Monday, March 26, 2012

Final Thoughts

Hello Everyone,

Wow. I'm not exactly sure what to write about this week. We had a good week. Actually, this past week was my best in this area, this isn't the easiest area I've served in and it really takes a lot more work to get numbers that at other times in my mission have been easy to achieve. Every area has its advantages and disadvantages and it's just learning how to work best with what you have. I'm sad that now that I am finally getting into the swing of things I'm leaving.

Actually, it doesn't feel like I'm going home. Hna Garcia and I were talking about how I feel like this is just another transfer coming up and I'll just go to another area and keep working. Then we started joking about how my proselyting area is being changed and how now I get to go undercover. Haha. Actually that makes a good tie in to what mom had asked about member missionary work. I think I came on a mission to learn how to be a missionary for the rest of my life. That is probably one of the most important lessons I have learned. I think the key to being a good member missionary is just not being afraid to open your mouth. People recognize members of the church at a much faster than we as members think they do. I have had baptisms because of the example and service of members, and I have lost baptisms because of the examples set by other members of the church. The second one breaks my heart.

Two of my four areas were some of the highest baptizing areas in the mission, and two have been some of the lowest baptizing areas. Honestly, a lot of the difference can be attributed to how well the members and the missionaries work together. The Becks used to talk about the M&M candies, and say that it's just like what we are doing, members & missionaries. You can't successfully have one without the other. The other thing I have learned is to always invite others to learn more, regardless of what happens. Just to invite friends to activities where they can see what happens and feel the spirit is a huge help. There is a talk called "The Missionary Next Door" that I absolutely love. I listened to it at the beginning of my mission, and I have plans to listen to it again when I get home. It gives a lot of easy ideas of how to share the gospel, all focusing on the fact that from knocking doors missionaries will baptize less than 1 in 1,000. But from working with the members and teaching in their homes the ratio jumps to 1 in 3. That's pretty impressive.

I had plans to share some great parting wisdom in my last e-mail. I'm not sure it's going to work out that way. But maybe you'll all enjoy some thoughts I've had over the last few days.

One of the key moments in my mission happened just a few weeks after I entered the MTC. I was feeling really overwhelmed and as I looked out at my whole mission I didn't know how I was going to do this. I got to Sunday and I was really struggling. I remember feeling the weight of being a missionary and feeling like I couldn't do it. That Sunday my companion and I went and listened to Music and the Spoken Word, a Sunday broadcast put on by the Tabernacle Choir. In the "spoken word" part it talked a little about how all journeys are begun with a single step, and that no great journey is done all at once, it is done in single steps day by day and it's only at the end as you look back that you can see how far you have come. I remember listening and realizing that I couldn't do the entire mission all at once, but I could live one day at a time and try to do my best. In some of the hard points that came after that on my mission I often would reflect on that and remember that I only was responsible for the moment I was living in and that I could do one more day. Now that I am looking back, I feel satisfied with this time. I feel like my work has been accepted, and I feel like I have done what I came here to do.

I was reading recently in the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon and I came upon a verse that really meant a lot to me. It's Alma 26:31, "Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us." I would add that I can see the sincerity of my time by the love I feel for these people. In the last week or so I have gotten a few letters from different people I have worked with. Those letters mean everything to me, and the people who wrote them mean even more. I would go through all of the hard days and weeks again for any one of those people. It's really hard to know I am leaving, because I feel like I am leaving my heart here in Phoenix. I love the people I have been called to serve so much. I thought I was sacrificing to come on a mission, but I'm the one who has been blessed.

I have one more week, and if you hear of a fire burning in southern Glendale, just know its Hna Garcia and I tearing up the streets. We have work to do, and I'm excited to do it.

I love you all,

Hermana Okeson

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