Monday, July 28, 2014

Everlasting Beginnings

Hello Family, Friends, and Fantastic people!

So I signed on my email 20 minutes ago and this is what I find:

"Last one!"
"Last letter!"
"The last of the emails"
"Last letter"
"Tato Po"

Silly Nate.

Well this is kind of surreal. I just read everyone's last emails to me on my last p-day after my last full week as a missionary and I feel like the word "last" is following me everywhere like a lost puppy. My emotions are so erratic right now I don't really have the words to describe what's going on in my brain. Plus I got about 3 hours of sleep last night so who knows how this email is going to turn out?

Story about that in a minute.

This has been a good week for the five of us in our little condo. It is so fun sharing a place with other missionaries, and I'm really happy that one of those missionaries is Sister Day. Because she understands *exactly* how I feel at just about any given moment and it is incredibly validating talking with her about what is going on in my brain. Plus our companions are awesome! We've been having little parties every night (that stop at 10:30 of course). My favorite was the one we had last week when we were all playing in the kitchen and I said, "We could have so much fun with a can of whipped cream right now." Guess what? We had one!! And none of them have seen the whipped cream trick (launching whipped cream in the air from the back of your hand and catching it in your mouth)! So guess what we did for the next 30 minutes? It was delightful.

Last night we were all doing a puzzle of the golden gate bridge while belting the lyrics to "Through Heaven's Eyes" and "Miracles" from Prince of Egypt. Sister Leifson was downstairs talking with the District Leader and sneakily held the phone up the stairwell so they could hear our crazy singing. I regret nothing.

Well, I don't really know what to say in this email. There seemed to be a theme in a few of the emails I received today; writing the last email is accompanied by the desire to share something incredibly profound, yet my mind is blank. So we'll just see what comes out. How can one possibly sum up 18 months of life-changing experiences is one simple email?

We'll start with Monday, as is tradition. I don't actually remember what happened. #Nosleep. I think I took a nap. Monday evening we had dinner with David and Bethany, and it was delicious! We also started the New Member Lessons and the first one went really well. I'm going to miss those two so much. I've gotten closer to them than to anyone else in the area. Bethany actually majored in psychology and gave me some of her books on relationships! Score! That was so nice of her! It made me excited to jump back into my major. Adventure awaits in Family Life department at BYU!

Tuesday was my last appointment with Karen. It was a neat experience because Sister Griffin, the new mission president's wife, came with us! It was her first time teaming up with missionaries and she did a wonderful job. We taught Karen the Plan of Salvation. She was very sweet and open, but she told us that she wanted to remain Catholic. We told her that we would love her no matter what choice she made. Our purpose is simply to share the knowledge that we have and invite people to experiment on it to find out if it is true. She said she would pray about it and she invited us back. On Wednesday. Which is the day I'm going to spend in the mission home. #cliffhangers.

Tuesday we also saw Michelle, who dropped us. She is pretty busy and she is not quite ready to experiment on the word just yet. But she will be. She is an incredibly kind and loving individual and one day she'll be ready.

Tuesday evening we saw our neighbors, who graciously invited us in. They are so kind and hospitable! They gave us cookies and let us tell them about Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Gospel. One of them is a Buddhist and the other is Agnostic, but they said they wanted to learn more and they invited us back! We won't have time to see them until probably Wednesday or Thursday. #cliffhangers.

Wednesday we saw Joy and Misty, another pair of investigators we have been teaching for a while. They have been investigating the church for a little over a year, and right now they are working on gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon. We had a really good conversation with Joy about our purpose as missionaries and the blessings that lie in store for those who obtain this knowledge that we have to offer. They're still searching but they'll get there. We probably won't have time to see them until after Wednesday. #cliffhangers.

The same day we also went to see a less-active family and we taught them the Plan of Salvation. It was so fun! They have two adorable little kids; one is around 2 and the other is about 4. The 2 year old girl sat quietly and nodded the entire time we were teaching. The only time she shook her head and said "no" was when we asked her if it was important to be nice to her brother. Kids. They're the cutest! Their parents want to attend the temple; their life is just crazy right now and it's hard to put spirituality first. One of the many lessons I have learned on my mission is the importance of making your personal spirituality your top priority. When we put God first, all things fall into place.

