The words of the Lord seem appropriate here, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” (D&C 18:15)
I’ve seen a lot of miracles on the mission I’m serving. Only one of those miracles was a baptism that I was “a part of”. Some of them were baptisms that I heard of after I had left an area. A lot of them were helping people recommit to the sacred covenants they made many years ago. Most them were tender caresses in my life from a loving Heavenly Father who knew exactly what I needed & desired to give it to me.
I set a goal at the beginning of the week to find one new investigator every single day. That’s a total of 7 investigators. Our average in this area is 2. On Tuesday night we had an hour of finding after district meeting & nothing. We had a lesson & 30 minutes left to find at the end of the night. Determined to achieve my goal of one new investigator that day & even though it was 8:45pm in suburbia & everyone was telling us it was a no soliciting neighborhood, we pressed on. We talked to everyone in the streets. At the very back of the neighborhood it’s nearly black outside with none of the light from the waning crescent moon reaching the ground, & we see a couple sitting on their front porch chatting. I stop & say hello to them & ask why their American flag is greyscale with just one blue stripe. The man begins to tell us that “there’s a thin blue line between chaos & order in our country & that’s the police force.” If you know me, you know that I could never pass up a chance to talk about how much I love America with someone. They invited us inside to evade the persistent mosquitos & I read to them Alma 43:44-49. They asked a lot of questions, which is unusual. We usually have to ask a million questions to avoid any silence that might make them uncomfortable. It came up in conversation that I would be attending my last church service as a missionary that Sunday & Ann asked me, “Have you enjoyed it? Being a missionary?”
With tears making it difficult to speak I replied, “Yes. Ann, this has been the best experience of my life. There is nothing in the world as rewarding as being a missionary.”
Earlier that day I bore my testimony for the last time to my district. I told them that I had prayed for peace. That I wasn’t sad anymore, but I was still scared.
Have you ever had a moment where every waking moment & every memorable dream you’ve had in the past 13,140 hours flooded your mind? As we walked out of Keith & Ann’s house, not receiving a return appointment therefore not getting a new investigator, I experienced just that. I felt as thought my veins were filled with cement but 5,000 brightly-colored helium balloons were tied to my wrists. I felt so absolutely naive & ineffably ancient at the same time. I felt like I was watching someone else’s life, but feeling all of the emotions attached to the disappointing, scary, euphoric, anxiety riddled experiences. I felt so full. I felt a fullness. A fullness of joy, I don’t know. But an exhausting satisfaction that shouldn’t be felt after having an “unsuccessful” 20 minute conversation with total strangers. Nothing about being a missionary really makes sense, though.
I was able to attend another district meeting this week with our sisters in Palatka. Afterwords, Sister Malm & I split up with a set of the sisters to help them out with some of their appointments. I went with Sister Warr, who I served with in Gainesville, & we went to two lessons together. The second lesson was with a woman who had been baptized over 7 years ago but she & her family hadn’t attended church in quite awhile. Our intent of the meeting was to understand why she stopped attending church abruptly. We started sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with her & had just finished teaching about repentance. She says, “we all know the purpose of why you’re here. You’re here because I don’t go to church. But I WANT to go to church.” She proceeded to share her experiences as a young mother & recent convert as she juggled life with a calling in the relief society presidency. “My anxiety won. I couldn’t face going to church anymore & being in such big crowds of people who I was expected to talk to.” In an instant I remembered every Sunday in high school where I would try to come up with a reason that I couldn’t go to church. Bringing a blanket & feigning a fever so no one would approach me. Wearing sweats in BYC & hurrying home as soon as it was over so I didn’t have to face a million people I didn’t have anything to say to. My mind reviewed that one time my sophomore year in college as I was sneaking out after sacrament meeting & that one guy, that always reached out to me but of whose name I can never remember, followed me to the parking lot to let me know that I would be missed.
