Monday, April 3, 2017

We are NOT Made for Endings

April 3, 2017

Hola Familia y amigos!

This week was awesome!  I don't know if I've mentioned how great my companion is?  Well if not, she's awesome and I love her.  This week was super fun and successful.  We just work so well together - I really couldn't have asked for a better last companion.

This week we had an amazing lesson with Johnny.  We taught him about the plan of salvation and he shared some very cool experiences that he has had in his life recently that have helped him to come to know of and feel God's presence in his life.  The Bishop of the ward here accompanied us to the lesson and as he shared his testimony of eternal families and the importance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in his life, Johnny became emotional and once again told us, through tears, about how he has found God, how he has increased his faith, and how his life has changed.  I really have no words to describe what was said or what happened in that lesson.  I am just so grateful for the chance I have had to see that change come to pass.  You guys - Johnny has changed so much ever since I met him.  Back in December, He wasn't even sure if God really existed or what faith was, and now he is a completely different man.  Even though I probably won't be here to see him get baptized, I was able to witness the miracle that happens when people let Jesus Christ change their lives.  Johnny truly is a miracle. 

Let's see what else happened this week... Oh yeah!  GENERAL CONFERENCE!  Seriously, it was like Christmas.  

We were able to watch General Conference in English with the other American missionaries
Haha - we brought our feast!

Practically like being there! :)

Wasn't it amazing?!  I really loved it all and can't pick a favorite talk or anything, but here's a couple little quotes or thoughts that stick out to me:

"We need to stand up on the inside." - Elder Gary B. Sabin

"Heavenly Father is truly leading, guiding and walking beside us."  Elder M. Joseph Brough

"The most important goal we can set is to RETURN and RECEIVE."  Elder M. Russell Ballard

"Come as you are but don't plan to stay as you are."  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

I especially related to that last quote by Elder Holland because it perfectly describes not only our life on the gospel path, but it made me reflect on the great journey I have been on for these past 18 months.

As much as I hate to admit it, the time has finally come to end my service as a full-time missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (Side note - I know I still have one more week left, and I'm not trying to be trunky, it's just inevitable being that I'm writing my last weekly email home... So bear with me and maybe grab a tissue, I have a feeling this is going to be a tear jerker.) 

My last Zone Meeting.
This is a picture of my muerte [death]!  Hahaha

As cliché' as it sounds, these last 18 months have changed me and my life so much.  I truly came here as I was, with no expectations and let me tell you…the Lord did not let me stay like that.  

I honestly don't really know what to say or how to end this whole experience I've had here in Argentina... but I'm just going to ramble for a little bit more. J

Haha okay, so I’m so beyond grateful to my Heavenly Father for blessing me with the most amazing companions.  To start, he gave me a spunky red-head, Hermana Brown, to help me survive and enjoy the incredible experience in the MTC. 

Hermana Brown

Then he blessed me with not one, but two amazing trainers (aka MadresJ). Hermana Palma and Hermana Baird taught me how to be a missionary.  

My first mom - Hermana Palma

My "step-mom" Hermana Baird
aka my twin sister...
They taught me how to love others, be myself and enjoy the mission.  I will never forget how loved and important my “Moms” made me feel and all they did to help me get used to life in a different country and culture. 

Next, I got 3 happy months with my little cute and favorite Mexican, Hermana Cardenas.  

Hermana Cardenas

We went through lots of up and downs together and she stood by my side through it all.  She taught me how to be FELIZ in the mission and in life. 

Later came my 2 precious hijas - Hna. Ahlmer, a hometown friend, followed by Hna. Quenta, her Peruvian little sister.  

Hermana Ahlmer
Hermana Quenta

I really can't explain how much I love my daughters. Yes, training for 6 months straight was a challenge.  But it was also the time I learned the most during my mission, and loved the most too.  They taught me how to stay positive, to keep your trust and faith in the Lord's timing, and of course, as any great kids do, they taught me lots of patience. J

Next I was blessed with the sweet and calm presence of Hna. Davidson who has the gift of charity towards all and who truly equaled out my crazy OCD personality (opposites attract right?)  

Hermana Davidson

 And finally, I was given my spunky Hna. Green to remind me that I think I've gone mad.  But you want to hear a secret?  All the best people are! J  

Hermana Green
Man, have I laughed and enjoyed my last transfer with her.  I've been so blessed and lucky to be able to say that I have found some of my best friends in my companions.  

Whether it was walking and sweating through the hot Bahia summer on the dirt streets in Villa Floresta; or memorizing every single street and house for 9 months in my little pueblito Olavarria; or preaching the gospel in the smelly-fish port of Mar del Plata, I have made some unforgettable memories here in Argentina as I've shared the happy and hopeful message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with my brothers and sisters.  Now, don't get me wrong, it hasn't been all sun and roses, but even on my darkest days, I have hit my knees at the end of the day thanking my Heavenly Father for every single moment - for all the members here that have taken such good care of me, for all the miracle investigators that I got to see change their lives, for every single person that I met in the street or on their doorstep these last 18 months - even those who didn't want anything to do with us Mormons, and for every lesson I learned from studying the scriptures and for truly coming to know my Savior.

The truth is, I don't think I'm ready for it all to end... to be over.  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, "In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us?  There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.

Why is this?  Because we are made of the stuff of eternity.  We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.  

The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all.  They are merely interruptions - temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.

How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings."

Even though in a few short days I will have to take my missionary plaque off, I know that my mission will not end.  I've still got lots of work to do…just on the northern side of the equator.  J

I would like to end with a scripture found in D&C 76:22 that says, "And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which (I) give of him - THAT HE LIVES!"

I know my Savior, Jesus Christ lives and loves each and every one of us.  I know He has provided us with a way to get back to Him and our Heavenly Father and that He has restored His gospel in these last days to help us know what we need to do to be happy in this life and eternally blessed in the life to come.

Thank you all for the love and support you have given me these past 18 months.  I can't wait to see you all again!

Con amor y abrazos en el aeropuerto,

Hermana Bartholomew

Sunset over MDP...and my mission