Monday, February 2, 2015

The Best Year Ever!

The Field is White

So in the excitement of having an Apostle of the Lord come and visit us here in Ohio, I failed to mention that I did not get transferred! My work is not yet finished here in Newark, Ohio. I feel so fortunate to stay here another transfer, especially as we have Ellen's baptism approaching in just a few short weeks.

As this week approaches my missionary birthday and I am forced to come to the conclusion that I have been out on my mission for a year, I am torn with bittersweet emotions. I love my mission. I love everything about it. I love all that I have learned, and all that I will continue to learn. I love my Savior more than I ever have. I love my Father in Heaven, and I love His children. I love being able to serve them. Last night as I was reflecting on my mission thus far I started to create a list of 10 things that I have learned. I did this also at the beginning of my mission and it was fun to compare the lists. So here it goes!

1) Missionary work is incredible. It is so much fun, and it should be fun if you are doing it right! The passion you have for the gospel should radiate from you, and when you share it with someone else it should be a fun experience. There's nothing that can replace the pure and honest joy of the gospel. I have made some of the best memories with investigators, less active members, members, random citizens on the street, my street ball hommies, and with other missionaries during this sacred 12 months. I love my mission!

2) Missionary work is challenging, and I'm grateful for that. It is the most exhausting work physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Elder Holland in a talk titled "Missionary work and the Atonement" said, "Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font? You will have occasion to ask those questions." He then answers that question with such a powerful statement that has helped me so much in my missionary work. He boldly declares, "I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy...How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?" I love that line. Through challenges I have better come to understand my Savior and His atonement.

3) I have learned how all encompassing and beautiful the atonement is. The atonement covers everything. Think about that sentence for a minute. Christ paid the price for all those who had gone before Him, and all those who would come after Him.  I used to think I only needed the atonement if I sinned. I have now better come to understand the great depth of the atonement. It is set in place to save us from sin, but it covers so much more. The atonement allows me to push through and overcome my weaknesses and shortcomings. It helps me through rejection, confusion, frustration, and anger. It helps me through physical setback or emotional pains that I may feel. He understands us perfectly because He's been there before. Through the atonement we find peace, happiness, and hope. The Savior provided a great and merciful act of love that truly redeemed us all.

4) A testimony of the Book Of Mormon is essential in conversion. I love this book. I cannot say that enough. I LOVE THE BOOK OF MORMON. I feel connected to the characters in it. I feel a closeness to my Savior as I read it. I love bearing testimony of this divine book to those we come in contact with. I didn't realize how strong my testimony had become until one day one man in particular was saying some pretty hateful things about the book. I felt pierced, like something had penetrated my heart. I realized that day how firmly I believed in the Book of Mormon and how I would defend in until the day I die. It is personal revelation from God. I have watched the light of Christ enter a person's life as they begin to read from the powerful pages. President Daines said, "If you don't have a testimony of the Book Of Mormon, get it. If you have one, strengthen it."  It is the convincing evidence of the truthfulness of the gospel. I hope you all give it a chance. How can you judge something you have never before even read? Give it a try! That's what Ellen, our investigator taught me.

5) I've learned how inspired this work is. I have had few times on my mission where I have had huge manifestations from the spirit, but I have had many times where I have had subtle quiet promptings from the Holy Ghost. Everyday I feel like Nephi being led by the spirit not knowing beforehand the things that I should do. I know the Holy Ghost led me and my companion specifically to find Clarence and many others. I know how inspired each area I have served in is. I know how inspired each companionship is. I know how in tune with the spirit our mission President is and the Quorum of the Twelve. I know how inspired each and every mission call is. The spirit is in every intricate detail of this beautiful work. Without it this work would be impossible.

6) I've learned more fully the importance of the sacrament. We cannot return to the Father without the gateway the sacrament provides. The sacrament should be a very sacred and spiritual experience. I imagine my Savior with His hand outstretched extending an invitation to partake of the sacrament in remembrance of Him. I remember one particular Sunday, it was fast Sunday and I was starving. I spiritually had prepared myself for the sacrament. I couldn't believe how much I craved it both spiritually and physically. The sacrament is something we simply cannot do without. It provides a cleansing effect and renews our baptismal covenants. It links us to the Father.

7) I've learning how important love is in this work. President Monson said, "Love is the very essence of the gospel." Love fuels the fire, it touches hearts, and lifts spirits. The other day someone asked us why the Savior did what He did. The answer was pure and simple. He did it because He loves us. I cannot begin to comprehend the amount of love our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ have for us. My mom at the beginning of my mission gave me some wonderful advice that has stuck with me. She said "if you are having a hard time finding love for someone, pray that Heavenly Father will lend you some of His." Sometimes I cannot explain the love I have for others, but I know that it is not my own. It is deeper, it is the love of Christ that runs throughout my veins. I am grateful for the power of love.

8) I have learned that God has an incredible sense of humor. I was telling someone the other day that it was on my bucket list to make God laugh. They looked at me and said, "Sister Mathis, I'm pretty sure you already have." I have found on my mission that when we are exhausted and we feel down, Heavenly Father sends some comedic relief. Some of the funniest stories have come in just these last 12 months of my life.

9) I have gained a strong testimony of the Bible. Prior to my mission in all honesty, I hadn't read much of the Bible. I knew the stories and would read verses here and there, but I never had read it cover to cover. I am almost finished with the New Testament and I have absolutely loved reading it. I love studying Christ's teachings in depth, and viewing the relationship He had with those around Him. I feel more connected to Him then I ever have. I feel His pain especially when I read about Him crying out on the cross for His Father. I know of the reality of our Savior. He is so real. I know He lives. I know He lived a perfect life. One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is "come unto me." I invite all of you to come unto our Savior.

10. Last, but not least I have learned how completely dependent I have become on my Savior. If you know me, you know I hate having to depend on anyone. I want to do it my way, and I don't want help to do it. I've been independent and headstrong since day one. If I could describe my mission in one word it would be meek. I have been humbled by how much I need my Savior.  It is impossible to do it without Him. My favorite scripture illustrates this beautifully. Ammon declares, "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things." As to my strength I am nothing. But I believe with Him, I can be so much more. Trust in Him, lean on Him. He loves you and He knows you.

I love you guys. It's truly a beautiful day to be a missionary! Where does the time go?

Love Sister Mathis

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