Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Year in the Life

No, I'm not talking about Gilmore Girls. And it's not the 525,600 minutes of my first year in the mission, but you're getting closer. These lyrics from the one good song in Rent just work so perfectly to commemorate today's landmark: My first year as returned missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. So here are some thoughts on that.
La imagen puede contener: una persona, sonriendo
I occasionally pull out my old mission journals--not too often--and read what I was doing a year (or two) ago "today." What a blessing perspective is! I can read of a truly frustrating moment with the knowledge that something wonderful was just around the corner. I can read about one little half-forgotten moment scrawled into a margin that was the beginning of something extraordinary. But sometimes I read about a hyped-up contact, a "fool's gold" future investigator, that disappears from both the page and my memory. All of them are treasures to me now.

My last week was just... surreal. I was determined to be happy and peaceful, resigned to the end. I put on a good face and really, made it my own. And now it's been a full year, here's what I remember most from the mission as a whole:
I remember moments of intense power: After a prayer was said and a powerful silence permeated for a moment; moments of testimony when I knew what I bore was going straight to the heart of the hearers. At times I was knocked almost breathless with the realization of the power in the room. It was a time when people listened and watched me in what I said or did. I was a true leader, and yet more humble then I've ever been before or since.
I've witnessed true healing: of hearts, faith, and body.
I've seen people grow and blossom. I've served them in their hard times and been blessed to see them stand, and serve others in their turn. I've planted seeds and seen them grow, even come to see them bare fruit. I heard his first testimony, and now he's sitting next to me, bearing fervent testimony to a stranger at the drop of a hat.
I remember the heartbreak of every transfer call that tore me away from those I had come to love and the cities that had become my home.
Yes, I remember the food. (I'm eating a Milka bar right now, and I couldn't be happier)
I remember the people, my friends.

I remember what was said to me in my last week.
"You did it. You did it well. Maybe better than anyone has done it." -my last companion.
"You were truly special, you were a truly consecrated missionary. You were incredible."-last Ward Mission Leader
"I've been wondering... it there life after 'Een?' It'll be hard to see you go." -President Dayton
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant.' That is what the Savior is saying to you; that is what I'm saying to you."-President Dayton

But now a year has gone by. As focused as I was on "dying well" when I left the mission field, I've had to focus even more on "living well" now that I'm back home. My journal-writing is only a fraction of what it was in the field (I went through two in a year when I was in the field. Now I've gone through... about 25 pages front/back, of a single journal). I think of my mission, and sometime I look at the clock and think, it's 10 pm in Spain, and you know that the obedient El Faro missionaries are running home. It's a wonderfully happy thought... even though, with all the time I've been home, I only know a handful of them that are still out there.

I've seen things happen both here and in Spain. I've seen friends fall away and forget the truths I so fiercely defend. But I've also seen (literally, we Skyped) a dear friend finally accept them and be baptized. I've been there for faith crises, both on the home-front and with friends from the field... and I've seen them overcome despite all odds or my own disbelief. I've felt the power of the Holy Ghost working through me to teach, perhaps not as often as I did during my full-time mission service, but as I stand and speak--whether to give a talk in church or a simple spiritual message at FHE or Ward Prayer--I feel it in me again. I feel the power of truth and the force of conviction that came through consecrated service. I teach again, I just switched citas for Visiting Teaching appointments. I have served again (they're a lot more willing to let the sisters do some heavy lifting here). I have loved my roommates and have tried to be there for them, just as I did for my companions.
I have not stopped serving the Lord.
I don't see the work of salvation up-close as much as I did then, but I may be participating in it now more than ever before. In my year home, I've averaged weekly temple attendance. I've worked through a big stack of family names, found by my aunt. Next, I'll just have to find my own.
On my mission, I felt to sing the song of redeeming love. And I still feel so now.

Today is the year-mark of my last day as a missionary (at least, I'm pretty sure. The whole flying/time-zone thing is a little confusing). And being the deeply nostalgic person that I am, I wanted to commemorate it. Not in a big public way, that's not what the mission was for me, but in a service-oriented and ponderous one. So I went to the temple in the dress that I wore for my last mission interview and finished the last saving ordinance for my last of 18(ish) temple names. There's still so much more to do, but I have my whole life to do it. And I will... because missionary work is worth a lifetime.
The day before flying home

At the temple this morning

The 18 lovely ladies I've been working with this year.