My dear family,
It’s incredible for me to think that this will be the last time I write you all. As I’ve thought about what to write in my last letter, I realized it is hard to know what to say in a hard moment like this. To even think that my mission is coming to an end brings tears to my eyes and many mixed feelings into my heart. Hopefully, with this last letter, I can express a few feelings I have about what I’ve learned during two years of missionary service.
A Mighty Change of Heart
In Alma 5, Alma asks quite a few questions that have helped me to reflect on my time here in Peru. In the beginning of the chapter, Alma talks about the experience of his father and of his “change of heart” that he experienced. Alma had been a wicked priest that persecuted the prophets and lived contrary to God’s commandments. But, thanks to the teaching of Abinidi, Alma experienced a change of heart that anchored him in the gospel for the rest of his life. Before my mission, I wouldn’t say that I was quite as much of a “wicked priest” like Alma, but I don’t feel that I had ever experienced that “change of heart” that Alma did. I’ve always had a testimony, and I’ve always strived to keep the commandments, attend church, and follow the gospel “steps” that we always talk about, but deep inside, my heart focused on other things and the gospel wasn’t the number one priority of my life. School, friends, and other things had a greater focus than my relationship with the Savior or my personal discipleship.
I came on the mission because I had sincere desires to share the gospel and serve God’s children. I was called to the work and assigned to labor in Trujillo, Peru. And despite some fear to leave my family, I was excited for the opportunity to serve. Arriving in Peru as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was a drastic change in my life. Scripture study, prayer, and bearing my testimony became daily habits that helped me in my own spiritual progression, but that change of heart still hadn’t occurred. When I arrived in the mission field, those good daily habits that I had developed were mixed with new struggles and lots of sweat and tears, but I was happy because I was sharing the gospel and helping others to come unto Christ.
Trying to Be Like Him and the Beautiful Members of His Church in Peru
Day by day, I learned and grew. I experienced the joy of teaching the gospel and of serving others. I have met so many amazing people and I have been so blessed to see many of them be baptized and become active members of the church. I have learned what charity really is, and I have felt that pure love of Christ for those I teach. I’ve also learned what it means to work. I’ve walked so many miles, often late in the day when every step hurts, but I knew I needed to continue forward. I’ve never been so constantly engaged in tiring work, but I’ve gained a true appreciation for “putting your shoulder to the wheel” and pushing. I’ve developed life-changing habits that I know will be a great asset to me in the future and in all aspects of my life.
During these two years, I have also had many experiences that have helped me to become, at least a little bit more, like the Savior. I’ve learned the importance of humility and how to better recognize and acknowledge my faults and weaknesses. I’ve gained a better appreciation for the importance of obedience, not for obligation, but for my personal desire to do what’s right. I´ve learned what it really means to have faith and trust in God’s promises and to look forward with a “perfect brightness of hope.” (2 Nephi 31:20) I’ve developed patience: patience with others, patience with God’s timing, and patience with myself.
The experiences I have had and the changes I have seen in myself are amazing blessings Heavenly Father has given me, but the greatest blessing I have received was being able to experience that change of heart just like Alma did. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, or how it happened, but what I do know is that it DID happen. It could have been when I saw the Bardales family, dressed in white, entering into the waters of baptism—or the numerous times sitting in a stranger’s living room and feeling the Spirit testify through me of the restored gospel. It could have been every time I knelt in prayer and felt the love that Heavenly Father has for me in a unique and personal way. Or it could be thanks to a number of other miracles I have experienced here in Peru.
My Savior Jesus Christ
All of those things have been incredible faith-building experiences for me, but I think that “change of heart” came only thanks to one Person. A Man who, in Gethsemane, bled from every pore to pay for my sins. A Man who suffered death so that I might live again. And a Man that has given me the amazing privilege of representing Him for the best two years of my life. Before my mission, I had always had a testimony that Jesus Christ is my Savior, but now I have come to KNOW Him personally, and that is the greatest blessing of my mission. That change of heart for me wasn’t a change in how I live my life, but was a change in my desires and the reason I live my life. Now I can truly say that I do what I do because of the love I have for the Savior Jesus Christ. I am eternally grateful for His example in my life, and for His atoning sacrifice. Without Him, I would be nothing; but thanks to Him, I am who I am today.
I bear my testimony that Jesus Christ truly is our Savior and Redeemer. He paid for my sins, for your sins, and for the sins of every single one of God’s children. I testify that He died for us, and rose on the third day. He lives today, and I have felt the love that he has for me personally. I testify that this is His church, and that it was restored on the earth by the young-prophet Joseph Smith. I love the Savior with all of my heart, and I am so grateful that I have been able to represent Him during these two amazing years.
I love you all,