Our Ward Mission Leader and us at the temple
I officially only have 4 months left until I return home... It is such an exciting, scary, and sad thing to have pointed out to me by all the missionaries I am around, and those that feel it necessary to call across the mission to remind me how close I am. Thankfully, so far, all the reminders of how close my return date is has only made me realize how precious the time remaining is and how much I still have left to do. I never thought I could love being a missionary so much, even when our teaching pool is currently extinct.
This week was a weird combination of joy and boredom rolled up in one. I love my new area and the ward seems absolutely solid, and Elder Evans, my new companion, is a great missionary and fun guy to be around. The difficult part is that there are no records at all for the last month, and very little records kept for the last year or so. As far as we can gather from meeting with ward leadership the missionaries do not have anyone they were actively teaching, which meant we have the opportunity of starting completely anew in the area. We spent many hours going through our area book and doing the best we could at organizing the names we have into geographic areas to begin visiting. The rest of our time was spent tracting, teaching active members, organizing our area, and cleaning our living quarters (which looks great now btw). My areas for the last while have become so well functioning that tracting was very rarely an option because of time restraints, but now we have all the time in the world to go out knocking doors. This last week we had some mediocre success knocking, which we are thankful for, but are earnestly searching for other more productive ways of finding the elect in this area. Over all Elder Evans and I are enjoying the work and having a lot of fun despite the lack of immediate success, and we are completely sure success is barely around the corner.
And even though I am sure you already know this I just wanted to remind everyone how amazing General Conference was this past weekend! I can not imagine a better one to have as my last in the mission field, more especially including the priesthood session. In between one of the sessions my mind began to drift to Conferences of the past that have had an impact on me. Memories of talks from just six months ago all the way back to pre-teen, when I heard President Gordon B. Hinkley relate the story of two young boys who put silver dollars into a poverty stricken man's boots, began filtering through my mind and I became even more thankful for the blessing of having a prophet on the earth. As these thoughts ran through my mind I began reflecting on my testimony and how it has changed, spurred by a district meeting a couple weeks back where we bore our testimonies about our conversion process. As I bore my testimony of my personal conversion at that meeting I related how I have always known the church is true. I continued explaining that I have grown up in a home with goodly parents who helped me gain a testimony early in life with consistent scripture study, prayer, and seeing my family live the gospel principles we professed to believe. There was not a time in my life that I can remember ever seriously questioning the validity of the Book of Mormon or the restored gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
That testimony I bore began to echo through my mind as I mentally tracked my spiritual progress over the past few years. I began to wonder what changed in my testimony since entering my mission because I knew for sure I was a different person now and my testimony had gone through a large transformation. The only thing I could come up with was that I just knew more now then I did before, but then while listening to more talks later in Conference I received the answer to my question. I realized that the difference in my conversion is that while I have always known The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's true church I have not completely understood what that can and should mean for someones life. I never comprehended what miraculous changes it can cause within any one of us, including myself, nor did I understand what applying the atonement really meant or how to do it. I know I still do not completely understand but being a missionary has changed my testimony from a strong belief to a passionate way of life that has had a great affect on many of my goals and priorities. This transition has taken place over the past 20 months and it felt great to realize it while listening to the words of a modern day prophet. It is no longer duty that pushes me to the next door after being ridiculed and yelled at, it comes now as a result of further conversion and love. I think this is the reason I have gone from enjoying my mission to loving it and holding it sacred. I cannot imagine what life would be like without this time as a missionary, and I am thrilled at what it means for the future.