Aahhhhhhhhhh!! This moment is so bittersweet! I can´t believe that I´m really writing my last email. I can´t believe in 7 days I´ll be on a plane going home! I don´t think it´s going to really sink in until I see my parents in the airport. Maybe not even then! But I am loving my last weeks in the mission! Heavenly Father is SO good! I feel so blessed to have spent the last weeks of my mission here in Pecém. It was short, but I really loved it here and met people that I will never forget and learned things that I only could have learned here!
I remember my first day in the MTC. I remember the feeling I had putting on my name tag for the first time! I was officially a missionary! It was one of the best feelings in the world! I really didn´t know much when I got to the MTC. I didn´t speak Portuguese and I had only read the Book of Mormon one time through for Personal Progress. There were so many things that I truly believed in, but not much that I could say that I KNEW. I just knew that I felt happy in church and when I was doing the right thing, and that I wanted other people to share in my happiness! Today, almost 18 months later, there´s so much that I can say that I know, and I wanted to share some things that I learned on the mission.
First of all, I learned that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints really is true, and that those words aren´t just something we all say in testimony meetings! As I´ve taught people with tons of different backgrounds, I´ve seen how the gospel is perfect for every single person and how it brings happiness to people no matter what their circumstances are! There's no way that something false could bring so much joy into so many peoples lives like the gospel does. I really know that the church is true.
I know that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and brought back the church and teachings of Jesus Christ that were lost. One of the weeks in the MTC, I was doing my personal study and I found Doctine and Covenants 135 where John Taylor wrote his testimony of Joseph Smith. That day I prayed to really know if Joseph was a prophet and later that night we watched a movie of Joseph Smith's life. I received my testimony that day that he was a True Prophet of God. During my mission I don´t know how many times I´ve shared the experience of the first vision with people, but every time that I share the experience Joseph had, I get the same witness that it is true.
I know that the Book of Mormon is true! I even enjoy reading it now. There were lots of times on the mission where I was feeling sad or needed a boost in my testimony and every time I read the Book of Mormon, I got the answers and comfort that I was seeking. There are so many things that I believed before the mission that I learned were truths from the Book of Mormon. When I read the Book of Mormon, everything just makes sense!
I know that Heavenly Father listens to and answers prayers. If it weren´t for prayer, I wouldn´t have survived my mission! There were times when I felt so alone and there wasn´t anyone who I could talk to about everything that was happening. But I learned on my mission that Heavenly Father is always there, just waiting to listen. It doesn´t matter how eloquent we are or how long the prayers we offer last. I have never talked to anyone so sincerely as I´ve talked to Heavenly Father, and I know that he is happy to hear me. There´s no problem too insignificant for him and there isn´t anything that he isn´t willing to help us out with. Sometimes our answers don´t come in the way we want them to, but God´s will is always better and wiser than our own.
I learned that Jesus Christ really is the Savior of the world. I learned how personal his sacrifice was. He didn´t just suffer for all of us at once. He literally felt EVERYTHING that we felt, are feeling now, and will feel. He knows all of our pains and our trials and because of Him we can have the power to overcome any challenge in our life.
I learned that being obedient is really the way to true happiness. The commandments aren´t just a list of suggestions. They really lead us to eternal joy! It doesn´t matter what we have in life or how much we weigh or how many friends we have that will bring happiness. If we´re not being obedient to the commandments, There will always be something missing! I´ve never been happier than I am now on the mission and I know its because I´m living the gospel the fullest way possible.
I learned how much I love my family. Being away from them has been SO HARD! I didn´t realize how amazing my family is until I left. There are so many broken families and people in the world today. There are families where the dad and mom don´t even like each other! I am so blessed to have grown up in a home where I knew without a doubt that my mom and dad love each other and where I felt so loved every single day. There wasn´t ever a time where I really felt alone because I always knew I´d have my family to depend on. I´m so excited to be able to laugh with you and take a n occasional Sunday nap again :) I´ve missed grandma jane and hacking Tasha's facebook. I´ve missed hearing about who mom and Sarah think I should marry. I´ve missed dad´s jokes that only he understands and his stories that last for 20 minutes! I´m so blessed to have a family like this.
There is really so much that I´ve learned here serving as missionary. I had NO IDEA what I was doing when I sent my mission papers in besides i knew i was supposed to go. I thought that the mission would just be tracting all day long and that everybody we talked to would want to hear the message. And that I´d always know what to say and do and at the end I´d be perfect and ready to be exalted. But that´s not what the mission is like. Especially my mission! Being a missionary is a million times better than I thought! I´m going to miss being SO different from the rest of the world. I´m going to miss having to pronounce my name for people 30 times before they understand it. I´m going to miss the way that people just instantly open up to me and all the friendships I´ve made as a missionary. I didn´t know how hard it would be to eat rice and beans and spaghetti every day, or how sad I would get when people didn´t accept the message or stopped receiving our visits! I never imagined how happy I would be to see someone read the Book of Mormon or hear them pray for the first time.
There is so much that I just can´t even begin to describe! But I´m so grateful for all that I´ve learned here. I´m not leaving the mission as a perfect person, But I know that I am much better than I was before. I know that my testimony is stronger than it was before! I will never be able to thank Heavenly Father enough for all the blessings I´ve received on my mission. And all that I know I´ll receive in the future! It´s been 18 months of the greatest and hardest experiences of my life!! I´m excited for this last week! It´s going to be hard to leave Fortaleza, but I know that I will still be able to talk to everyone from here, and that the friendships I´ve made aren´t going to end just because it is time for me to leave!
I can´t wait to see you all soon!