I missed her more than most people can ever imagine - we talked twice while she was gone - last Christmas and on Mother's day. I loved seeing her in pictures and anticipating being back together. That will happen in less than two days (assuming her flights are delayed). She didn't get a P-day this week because she's traveling from Sanjo to Nakano (Tokyo) where the mission home is. It's Monday morning at 8:47 a.m. as I write this. She'll spend her last few hours in Japan at the Mission home and have a nice dinner with several other missionaries who are going home with her as well as the Mission President, his wife and a few other people. Soon after I wake up tomorrow, she'll be getting on a plane to come home. As you can imagine, I can't wait. Here is her last email from the mission. Thanks for your prayers while she has been gone - please say one more that she'll return home safely. Thanks for reading and enjoy.
To my faithful readers that have stuck with me through this year and a half,
Well this is it. This is where it all comes to a close. Just a warning, but this email is about to get real sappy real fast.
I have loved every second of my mission. My half Japanese/ half English brain can't even put it into words how much I love my mission. Were there rough times? Oh yeah. Were there times where I didn't know how I was going to make it through? Yup. Were there some heart breaking times? Yes, those too. But through it all I learned so much, and what's even more, is that while there were rough times/sad times/stressful times, some of the best moments of my life were in this past year and a half. Some of the happiest moments ever were in these past 18 months.
So let's recap.
Sado: Where it all started. I came to Japan, not fully knowing what to expect about the country or being a missionary in general. Sado was completely different than anything I had ever known. And missionary work was pretty different from anything I've done. It was a humbling time and it was a huge part of why I am the missionary I am today. There were a lot of rough times on Sado; we didn't have any real investigators for about 3 months. We housed all day in the cold winter and our main focus was teaching English. But through our faith, humility, and hard work, God was able to really work miracles through us. We ended up building the church's English program quite a bit there and it's still going strong and is a wonderful service to the people in Sado. We also ended up seeing a baptism (Yamaji shimai who is one of my eternal friends). That's what I learned on Sado: work hard, have faith, be humble, and the Lord will do the rest.
Kumagaya: I was here for only a short time, but it was probably the place I felt at home the fastest. This is where I met my Japanese (or rather Filipino who lives in Japan) mother, Engrid. I think I learned more from her than she did from me. She was an incredible example of putting Christ at the center of her life. All she needed to hear was "Jesus Christ did it" or "Jesus Christ tells us to do this" and she would do it immediately, whether it was not drinking alcohol or tea or if it was telling her Japanese boss she couldn't work on Sundays. She and her daughter ended up getting baptized and are working towards a temple sealing (another two of my eternal friends). I loved the people in Kumagaya so much; I really felt like part of one big family. The ward members were amazing examples of true Christlike love. In Kumagaya, I think I really learned how to love the people.
Nakano: The place where I was the longest. Also the place I was the busiest. As a missionary, you're always busy, but I felt a whole new level of busy here in Nakano. I really felt like I was giving my all to my heavenly father and it made me so happy. All of my areas hold a special place in my heart, but I think there's a little bigger place there for Nakano. Nakano was interesting because it was up and down the whole 5 transfers I was there. If my time in Nakano were a graph, it would be extremely inconsistent. Probably some of the best times on my mission, and also some of the worst times of my mission, were both in Nakano.
Nakano is where I was in a leadership position and really learned the way to become a Christlike leader. I learned how to more fully give of myself and how to serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. I learned that the Lord will bless you as long as you're trying your best.
I met so many eternal friends in Nakano. I think my two best friends I met were Nabeko and Ryoko. Both were incredible examples to me. Ryoko canceled her baptism the day of (one of those lows I was talking about), but boy did it teach me so much. We had to find out how to get out of the absolute lowest point, we had to figure out how to get Ryoko back on track. (Update: Ryoko now has a baptismal date for in the month of January).
Nabeko was the epitome of what it means to be humble. She wanted so bad to have the light that all the church members had; little did she know that she did have it. In my last week in Nakano, she told us that she wanted to get baptized and she would try and stop drinking alcohol. She was baptized on December 17th.
Sanjo: The place where it all ends. This was also the area I was in the shortest. I met some of the most devout members of my life here in Sanjo. They are who I want to be like as a member after my mission. I had the opportunity of training a new missionary here without knowing anything about the area myself. We really had the opportunity to fully focus on our missionary purpose without getting side tracked on anything else. I learned how to find joy in the little things here in Sanjo.
I couldn't be happier that Heavenly Father called me on a mission. And I feel extremely privileged to have gotten to serve in the Japan Tokyo mission. I think one of the biggest things I've learned on my mission is that heavenly father truly loves and knows every single person individually. I have felt His love for His children as I talk with them on the streets, when I'm teaching them, when I see them keep the commandments, when they are sharing their testimony, so many different times. It's a love that is infinite and special and a love that as mortals, we can't fully comprehend. It has been the coolest experience getting to feel the love our heavenly father has for the people that I also love so much.
So that's it everyone. That's a year and a half wrapped up into one email. I'm grateful for all the eternal friends I met, the places I've been able to call home, the members that have become like 2nd families to me, the amazing food that I've been able to eat, and for my heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the stronger relationship that I now have with them.
I hope this email will last y'all until I come home. Maybe by the time you're done reading it, I'll be in America lol. See y'all soon.
That's it. No pictures this week. We are very close to be ready for her - the Welcome Home signs are up. All the gifts are wrapped - we'll celebrate her birthday on Wednesday (her birthday is 12/14) and get ready for lots of family to descend upon us for her homecoming talk on Sunday, the 24th. Thanks for your emails, snail mail, and prayers - we all appreciated them very much. Less than two days and I'll have my baby girl back.