I explained to my new friend, who I never even learned the name of, that she was experiencing what I have come to term as “Sunday Sadness”. I empathized with her about how church is basically an anxiety attack waiting to happen every week. I shared an experience with her how there was even a time on my mission when I had to leave church early because I couldn’t cope, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t convince myself that it was all in my head. I told her that if she was having a heart attack, no one would expect her to stay at church. She was letting the fear of being stuck in a building with people that wouldn’t stop shaking her hand prevent her from renewing the sacred covenants she had made with her Heavenly Father. We left her that afternoon with tears in her eyes, a general conference talk to read, & her 7 year old toe-headed daughter asleep across her lap. I felt a fullness.
I had the opportunity this week to enter the house of the Lord with some of my favorite humans on earth. It was a day rich with laughter, tears, & silent contemplation. It was a blessing to be there. My Heavenly Father taught me that life will not slow down for me when I return home. Things will take unexpected turns & I will need to be prepared for the very specific life He has in store for me. Whatever that means. Sister Randle’s halfway mark was this transfer so we were able to go through the experience together & eat Chik-Fil-A side by side for the last time in a long while. She has been such a blessing & support to me throughout the past 9 months. How grateful I am for eternal friendships.
A miracle, a miracle!! Sister Malm has been working with a 9 year old, of an active family, that isn’t baptized ever since she was transferred here 6 months ago. For one reason or another it was never “the right time” for her to be baptized. It’s 9:45pm & we get a phone call from the branch president. They want this sweet 9 year old to be baptized NEXT WEEK. The sisters replacing Sister Malm & I will sure be lucky to whitewash right into a baptism. The first convert baptism this branch will have ever seen. I’ve seen that family change & become much more like the Savior in the past 6 weeks. That’s my favorite part of being a missionary. Watching the atonement change people.
My mission came full circle as I sat in the home of the Rosbachs (Chilean family) this week. Steve was beaming as he showed us pictures of his baptism from last weekend. I asked what started the change & he said, “you know, Sandy (his wife) just told me a couple days ago about the family home evening you guys plotted together over a year ago. The one where you invited us to read the Book of Mormon everyday together. So that’s what we started doing. Whether I was in Arizona, or Mexico, or wherever. Unless I was traveling really late for some reason we would Skype & read together EVERY night. That’s when things started to change.”
Sister Malm & I had planned to talk to them about the Book of Mormon….because I’m selfish & it’s my favorite thing to talk about. But it turned out to be inspired. So that’s nice.
Sundays have always been my favorite day on the mission. This week I was able to sing, one last time, Still Believe as Sister Malm signed it. Will send a video. The branch president asked me to share a brief testimony, due to it being my last Sunday & all. Sister Malm is actually also being transferred to Gainesville 5th ward ❤️❤️ ( & THEY CLOSED THE SISTER’S GV2 AREA😭😭😭😭) & she has been here since the branch started 6 months ago. She also bore her testimony & everybody cried. So they will be whitewashing this Sister Training Leader’s area. Which is mostly unheard of. But I was also made one for just 6 weeks. So I guess anything possible. ANYWAY right as church was starting, in walks a man with the church librarian. She tells me that he came in asking where the church service is because when he was working security at the entrance of a neighborhood, two sister missionaries stopped & invited him to church. That happened three weeks ago. & he showed up!!! It was such an amazing last Sunday miracle. He’s 28, so the JAX YSA are getting an awesome referral.
Sister Malm asked if it was hard to go to a new area for my last transfer, since she is about to do the same. I pondered on that for a minute. My first instinct was yes. I loved Gainesville! I wanted to stay there the rest of eternity! But then I realized how much of a blessing it was to be able to be 110% focused on the work & the sisters my last transfer. Had I still been in Gainesville, everybody would have been wanting to spend my last week with me & we wouldn’t have got any work done. Here, hardly anyone remembered my name or still thought it was pronounced “Aura”. Heavenly Father really knew exactly what I needed.