Wednesday afternoon we saw John, who is preparing to serve a mission. We went over chapter 1 of Preach My Gospel and it made me all sentimental and stuff. It is one of my favorite chapters; it is all about the purpose we have as missionaries and where our power and authority comes from. I'm going to miss it.

Wednesday evening we had our last correlation with the Ward Mission Leader, who also took us out to Pei Wei for dinner. Meetings like that are hard to attend when you know you're going to be across the country in the next seven days. But! It was a good meeting nonetheless. Pellissippi is in good hands. The best of the best. :)

Thursday we contacted our golden referral from the Nashville mission. We received a personal phone call from the Nashville mission president requesting that we contact this referral ASAP. He was taking lessons from the elders over in that mission, but he is moving to Pellissippi for the summer. We were all way excited about that! His name is Will, he's about my age, and he's awesome. We taught him the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he was asking a ton of questions about baptism. He had a ton of profound insights too! We taught him about the Sacrament, and before we described what it was, he said, "So we can renew the promises we make with the Lord at baptism, right?" Whoa. Not too many investigators know that before we teach them. He's ready! He wants to be baptized!

And he's a YSA so we had to hand him over to the assistants because they are over the YSA ward in the Knoxville stake.

Upon leaving his house I turned to my companions and said, "I feel like a little girl who just found a lost puppy and is beginning her mom to keep him."

But the important thing is that he wants to be baptized.

And I guess I wouldn't have been able to teach him much . . . 'cuz . . . you know.

Thursday evening we went to see Kirk, a member in our ward who hasn't been to church in a while. He is a very kind man, and he's incredibly brilliant. He's rewiring his entire house so he can control the garage, the lights, and all his cameras from his cell phone. We had a really good discussion on the power of the Atonement in our lives and he opened up a lot. He wants to come back to church, but he wants his wife to be involved too. Hopefully we'll be able to start working with both of them! He wants us over for dinner sometime this next week. #cliffhangers.

Friday was my last district meeting, and Elder Crestani asked me to share my favorite miracle story from my mission. My mission has been 18 months of miracles, so it was kind of hard to choose. I ended up telling the story of my very first transfer, which to me was the transfer of miracles. I saw the most success in my first transfer. I told the story of Marlene and Larry and how they changed their lives around to accept the Gospel. I love and miss that family so much.

After District Meeting we saw Anne, who loves missionaries almost as much as she loves Harry Potter. She has an entire room devoted to her Harry Potter merchandise and I felt like I was looking into Paige's bedroom. Just fewer movie posters. ;) Anne is Presbyterian but she is open to learning about our faith. We scheduled an appointment for next Friday. #cliffhangers.

Friday evening we had all our plans fall through and we still had about an hour left. When everything falls through, that means there is a lost sheep out there that Heavenly Father wants you to go after. After some prayer and meditation we received a text from a less-active member who we hadn't been able to see in 5.5 weeks. She invited us over! Out of the blue! It was awesome. We had a really good lesson with her about how nothing can separate us from the love of God. Feelings of unworthiness should only lead us to seek Him, not to increase the distance or to put up a wall between us and Him. That really clicked with her; we're praying that she will decide to come back to Church. She feels out of place because everyone at church seems like they are on top of life. I told her that everyone is sheltering some kind of burden or pain, no matter what we see on the outside. No one is exempt from the temptations, trials, and challenges that life throws at us. That is why we go to Church. We go to seek refuge from the world and to strengthen our spirituality in order to face the challenges that life throws at us. The sacrament rejuvenates our Spirits and gives us the boost we need to stay strong throughout the week. Everybody needs it, and it is meant for everyone. Hopefully she comes next week! #cliffhangers.

Saturday we manned a booth for the Church at the Karns Fair. We handed out free pictures of Christ along with a 4-question survey asking people whether or not they would be interested in our message. Out of 25 surveys filled out, none of them were in our area. Sad day. But it was still fun meeting people and sharing a little bit about what we believe. I was kind of surprised at how much I've grown in the past 18 months. Had I attended a fair at the beginning of my mission I probably would have cowered under the table instead of approaching people. It's cool to see how much you change!

