleep, but it's alright.  I wouldn't trade it for nothing. 

 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: [2 Tim 4]

I'd been praying for a feeling of peace when I reached the end and the Lord granted it.  He led me through the wilderness. He chose me out of the furnace of afflictions.  He worked miracles before my eyes in the lives of others and in my own.
20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
 21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.
My bags are packed. My heart is full.  I'm ready for the next adventure. I love my Heavenly Father, I love my Savior, I know they live.  I love you all so much and can't wait to see you.  All is well.
Sister Valdez

Week 79:Glory In It

So you know how oftentimes people talk about how God never answers when you want or in the way you want?  Well that may be true.  But still, there are other times where he does.  Just in time, and just how you had hoped.  It's rare, but it happens. 
Nearing the end here, I've had occasion to bring up in my prayers a sentiment like unto the following:  "I'm super grateful for the success I've been given and the miracles that have occurred, and I don't need to have one more progressing investigator to feel successful..... but like, if it be Thy will, I'd really really like one.  If it's already in Thy plan, that is, I would enjoy and appreciate very much to help just one more person."  I expressed this a couple of times.  And then I kind of left it alone and kept on working.  Then guess what happened. Guess!  So we'd decided to drive up to the boonies of our area, far from everything, to visit the address of a woman who we thought had moved into our ward and we'd met once.  What we didn't know was that by now, she'd already moved back to where she came from in Waveland ward.  So we get to this address and meet her mother, who lives there, and knowing better than to pass up an opportunity, asked if she'd like to hear our message sometime.  She accepted, and though we didn't think it very promising, we returned two weeks later.  And what does she tell us before we even start the lesson?  That she wants to be baptized.  UM OK WOW WELL I MEAN DON'T LET US PUSH YOU OR ANYTHING.  It was amazing.  She's a very humble woman, of humble understanding and circumstance, but what she does understand is that she needs to change her life if she wants it to get better and she needs to do what's right if she wants God's help.  Because of her daughter's example, who is a recent convert herself, she has a lot of trust that this church is going to help her do just that.  February 28, she's due to enter covenant waters.  She can't read well, so we gave her a set of Book of Mormon on CD.  We called and got her a ride to church, and she came!  And stayed all three hours, even with a squirming grandson who didn't leave her side.  When asked how she liked it, she said "It was wonderful."  The Spirit was there, so it was.  The blessings don't stop there.  A woman we've been working with for a few months now finally came to church with us - why? Because my companion called and woke her up and said come, so she came.  What's more, it was fast and testimony meeting and I went up to testify, praying for the Spirit to help me do articulate justice to the testimony the Lord has helped me develop these past 18 months.  It did.  And two of our investigators got to hear it.  Majorus blessing.  I love these women so much.
I think my companion will be okay without me.  (Whenever we talk about... the end... we talk about what will happen when I "transfer to Hattiesberg" so that's the story we're sticking with, probs until my plane lands.  I don't imagine it will seem real until then.)  We had a specialized training meeting that day for trainers and new missionaries, and I turned to her randomly and said "I trust you with our area" and she almost cried.  So I think that might have been significant to her maybe.  I also had my final interview with President McDonough, and it was very chill, nothing to be nervous about, though Sister Creager and I were shaking in our boots.  Why?  I'm not sure.  We expected some grand dramatic moment, some profoundly sage advice, but it was pretty low key.  At the same time, his simple advice was very significant and profound to the receiver.  He told me I've done very well.  And that he and Sister McDonough will love and remember me forever.  And that was what I needed.  Sister Creager and I went on our both of our last exchanges ever, and it was with each other - meant to be - and talked a lot about our missions and what we've learned and what the future holds (in between dragging our shoes on the gravel as we walked so they'll be more indicative of all the hard work we done).  We both have had occasion to wonder if anyone will remember us.  We both worry that we'll be able to keep up our spiritual health when it's no longer the entire and full focus of our existence.  But we both have strong, faithful families to return to.  We both have a sense of peace about all the work we have done, and a hope that many of these changes we've made will be permanent.  And we have each other.  Friends in the gospel are of the greatest gifts we have on earth.

 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4]

9. I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy. [Alma 29]
Enough said.

Sister Valdez

1. After church
2. How we actually look at doors
3. Best friends forever
4. Doggie in a ditch