It has been just over a week now that I completed my full-time missionary service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. After serving my Savior in Tucson, Arizona for 18 months, it was bittersweet to return to a new home in Anchorage, Alaska. I was torn between feeling excited to see my family again and to move on to a new chapter in my life–yet nervous for change and longing to be with the people I had loved and served. As I’ve reflected on the concluding days and hours of my full-time service, I feel that my story wouldn’t be complete without sharing a few of the beautiful experiences that I had.
To begin, Heavenly Father blessed me with one of the most astounding tender mercies in the last week of my mission that I had ever seen. I love seeing mini miracles. Mini miracles aren’t mini! They are the “small and simple things” that add up to create–well, big miracles. That week I was able to see a “great [thing] brought to pass,” a big miracle, that began with simple things.
It began about a month ago when Hermana Budge and I ate lunch with Karen Solis from the El Dorado branch. We were sitting down outside of the Subway right off of Broadway and Kolb, preparing a copy of the Book of Mormon for her boyfriend with our testimonies and favorite scriptures when a man came up to us and asked if he and his wife could sit next to us. We, of course, consented.
When that man’s wife came and joined us, I felt prompted to talk to her. It was easy to begin–she was a sweet little hispanic woman and I could tell that Spanish was her first language. I mentioned to her that the three of us sitting at that table also spoke Spanish. Well, that just made her day and we struck up a lively conversation.
Her name is Nery. She is from Panama and is one of the most compassionate, energetic, loving, and faithful people that I have ever met. It was easy to love her! As we were talking, and as Nery explained to us how she had tried to live her life as a faithful christian, I felt the spirit prompt me to share with her my unique testimony of the Book of Mormon. So I did! I was surprised when, immediately afterwards, she demanded that we show her the book.
Hermana Budge and I introduced her to Hermana Hubert and Hermana Hurst a few days later and then thought nothing of it. However, three weeks later, they called us and asked if we would like to attend her baptism.
What?!? We were overjoyed! Nery’s baptism took place on the last Saturday of my mission. I can’t even begin to describe the joy it was to see her make that special covenant with her Heavenly Father. In the testimony that she gave after being baptized, she explained that she had been searching and searching her entire life for Christ’s true church–and she found it at “subway sandwich.” She said that she knew the Lord had put those sister missionaries in her path to talk to her about the Book of Mormon.
How amazing is that? Heavenly Father is wonderful. I personally feel that He blessed me to see these fruits of a small effort at the very end of my mission as a way to calm my fears that I hadn’t done enough and that I hadn’t become the person He wanted me to be during that time. It was, effectively, for me His way of saying, “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” It all began with simple things–having a desire to serve God, studying diligently and consistently to obtain a personal testimony, and sharing it.
What’s more, many of the missionaries and members that I had come to love so deeply also attended the baptism. I was reunited with several of my old companions–Hermana Martin, Hermana Gregory, and Hermana Hubert–the good missionaries of the South Zone, and the special people of El Dorado!! I had was amazed that the Lord would pour out so many blessings on me and fill my heart with so much love.
That following Tuesday, the other departing missionaries and I were able to go to the Gilbert, Arizona temple with the Passeys. I love that temple!! It was a beautiful experience that I will always cherish. I’m grateful for the blessing we have to go up unto the house of the Lord and receive instruction from on high.
My mission created the perfect environment for me to experiment the power of Christ’s atonement. I experienced firsthand the power of prayer and the power of desire; I came to understand and relish the doctrines of the gospel; I realized what potential I have as a daughter of God and that I can bring about much good in my life and in the lives of others. I learned how to become a profitable servant and to repent of my sins. I came to know my Savior.
But I’m not done yet! Those were only the training grounds for the rest of my life. I remember talking with Hermana Larese from El Dorado; she made the decision when she finished her mission to always be a missionary–and she is! She is an amazing example of always sharing her testimony and love for the Savior. I wanted to do the same.
That desire was put to the test on Wednesday during my final hours as a missionary. I had three legs of a flight to go on–one from Tucson to Salt Lake, Salt Lake to Seattle, and Seattle to Anchorage. I wrote earlier about this experience to a good friend of mine. In my letter to her, I said:
“Hermana, Heavenly Father is amazing! He blessed me with SO many people to talk to on the way home. I talked with a woman named Kim on the first plane who had a ton of connections to Alaska. She lives in Deming, New Mexico (in the mission!). I gave her my copy of the Book of Mormon and she really wants to read it. Then I was able to talk with a different guy named Andrew on the next plane–and he was a really devout christian. He ended up downloading the Book of Mormon and Gospel Library on his phone. Then, during my layover in Seattle, a really nice couple (members) bought me lunch and we chatted for a while. That was a blessing because I was technically on my own at that point–everyone else had completed their flight. Then, when I went to wait for my next flight, I sat down in the only available seats and found myself sitting next to two more members of the church! One was a fairly young woman with three little kids that became my best buds, and the other was a recently returned missionary. As we were talking, a girl came up and asked if she could sit by me. Another miracle–I had really wanted to find someone that spoke spanish on my journey home, and she spoke spanish, and she’s not even hispanic!! She isn’t a member and is working for the same company in Alaska that I’ll be working for. We talked for a while; she says she’s not interested in converting right now, but she has another friend that just got home from his mission. We’re friends on facebook now, so we’ll see what happens. 🙂
Ok. So during that time, that return missionary left to buy something to eat. The girl I had been talking with left, and another family came to sit by me. It was a man, a woman, and their daughter. He turned out to be a Catholic publisher and we struck up a pretty interesting conversation. He was trying to purge the US of false religion and told me that I would be damned unless I joined the Catholic church (the return missionary came back at this point and sat on the other side of him and listened). He claimed that one of the things wrong with our church was that we don’t baptize. Well, I told him the news that we did and that we did it exactly as Christ did. He claimed that it couldn’t possibly be valid–so I showed him the exact wording from the white handbook and that really humbled him. He admitted that that would be a correct baptism… but it wouldn’t be valid because we don’t have the proper priesthood authority! At that point, a man walking by came close to us and remarked that he should just read the Book of Mormon. Then he walked away. The conversation continued and this other return missionary got involved as well. Eventually, as we had to get on the plane, I just bore my testimony the best I could of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.
What’s interesting is that his daughter was watching me with these big brown eyes the whole time. I felt like I should give her the other copy of the Book of Mormon that I had, and she accepted it so gratefully! She seemed intrigued and sincere, and her parents didn’t protest. We finished up our conversation and got on the plane.
Then I got to talk with this other guy named Zeke on the plane! Long story short, missionaries are going over to his house to give him a copy of the Book of Mormon. He was really interested, too!
This whole experience was so satisfying because I felt like Heavenly Father really did trust me enough to put people in my path, even up to the very last hours of my being a full-time missionary, to talk to. It just felt beautiful, and it was really special to be able to share that with my family as soon as I saw them.”
Well, this post is starting to get a lot longer than I planned. I could just go on forever about the experiences that I’ve had! I just KNOW now that this is true. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us everything we need to know to be happy in this life and to create eternal families. I love my Savior and I’m thankful for His perfect love for me. I know that He loves you and has a plan for you. If you seek Him, you will be guided to know what that plan is. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.