I have officially left Las Cruces as of yesterday, and it was one of the more emotionally difficult things I have done on my mission because I love the people there so much now. The only time I can remember feeling like that leaving anywhere was when I said goodbye to my family as I left on my mission. Leaving home was a little bit more difficult, but they were way closer then I ever thought I would get on my mission during transfers. I spent my last couple days saying goodbye to so many people, and getting fed way more then I should have. My last night was spent playing volleyball and watching fireworks with my University ward before I left to pack and leave the next morning. Serving in Las Cruces has changed who I am in an amazing way and I am very excited for when I get to go back to visit all of them, and even introduce them to my family and future family. I hope and pray that I had even close to as big of an influence for good on them as they did on me.
The Lord now has need of me in Rio Rancho, right by where I started my mission in Albuquerque. I was frankly a little disappointed to come back up north after having spent six amazing months down south, but after finding out who my companion is I cheered up quite a bit. My new companion is Elder Byrd, and I served as his zone leader in Las Cruces for three transfers before he came up here to serve as a zone leader himself. He is an amazing missionary and we get along great, and both of us are very excited about how much fun we should have working together. We are serving in the Panarama Hights ward and it sounds like the work is moving forward well here. My living situation is much different then what I am used to since we are living with a member of the ward in his spare bedroom. But from what I can tell after a day I feel I am going to enjoy living here because the member is a really nice guy and his home is beautiful.
It is such a strange feeling to be where I am in my mission right now. Next week I am turning 21 and do not feel at all that I should already be that age, and this month I hit my 18 month mark which is a major mile stone for missionaries. The sister missionaries that came out with me already went home this last transfer! I feel so blessed to have served the mission I have up to this point though. I have had amazing companions, wards, zones, investigators, friends, experiences, spiritual insights and revelations, and I have become the priesthood man I have wanted to be for such a long time. Because of my assignment as a mission leader I have had the opportunity to support and teach more missionaries then I had ever dreamt before I came out here, and life long friends have been made through those times spent in their service. Many of my weaknesses have been made strengths as I have grown as a missionary, and my strengths have become gifts that the Lord has used to better the lives of those around me. My service so far has changed who I am going to be for the rest of my life in a miraculous way and I have complete faith in Elder Cook's promise that everyone I associate with from now on through eternity will be blessed because of my time as a missionary. It has become incredibly apparent why we are asked to serve at this time in our lives because I can not imagine what my life would turn out being without it.
Coming to this point in my mission has caused me to reflect a lot on my mission and who I was and am becoming. I was told by my trainer almost a year and a half ago that at 18 months a missionary has learned the majority of what they need to know as a missionary, so one of two things will happen. They will either take those developed tools and become the most powerful they have ever been as a missionary and teach those to others as well, or they will start coasting through since they are close to the end and happy enough with how they have served already (or because they just want to endure the rest). Through my reflection on my mission so far I understand what he meant and have firmly decided that the last part of my mission will be my best, favorite, and most powerful. I love being a missionary and look forward to what the Lord has in store for the next 7 months.
P.S.- Funny story... Before I even had time to unload my luggage we had a teaching appointment with a family in the ward. They told me that when they first heard my name, a few days earlier, it sounded very familiar but they couldn't figure out why until very early in the morning when one of them rememberd while laying in bed. They told me that I was all over the Internet and they had read some things about me previously and didn't put it together until right before I was getting transferred in. They are close friends with someone I had grown to be good friends with in the University ward in Las Cruces.