Alright so I seriously can't believe I'm writing this but I'm now at the end of my mission! These last 2 years have past like the blink of an eye, I still remember first arriving here in Albania and thinking about how foreign everything seemed to me. I remember not understanding a thing people said to me and sitting through church like a blank slate. I know this email can't possibly contain all the feelings I have for what my mission has been to me so I apologize if it's not all you expect but I'll give it a shot.
First of all I know that I was called to this specific mission not out of chance but with definite purpose. My president, President Weidmann, has been such a huge example for me. I know that he is called of God and I hope that I can follow his example to always be ready to answer when God calls me. He is such a huge example to me of a latter day saint and really has put so much into this work. I love him so much and am so grateful for the time that I have had to serve with him.
I'm also grateful for the Albanian people and all that I have learned from them. The difference between them and Americans is so much more than just language. They have so much culture and tradition, I'm going to miss the crazy church blocks where I just sit on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what someone is going to say next!
I've had amazing companions my entire mission that have each taught me so much! My trainer Elder Verushi was so great for me and really taught me to forget myself and go to work. I grew so much my first transfer and I know I really needed it. I gained a much more personal relationship with my Father up in heaven because I really needed someone to talk to during those first few months. Elder Holm taught me how to have fun in this work, my second transfer is when I really figured out who Elder Guymon was rather than just being another missionary. He was a huge example of working hard and playing hard and this mission would have been a long grind if I hadn't had the chance to learn from him. Elder Mero was definitely the most exciting companion I have had. Everything we did together was the most exciting thing we had ever done times 1000. It was a blast and I really learned to appreciate the little things and the small victories. With Elder Anderson we had a crazy interesting transfer but I'm so glad that he was my companion because he was so willing to just consecrate himself and put everything out on the street everyday I really learned so much about giving everything to the Lord and putting faith that he would work miracles if I did my part. Then I had a totally new experience serving with Elder Befus who taught me a ton about about loving the people we're serving and putting everything into helping them draw closer unto Christ. Elder Rogers and I had a great time together even though a lot of the time it just seemed like nothing was happening with the work and I learned a lot about what really mattered and what real success looked like in missionary work. He also taught me a ton about how to care about all the missionaries that I was serving and to be much more compassionate. Finally, this last month with Elder Clayton has been awesome and a lot of it has just been me doing a lot of pondering about these experiences that I have been having I'm grateful for his example to me of always being willing to answer to whatever the people we are serving need. Even if it's maybe not the thing that I necessarily desire to do!
Every week we set goals for the coming week and I'm going to be honest, some of the goals I had at the beginning of my mission are still the same things that I'm wanting to work on here at the end. I know that this road never really ends, Ether 12:27 means something different to me now. I learned that as I came unto Christ I started seeing less and less imperfections in myself but I started seeing more and more!!!!! The difference is that I saw them as things that I can work on, future strengths as my president puts it. I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ I can do ANYTHING. I think that God shakes his head at me all the time just in awe of how thick I can be but I know that he is always cheering for me and is never going to give up on me.
The greatest thing that I have gained on my mission is hands down my testimony in my big brother and savior Jesus Christ. I love him so much. I don't totally understand how he was able to make that sacrifice for me and I know I still need to use his atonement so much more in my life but what I do know is that because of him I am changed. I have found new life in Jesus Christ. I have learned that if I just fully rely on him that nothing is ever going to go wrong. I think that is why my second area (Prishtina, Kosovo) is so sacred to me. I had never met people that had never even HEARD of Jesus Christ before then. I also frequently met people that mocked him and mocked me because of him. It was a time that I really had to figure out who Jesus Christ was for me because all of a sudden he wasn't the main stream belief. I have had spiritual experiences that I can never deny that allowed me to stand up tall to the man that just tore up my picture of Christ and spit on me and tell him that Jesus Christ is his Lord and that he is going to meet him at the last day. I had the very special experience of teaching someone who ended up becoming one of my best friends about Jesus Christ and there was a very real very literal light that appeared in his eyes as he learned about these eternal truths. He went from someone who said he had heard of Jesus Christ as a name but nothing more to testifying that he can't imagine his life without him! There was nothing more beautiful than that in my mission.
I love our great God and I know that he has my life in his hands. I have learned that I don't really need to worry too much about what's going to happen in the future. If I put God first in my life he hasn't let me down up to this point and I know he won't let me down now. I wouldn't trade the experiences that I have had out here for anything in the world. I know that the things I have learned here will continue to support me for the rest of my life and loudly proclaim to all those considering on going on a mission to take this step! I can give a 100% guarantee that you won't regret it. 3 Nephi 13:33 is your promise.
I hope that maybe reading this you can feel a small part of what the mission has meant to me. I have put my heart into this service and it's with great sadness that I part from it now. Yes I'm so excited to come home, to come back to all my comforts and to my family. But back there I don't get to have this special calling to be a special representative of Jesus Christ. But I know that because of this calling that I have receieved that I can't go back to "fishing" just as the apostles couldn't go back. I will continue to have Jesus' name with my written upon my heart at all times and hope that those who see me will know that I am Christian which is the greatest thing anyone could call me. A true Christian. There is no way we can learn to truly be christian if we aren't willing to do what Christ would do. SERVE!
I love you all and am excited to see and talk to all of you!