Thursday, March 13, 2014

Letter 71: "There never was a girl that had so great reason to rejoice as me"

Well, this is definitely a strange feeling. This is the last email I get to send while still wearing this lovely little black tag I have come to love so much. It's so weird...I feel like there is so much that I want to say and so much that happened this week, but I honestly am at a loss for words. (that's an odd happening for me)

I guess the emotion that I am feeling most strongly right now is just one of overwhelming gratitude. I have loved my mission so much. This last transfer was completely the opposite of what I wanted it to be, but as I spent some time in my study this morning reviewing the things I learned over the last 5 weeks, I was completely blown away by the things the Lord has taught me. Even during this last week, (which, by the way was one of the STRANGEST and hardest weeks of my mission, especially owing to the fact that we didn't have a car for half of it and somehow still needed to cover all of Miami-Dade county!) I feel like I have learned some of the most life-changing lessons on my whole mission! I am so grateful that my Heavenly Father gave me this opportunity to come here and to become more like my Savior Jesus Christ. Because as I look back over the last 18 months and think about all of the many people I have influenced and the lives that I have changed, I know without a doubt that the one He sent me here to change most of all was my own.

I'll be completely honest; even though I am more at peace now with leaving, it doesn't mean that I want to! Ahh. It is heart-wrenching to be pulled out of Miami, out of this branch (which I thankfully have come to really love), and out of doing the Lord's work full-time. I wish that President would have granted me an extension, but I guess like Alma says, "I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me" (Alma 29:3). And I am. I am truly grateful. I have watched the Atonement work in the lives of so many of Father's precious children, my brothers and sisters, and I am just amazed that I had the chance to be a part of their lives. I think back to the person I was a year and a half ago and I just shake my head, thinking, "Was that really what I was like?!" He knew I needed this mission. And I guess I just have to trust Him that I need to take the next step now and that it will be just as amazing as the last 18 months have been.

Although the week was quite the rollercoaster ride, my last Sunday as a missionary was the best Sunday I ever could have asked for. We had SO many of the less-actives and recent converts that we've been working with come to church. But probably the most amazing thing was that Sybil's sister Toni came with her! On Saturday, we had a lesson with Sybil and her family where Sybil actually taught the Plan of Salvation. She did an amazing job, but it was hard for us and for her when her family wasn't as receptive as she was hoping and the lesson kind of ended on a sour note. After the lesson, we went outside and she just started crying. It broke my heart and I of course cried with her. Despite the fact that she's only been baptized for a month and a half, she has such a solid testimony and is so converted to the gospel. She wants this so badly for her family because she KNOWS this is the truth and that they need to partake of it. At fast & testimony meeting the next day, she bore an incredible testimony that her sister Toni was there to hear. Sybil shared why this is so important to her and how she wants her family to receive it so they can all be together in the celestial kingdom. Every meeting on Sunday was fantastic and at the end of the day, in relief society, Toni actually got up and shared HER testimony! She talked about how she has seen the gospel change Sybil's life, how she loved the way she felt at church, and that she knows that her whole family will be there one day with Sybil. Wow. I just had such an incredible feeling, coming out of yesterday. I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who allowed me to have that amazing experience before I left!

Well, in the words of Alma, "Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never [was a girl] that had so great reason to rejoice as [me], since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God...Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever." (Alma 26: 35,37). I do rejoice! This is the greatest work. I am committed to be a missionary for life and I am grateful for the incredible training that I had here in the Florida Ft. Lauderdale mission. I love you all and am excited to be able to share my experiences in-person soon with many of you. :)

Con amor y mucho gusto,
la hermana dougal

PS- My mission was made COMPLETE by my fabulous zone leaders. I asked them if I could help out with reading the transfer information over transfer calls. They let me be in charge of the WHOLE CALL. WOOT WOOT! Soo sweet. I got to deliver everyone's destiny to them. ;)
PPS- I am especially a little bummed that I am leaving because they closed the south area of our branch which means that Sis Gordon is now in charge of the ENTIRE Snapper Creek area, which goes all the way from downtown Miami (which is north), down through Homestead and to Florida City...and technically all the way to the Keys! (not that she'll ever go there, haha.) Man, we would have had SO MUCH FUN tearing that whole thing up together. I absolutely love our northern area. But the southern area is a BLAST. She was a bit overwhelmed when she found out but I know she's going to rock it. ;)
PPSS- I forgot...God really did grant me all the desires of my heart! I FINALLY saw REAL LIVE ALLIGATORS IN THE WILD!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bye bye li'l bro Jeff, now Elder Carreno! A real-life missionary!

Ft. Lauderdale temple!

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