What a bitter sweet day this is. My last email home as a full time missionary, and my last day here in Hanford. At 7:30am tomorrow I leave for Fresno to spend the day there with President and Sister Gelwix and all other departing missionaries. And the next, I will spend the morning at the airport waiting for the new missionaries to arrive and welcome them as we wait for our flights out. At 3:09 my plane will land and I will come down the stairs and be welcomed by my loved ones. The next chapter to my story will begin.
I have come to realize that my mission really has been a life changing thing. I have been doing a lot of reflecting and pondering about the things that I have learned these past 18 months. I have taken it all for granted and have over looked my potential. However, I have been so touched as I've said my goodbyes and seen these people tell me the impact I have made in their lives. It always feels good to hear and see your worth in life. I didn't think I made much of a difference here on my mission in being shy and a little more reserved then most here, but I was really touched with the members I said farewell to yesterday. One family is the Oberst's. They love having the missionaries over and missionaries love them. So I figured I was just another one of them to come through their house. She wrote in my journal saying: "Now there are a few sisters who have served in our ward that I have particularly enjoyed - and I wanted to let you know that you are one of them. Why? Because you are not shy, yet your not in people's faces either. You laugh when you think something is truly funny and not just because others are laughing. You are quiet and ponder - but not shy..." Another special family to me, the Valdez's, said: "Seeing you go is like having to say goodbye to a daughter or a granddaughter. You will be sorely missed." Brother Valdez shook my hand as tears ran down his face as he bore his testimony of this Gospel to me and told me never to let it out of my sight. Hold to it and never forget God's love for us. During Sacrament, Andrea Faldon and Thomas Clelland (both recent converts) went up and bore their testimonies of this Gospel. I just smiled as I looked at them knowing less than a year ago they were lost and yet now they are here, in the safe arms of our Savior Jesus Christ. I'm amazed at the power they have and love for this gospel. We saw Jessica this week and I wanted to cry in hearing how her family and friends have turned against her and are harassing her for joining this church. To hear her share her beliefs to me and Sister Bee and how she is hurt by what they all are doing to her and yet in knowing she made the right choice only makes me appreciate what I have. I am not being persecuted and rejected because of the choices I made or make. Thank you mom and dad for loving me and respecting my choices regardless if you know if they are good choices or bad for me. I have learned SO much from Jessica about endurance and staying strong in what you know to be true. She is that light on a hill that will never be put out. She is a great example.
I wish I could explain all in detail the things that have happened these past 18 months. I'm not good at story telling. (I've been figuring that out as people ask me what has been the greatest moment on my mission, spiritual, etc.) I never know what to say. Yet I know in my heart the great impact it has had on me and will continue to have on me as I reflect more and more on these things. It's an awful feeling to know you are leaving this wonderful atmosphere to go back to the "natural world". I never recognized the spirit we as missionaries have or the lifestyle we live by. It just becomes natural after awhile. But now, I know it's not going to be like that. And with that, I am sad. We met a previous Elder that served here about 10 years ago the other Sunday. He told us the biggest challenge in going home is trying to make sure you don't go back to who you were before the mission. God sent you on a mission to make you into the person he wants you to be. So now you have to go back to the world you were in previously with the skills and knowledge you now have and try to make things work in moving forward, not backwards. That is the biggest challenge.
I have a strong love for this gospel now more then ever. I'm still learning each and everyday and am not perfect. I haven't had much experiences of powerful miracles, yet I've seen the Lord's hands in the work here in Fresno by small and simple things. My biggest growth has been in myself. I know God needed me to experience these things in order for me to be a good daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, teacher, etc. There are many things I wish didn't happen while I was out, losing Grandma Carter, birth of nephews, illnesses, weddings, moving, etc. It's hard being away for all of those things and not being there with your loved ones at that time to help out. I am grateful I stuck it out though and I can now say "I did it!" I really did it! All these years of imagining what a mission would be like for me is at an end. It was not what I thought it would be like. I would not trade or change it for anything though. I've come to love a quote that Amanda sent me a few months ago that I have lived by to help me through my weaknesses.
"I may not be who I ought to be. I know I'm not all that I want to be. But I've come a long way from who I use to be. And I won't give up on becoming what I know I can be."
I know I'm not who I ought to be. We all have such greater potential then we give ourselves. We doubt ourselves and tear us apart. We've gone a long ways though in our lives and as long as we learn from the past in making our future better, then God is happy. I had my final interview on Saturday. I asked President how I can know if I did do a good job and believe it when I'm always hard on myself. He told me "I always tell my players at the end of the game to look at the final score, not the halftime." Yes I will look back and critic my journey. That's natural. But to know that I never gave up and stayed strong, I won right there! Take that win and be proud of what you accomplished. To make the next game an even greater win, take those mistakes from halftime you want to improve on and improve.
Well, I don't have much time left. I want you all to truly know the appreciation I have for each and every one of you in all the help you've given me and support. Thank you for your testimonies to me and the spirit I've felt from you. I'm excited to see you all on Wednesday at 3:09! So until then, God be with you till we meet again! :)
- Hermana Arianne Renee Sorensen