dear family and friends,
i just can't believe it. this is the weirdest thing that i'm writing my last email right now. in fact, it doesn't really feel real. it just feels like another p-day. :) that's the cool thing about missions... you don't stop being a missionary until the morning you leave. you do regular missionary work every day and every hour, til you come home at 9 pm the night before--none of this "time to prepare to go home" stuff. in fact, george asked me last night if i was busy packing... he was very surprised when i told him i haven't even started yet. haha. :) so i don't think it will really hit me til i actually see your faces.
speaking of george. you all will not believe this. :) heavenly father is incredibly... giving. loving. mindful. i know it wouldn't have mattered whether or not i was here when george got baptized, so long as he did--even if it took him a few more months. but we had a miracle last night. i wrote last week that george was really struggling with the word of wisdom and probably wouldn't go through with his baptism this last saturday. well, he didn't. and we were heart broken. but between friday night and monday night... there were many of the ward members that had him to dinner, took him to a concert, and just spent time with him discussing his concerns. we weren't even there for any of those things. and last night, when we had another lesson, something had changed... george was at peace. we watched the testaments with him, and then discussed how he was feeling... we really weren't expecting him to all of a sudden be ready for baptism, but that's where the spirit turned the conversation. he was telling us that amidst all of his investigating and confusion, a friend had told him to stop worrying about joining the mormon church and to come to church with him instead. but george just straight up told him that he felt like this is where he felt like he needed to be. :) so... we basically just asked him if he still wanted to be baptized, and he said yes."it must a good thing, because for some reason my objections to losing tea have slowly faded." we explained how that was heavenly father blessing him with comfort and strength to overcome that trial. he then went on to say... "it's interesting. the navy seals called me back to work, and i was supposed to start today, but for some reason my paperwork got mixed up and they told me not to come in til next week... i kind of wonder if that's a sign from god that there's something important that i'm supposed to do before then." :) :) :) :) :) :) :) HE COMMITTED TO BE BAPTIZED THIS THURSDAY NIGHT. two days before i leave! :) :) i've never experienced such an incredible tender mercy like this... i couldn't believe my ears. i can't express my gratitude for all of the prayers that i KNOW have come from you and all of the members in our ward on his behalf. many of them even took a weekday to participate in a special fast for him with us. if it weren't for our combined efforts, this wouldn't have happened. george has a safety net of like 50 different people that just wouldn't let him fall. THIS WORK IS REAL, and i KNOW there are many powerful influences on the other side of the veil that are working together to combat the adversary and bring about the salvation of souls! and i cannot WAIT to watch geroge be baptized this week.
in fact, there were a multitude of tender mercies yesterday. i think that yesterday heavenly father was giving me one last perfect day (seeing as the next 3 days are full of meetings and such)... it was like he wrapped it up in a perfect little package with a sparkly bow and said, "here you go, my sweet daughter, thank you for serving a mission for me." :) all of the people we planned to see were home, and we had 4 great spiritual experiences... first off, i got to go to lunch with my companion at this incredibly delicious restaurant, which started the day off great... and then we had this appointment with a lady named nancy who is a born-again-christian. however, she's not argumentative--she's incredibly intelligent, and sincerely loves talking about the things of god. i LOVE--love, love, love. cannot explain how much i love--teaching and discussing the gospel with intelligent people. nancy just GETS it. her faith is real, and though she's off on a few things, she's susceptible to the spirit. oh my gosh. i loved every minute of our visit. THIS IS WHAT I WILL MISS THE MOST. teaching. teaching, teaching, teaching. explaining, proving, describing, analyzing, sharing, showing, TESTIFYING... and then watching the spirit work its way into people's hearts. heavenly father let me have one more great experience with that, which is SO bitter sweet, because i had to leave knowing that i wouldn't be there for our return appointment next week. i just don't want to leave people like nancy behind! but it'll be okay.
next, we went to a potential investigator's house. we ran into her about four weeks ago... she explained that she had been investigating years ago, but it ended badly, even though she really loved attending the LDS church. she then explained that she had found a new church and she was happy there. but WE explained that it wasn't a coincidence that she was placed in our path... and she ended up giving us her phone number and said she would think about it. well... we called and texted a few times over the last couple weeks with no luck. so we just decided to show up again. as soon as she saw us, she said, "i'm sorry i never returned your calls... i've just been fighting with myself. i'm really happy with my church. but every time i look at your texts, there's something inside me that really wants to meet with you again." :) :) :) she is SO prepared. we told her that was definitely an influence from above... she said, "okay. i guess i should. but i can't right now... and i don't know when." to which we responded, "this is what we do 24/7. you tell us the time, and we'll be here." so, i was struck with another heart wrenching moment when sister brown set up a return appointment with her for friday (during which time i will be at departures). how badly i wish i could be here to watch naomi's progress. but how sweet the joy of seeing that miracle in her yesterday! this is what i have been a part of for 18 months!!!
i don't have time to keep describing this perfect day in such great detail, but we then had three more lessons with george, a less active family that totally welcomed us in and missed us dearly, and another investigator who was in tears when we told her how much god loves her and that he has a plan for her. every minute was full of the spirit, and full of the joy of sharing the gospel with others and helping heavenly father's lost sheep.
if i didn't love you all so much, i probably would never come home. :) this has truly been the most sacred time of my life. i can't possibly describe all of the lessons i've learned out here. i can't describe how much my perspective has changed about what REALLY matters. i can't describe how much more fully i understand the gospel now. i can't describe how cool it is to be so intimately involved in this incomprehensible, all-encompassing... movement of the lord's work unto his children. i can't describe the feelings of my heart when i think about leaving it behind. (mostly i've been avoiding those as much as possible.) i can't imagine NOT having served a mission, and sharing in the immense love that i've felt from the lord and from the others i'm surrounded by and that i teach and care for. i don't know how i could have made my life what i want it to be without this experience.
i know this is just a lot of words, and i know i'll get to tell you all about it when i come home, but i still want to tell you anyway...
i know with all my heart that this is the work of god. i KNOW that joseph smith restored the gospel, that he truly was visited by the father and the son, and oh, how GLORIOUS that must have been!! how glorious and full of light our lives can be when we are surrounded by the spirit and LIVING the gospel that our savior has so mercifully provided us through his prophets... and by his atoning sacrifice! I KNOW HE LIVES! and i know that he loves me, even though i still have SO MANY weaknesses to overcome. i know he will continue to help me to change little by little, until every fiber of my being is solely concerned about doing his will.
there is nothing that brings me more joy than watching those that i love progress in the gospel. so please, please, i'm speaking to YOU, those that i love the very most: never let go of your faith! never let go of your testimony! never give up on him! keep growing, onward and upward, and keeping participating the work of salvation! the lord is infinitely more powerful than any being who will try to convince you that it's too hard! he suffered for you so that you can be HAPPY! so please, please, keep doing the things that bring REAL happiness. :) :)
i love being a missionary. and i love you each of you SO MUCH. i will see you very, very soon. until then...
HURRAH FOR ISRAEL!!!