Saturday evening we taught the Plan of Salvation to Amber, another one of our investigators. She has been coming to church regularly and really enjoyed it. She is still searching to make sure she knows it's true before acting on it, but I'm sure she'll get there. I'm kind of sick of typing "#cliffhangers" so I'm probably going to hold off for the rest of the email.

Saturday afternoon we spent about two and a half hours helping a member move out of her house. I felt so bad for this poor woman. She and her ex-husband tend to hoard things, so her house was packed with all sorts of stuff. It was a ton of work and the environment wasn't the cleanest I've seen, but it felt so good to make a dent and, most importantly, to help this woman out. It is sometimes difficult to have a positive attitude when doing some of the dirty work, but into my mind came the question, "What would my attitude be like if I were doing this for the Savior?" That made the project immensely more satisfying. As the Savior says in Matthew, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have also done it unto me." I collapsed into bed that evening but it was the most satisfying feeling.

Sunday we said goodbye to a lot of wonderful people and got a new investigator! We also had a family of members sign up to feed us the last hour of the evening. That was so kind of them! Sister Rainey came to pick us up for dinner, and as we were driving to her house I looked at the sky and thought, "Man. It looks like we're going to have a tornado."

GUESS WHAT? We got a text 20 minutes later containing a tornado warning.

Do you know what this means??? I'm a real Tennesseean because I can look at the sky and predict tornadoes!!!!! I'm really excited about this!!

Except then we got a text from the Zone Leaders that we needed to get home ASAP and we had just arrived at our dinner appointment. So we stayed the full hour and then Sister Rainey drove us home. The power was out, the wind was blowing, and it was hailing, but luckily no damage was done. No tornadoes touched down in the area or anything. We were kept up all night by the thunder. It was the loudest thunder I have ever heard. I'm going to miss that! Utah doesn't have real thunderstorms. Like ever. Except now I'm tired because I didn't sleep last night because there was a strobe light of lightning coming nonstop through the window for several hours. It looked cool though!!

And that was my week. And I'm super tired. I am SO tired. I have reached a new DEFINITION of tired. I am at least 18.5 kinds of tired. At least. And it's the best kind of exhaustion I have ever experienced.

I have one more day of proselyting after today, and then I spend all day after the transfer meeting in the Mission Home. I'm not sure what I'll be doing there, but I guess I can tell the story on my next blog post, which will be all about coming home and stuff. We fly out Thursday morning and then what happens after that is a whole new kind of adventure that I am extremely terrified of and profoundly excited for.

I wanted to wrap this up with a quote from President Uchtdorf, which I'm pretty sure I've included before but I want to include it again:

"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 Endless13 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."

This rings true to me. Almost everything inside of me has tried to resist this ending. *Almost* everything. My mission has meant more to me than any other experience I have had in my life. I have learned so much about my Savior Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. I have learned how to access the healing and enabling powers of the atonement. I know what it means to repent, I know what repentance feels like, and I have tasted the joy of receiving divine forgiveness. I know what Jesus Christ expects of me, the blessings that lie in store for the faithful, and the blessings that await those who live the Gospel. My testimony has grown substantially, my character has grown more divine in nature through the grace of Jesus Christ. My love for others, for the Gospel, and for God has grown substantially. I have learned how to succeed and how to fall, how to lift and how to be lifted, how to teach and how to learn. No words in any language can summarize the experience, the learning, the growth, and the change that I have experienced in the last 18 months. All I can say is that I am profoundly grateful. For each and every moment, both hard and easy. I am grateful that each experience in my mission has been tailored in such a way that would allow me to experience the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I love this Gospel. I love my Savior. I love that He has allowed me to serve Him with all my heart, might, mind, and strength for the last 18 months. I will never regret this decision, nor forget this experience. I will always cherish this testimony and the people with whom I have been able to share it. I thank everyone back at home for their love and support this entire time. Never have I ever felt so encircled with love, both from heavenly and earthly angels. I hope and pray that I can touch more hearts as my journey comes to an end. My next journey awaits, and I can't wait to see what lies in store. As long as my future is in God's hands, I know that it is safe. Everlasting happiness awaits those who put their trust in the Lord.

God bless you all!

All my love,

Sister Bri Fox

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