Monday, March 9, 2015

This is Only the Beginning

My dearest friends and family,

Well, here it is! My last day as a missionary in the Philippines. My mind and heart are bursting with bittersweet emotion at the thought that I will soon be hugging my family at the airport and also at the thought that I will be leaving a whole lot of myself and my heart here in the Philippines.

I want to share with you a few lessons that I learned here that I'll be taking home with me.

First, I've learned how to LOVE. Love everyone, especially my Heavenly Father. Not just say the words, "I love you" but to really show it in my actions. In the last 18 months I've worked with countless sister missionaries from all over the world coming from all different backgrounds. I've met and talked to and taught a lot of people and I've learned to see each one of them, not for who they are right now, but for who they have the potential to become as a son or daughter of God. I've learned to love them, not because the love me or my message, but because they are my brother or sister and I've been blessed to feel and share God's love for them. What an amazing privilege!

Second, I've learned how to be HAPPY. I've learned that true happiness doesn't come from a great job, a big house, the next iPhone or TV, or a perfect life. I've been blessed to serve among the happiest people on earth- the beautiful Filipinos :) The happiest people I've met here in the Philippines have next to nothing, but are faithfully living the Gospel. We had a visit with an active member, an RM, Bro Flory and his family the other day. Bro Flory is one of the most faithful members here in Villasis. He walks with his family to church every single week without fail. He shared with us the other day about how he had no way to walk the two miles to his construction job because he had no food to bring with him and didn't know if he would have enough energy to do the work on no food. He told us that with no work, he had nothing to feed his family three small children, including two with special needs, except for a little rice. Sister Molina and I were both in tears upon hearing this and were praying to know what we could say to this man in his destitute condition and strengthen him. As we were talking to him, he was the one who ended up strengthening us with one of the most powerful one-sentence sermons I've ever heard. With a smile on his face He said, "At least, the Church is true"... The Church IS true and for those faithful members who are living the commandments of God, no matter how difficult the circumstances, happiness and peace will come! True happiness is living like Bro Flory, living the commandments and trusting Him. I've felt that happiness every day in the last 18 months no matter how tired I am or how difficult the day was. Missionaries are happy because they live the commandments and are serving Heavenly Father. Happiness is choosing to put Heavenly Father first!

Third, I've come to know who my Savior Jesus Christ is. I've been privileged to experience even the most minuscule part of what He experienced as I've walked a path of rejection, miracles, joy, struggles and true discipleship. The price a missionary pays is not cheap. Every tear, every mile walked in the pouring rain or scorching head, every rejection, every hard day and tired bone was all worth it for me, because it made me realize what my Savior went through for me. There were so many days that all I could do was turn to Him and the power of His Atonement, but in the end I am so GRATEFUL because those hard days helped me learn who my Savior really is and helped me to become even just the tiniest bit more like Him. All of it was worth it for that blessing!

I want to give some advice to those who are still serving or preparing to serve as missionaries. It's the same advice I was given a long time ago: LOVE quickly, choose to be HAPPY, and don't waste a single moment! You will be happy if you do these things and will have a successful mission, no matter the outward results.

I am so excited to begin my eternal mission as a make my way home on Wednesday. My mission doesn't end when I take my nametag off because I know that this is only the beginning of an eternal commitment to serve my Heavenly Father. I will continue to do so, to go wherever He goes and do whatever He asks for the rest of my life just as I have learned to do here in the mission field. This is only the beginning!

I love you and am eternal grateful for your support!

Sister Mckenna Gustafson :)

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