While I was in Patos de Minas last Christmas season, Elder Sweet, who was my first zone leader, a great help to me when I was a new and lost financial secretary, and one of my best friends from the mission, sent me a Christmas package with a bunch of great American treats and a Christmas card. This card is open on top of my blanket right now; I just read it. He gave me some thoughtful and inspired advice that I have considered often in these last six months of my mission:
Make the end of your mission the best part of it. You will see how much Heavenly Father has to teach you. Serve our Savior with all diligence until the end, and you will be able to feel His love like never before.
This counsel (along with several others that I’ve received recently from my parents, family members, church leaders, and friends and for which I’m grateful) proved to be true—the end of my mission was the nest part! As I tried to work my best during the last several weeks, I learned a ton about how to work effectively, how to plan, how to work with the members, how to follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and how to lead. Now that I’m finally figuring out how to be a successful missionary, my mission is ending haha. I remember when President Kuceki said the same thing about being a mission president a few weeks before he went home. It’s always like that! My mission was the best learning experience in my life, and Heavenly Father taught me until the very end. I learned much about Jesus Christ, our Savior, through constant study and even more through trying to be and serve like Him. During my whole mission, but especially during the end, I felt the love of the Savior for me and for others. It was kind of hard at the beginning of my mission but now it’s easy and natural to love those I serve. This is the Lord’s work, and it is a labor of love.
Last week was awesome and shows why the final part of my mission has been the best. Enos and Ana Carla, the older two kids of the family we brought to church last week, are super excited for their baptism on Saturday and are loving church. Just about every time we teach them we bring a member. Yesterday we had a great family home evening activity with the youth and young single adults and they went and enjoyed it. I’m happy and grateful that we’ll baptize in the last week of my mission! It will be the first time I baptize two people from the same family and so it will be a special privilege. We taught a woman name Roberta this week who has already visited a ton of religions but never found satisfactory answers to some deep questions that she has like “What is my purpose in life?”, for example. We had two great lessons with her this week, and she came to church and loved it. One awesome thing is that the ward has really gotten excited about missionary work these last few weeks. When we got here is was pretty “morta” (dead) but after implementing a member missionary program in the whole ward with the help of the ward missionaries, everybody is praying to personally find people ready for the gospel and is way excited because of this. We’re establishing a great relationship with the members, and it’s really fun. Like I said in an earlier letter, I’d almost like to stay here another few months to harvest the fruits of our current labors!
We went to Goiania for a division with the assistants and for a multi-zone conference and leadership meeting. In the conference President Buhrer asked all the going-home missionaries to bear their testimony. I was one of them. I’ve seen a ton of missionaries give their last testimony in a meeting and am surprised that my turn has already come and gone.
E. Tanus and I are broth sad that I’m going home. It’s been really fun to work together. We are really united, have a lot of fun and joke a lot, and work well as a companionship and as zone leaders. I’ll certainly maintain contact with him after my mission and throughout life.
This week will be another great one—the last great week of my mission. I don’t think I’ll be able to access my email next week so I won’t write about it, but I will take a ton of pictures and post them later. This week will include: my last district meeting, my last interview with President Buhrer (we’re going to Going on Wednesday for it), a multi-zone meeting about family history, two baptisms (!!!), several thoughtfully offered going-away dinner with members, and a special visit from Jose Carlos! It will be memorable and I’ll take advantage of every last minute as a missionary in Brasil.
Reflecting on my mission I feel an immense feeling of gratitude. I am so grateful for who the Lord has made me and the blessings He has given me. The word “agradecer” means “to thank” and the Portuguese phrase “so tenho o que agradever” has floated around my mind for some time. The translation is”I only have what to thank” but it doesn’t make quite as much sense nor has quite as much meaning in English as it does in Portuguese. After two years my greatest feeling is that of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the best time of my life.
Eu agradeco a Ele por, or, I thank Him for:
-My family. Mom and Dad, Dallin, Tyler, Heidi, Natalie, Katie, and Bryce, Grandparents, Cousins, Aunts and Uncles—minha grande e amorosa parentela—thank you for two years worth of constant love, prayers, and support. How great it was to hear from all of you every Monday and feel inspired and encouraged to keep doing me best. I love you and can't wait to see and hug all of you soon! That my entire family is strong in the gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest blessing I have.
-My calling and assignment. Being called to serve the Lord as a missionary is the greatest honor I have even received. Being assigned to serve in the Brasil Goiania Mission was incredible. I really wanted to leave the United States and learn a new language. I was blessed with those things, but they weren’t the reason I was assigned to serve here. The Lord wanted me to love and serve the people—members, investigators, and missionaries—in Central Brasil and as I tried my best to do so, He blessed me more than I could have imagined.
-My mission presidents. President Kuceki and President Buhrer were amazing. I was so blessed with the opportunities to serve close to both of them and learn from their Christlike example. I love and respect them and wish I can become half of what they are one day.
-My companions. I could write 10 pages on this subject hahaha. I can clearly see why the Lord gave me each of the thirteen companions I had. I learned from all of them something vital to who I am now. I was really blessed because almost all of my companions were great and those who were difficult are now good friends. I, without a doubt, have thirteen brothers whom I will always be able to count on.
-My areas. From Jardim Curitiba to Flamboyant, I loved every area. I loved serving in several cities within the mission and getting to know many faithful members of the church who became great friends and examples to me. I vividly remember working, walking and sweating “ate o po” up and down the roads of Goias and Triangulo Mineiro. I will actually miss seeing muros, walking up hills in the hot sun, and getting rides on carrocas.
-The people I taught. I know that God prepares His children for His gospel, and He uses His faithful servants to bring them the truth. I can’t fully express how grateful I am to have been an instrument in the Lord’s hands to lead souls to Christ and His restored gospel. I still communicate with Matheus from Araxa (who is preparing to serve his mission) and Jose Carlos from Patos de Minas (who receive the Aaronic Priesthood and whom I’ll get to see before I go home) and I’m so incredibly happy that they are experiencing the joy of the gospel just as I am. I hope to enter in contact with all of those I taught and baptized soon and encourage them to endure to the end. Helping people come unto Christ was worth all the sacrifice of these two years.
-My leadership and administrative experiences. Serving in several different callings and capabilities during my mission shaped who I am and what I am capable of. I feel like I’m prepared to serve in any calling in which the Lord needs me—not because I’m capable, but because I know the Lord qualifies those He calls. My experiences as financial secretary changed my life. Not only did I gain a ton of experience and knowledge, but I also changed my career plan and surely my future will be different because of that.
-Portuguese. I love speaking another language, it has completely opened my min. I’m grateful the Lord helped me to learn it.
-Brasil. I love this country and this people! Getting to know a whole other country and culture was an incomparable experience. I hope to visit Brasil several times in my life and maybe even work here. It’s great because now I have two countries to cheer for in the World Cup.
-My testimony. The hymn “Testemunho” (English – Testimony) describes exactly how I feel about the mission. I don’t know how it goes in English because sometimes the meaning changes a little during the translation, but it should be similar. Before my mission I knew the church was true, the Book of Mormon was true, etc, but now my testimony is firmly rooted in my heart and soul and has been tested, tried, and strengthened by innumerous real life experiences.
-The restored gospel. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and was called to restore the true church to the Earth. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Kingdom of God on the Earth and the only church with the full truth, the authority of God, and a living prophet. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of God today. I know that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God. How great it is to see these truths change lives and to be an authorized messenger of the Fullness of the everlasting gospel!
-My Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that He lives, knows us, and loves us. He suffered and died so that we could escape by His grace and mercy the punishment of sin, yet fulfilling the demands of justice. He is the Son of God, the First and Only Begotten, by Him-and only by Him, we can be saved if we faithfully live His gospel. I love Him. I serve Him.
I close my final letter with these words of testimony and gratitude with both mourning and great joy in my heart for completing my mission, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Look at all this food we were given!
LOOK AT HOW WE GOT A RIDE UP THE HILL
Almoço with irmã Francisca