Monday, April 28, 2014

WEEK 104 - Leaving Home Twice

Growing up, I've always heard stories from people who served missions.
They talk of the good times and the bad, the ups and the downs. But
amidst all these stories, it seems there was one detail missed. One
moment not included. Perhaps nobody warned me about it, perhaps it
just didn't register in my mind - I didn't remember it. Everybody
talks about leaving home for two years, setting aside school, work,
dating, etc., but nobody mentions that at the end of that, you do it
all over again.

Nobody ever told me I'd be leaving home twice.

Four days remain in front of me and the rest of my mission is already
my life's textbook, which I will forever look back upon, continuing to
learn lesson upon lesson from it. It's very strange, there's still a
lot of it that doesn't seem real. It still feels in a little way that
I'll pack my bags, go to transfers Thursday, then get a new area and
companion, and keep going! But, alas, it is not to be so. I tried.
President keeps saying I can't extend... Haha

I really do feel like I'm going to be leaving home though. Two years
here and daily immersion in the Lords service has made Virginia and
the people here a part of me. Especially now that the trees are all
starting to turn green, coating the landscape with an emerald blanket
- a look I've come to love - it's difficult to leave all of this.

Before my mission, many people would ask me: "are you ready?" My
response was always the same: "I'm ready to find out." It's amazing
the similarity of emotions that accompany both the departure and the
return. The excitement, the anxiety, the unsurety, the thrill, the
apprehension, the impetuosity, sometimes the recalcitrance when you
want to stay longer... Haha ;P Jests aside, however, I've  noticed the
repeat pattern here, too. When people ask: "are you ready?" I again
find myself issuing the reply: "I'm ready to find out."

The past week was eventful, and way too quick. We had a great time
last Monday playing touch rugby, then district meetings Tuesday were
one of my best. The Spirit was very strong. Wednesday was my departing
temple trip. It was in the same moment exhilarating and dreadful to be
in a van with that amazing group of elders, going somewhere as sacred
and incredible as the temple, yet knowing what's coming a week later
as we all talked about school and career plans. The temple itself was
amazing, as usual. It was a nice break from everything. Thursday, I
had my last exchange. It was a really good one. The elder I was with
is super similar to me, it was pretty funny. We got back Friday, and
went and did some service! I got to install a printer :) Saturday
began with more service - we moved furniture for a community Christian
group. It was a lot of fun. That evening, we went tracting. Looking at
our schedule, it appears that was probably my last time tracting, so
we made the most of it! That was a really strange feeling. Horror
creeps in every once in a while when I start wondering if my song is
sung... Do I still have more left I can sing? The answer - when I
pause and think about it- is, of course, yes! Just because the tag
comes off doesn't mean I'm not a missionary. Something I'm very
grateful for. Yesterday, we went to church. They had me bear my
testimony in Priesthood since it was my last day. Then, that
evening... We walked to the nether reaches of our area to visit
someone, then the other elders in our ward picked us up. Then, we went
all over the place! An old investigator of one of the them from an old
area was stranded on the freeway and they didn't have a spare... So,
we went all over looking for one, and found one at our elders quorum
presidents place. Then, we drove all over trying to find where they
were stranded on the freeway! While we were driving, the elders asked
me to do their reporting for them! So I did! Haha it was kind of fun
doing that again one more time.

Today, I have my departing interview with President Riggs. If I get
some time, I'll shoot a quick note about how that was. Elder Riggs and
I are going to D.C. One more time with our companions. I'm super
excited for one last hurrah.

After that, the rest of the week will be a blur. That much is clear.
Tuesday is filling up with appointments, and Wednesday will be a lot
of packing and finishing touches, goodbyes, etc. plus any work we can
get in. Then that's that, I suppose....

As part of the departing routine, we're encouraged to participate in a
challenge extended by Elder Richard G. Scott. I'm not including all of
it, but some I had to share.

He suggests writing down what you have learned about prayer, scripture
study, and revelation. Here are my notes:

- Prayer - My mission has taught me a lot about prayer. Most
specifically how to make it an effective communication between me and
my Father in Heaven. I have learned to share my thoughts, hopes and
fears with Him. I have learned to report on my day. I have learned to
be grateful for everything and to relay that gratitude to Him. I have
learned to pray with real intent, and to plead for His intercession. I
have also a better understanding of the language of prayer.
Ultimately, though, I have learned that I must live my life the same
way I pray. I must pursue the things I ask His help to get and I must
be worthy of the blessings I desire. I must sacrifice that which is
necessary to receive. All of this knowledge has blessed me incredibly
and, though I am imperfect, I know much better what I must do, for
which I am grateful.

- Scripture Reading - Reading the scriptures has, over the course of
my mission, gone from being a beneficial habit to an essential
process. I've developed a need for the scriptures that has always been
there, though I never knew it. It has become an irreplaceable part of
my morning. Once in the scriptures themselves, I have learned how to
find and apply them to my life more effectively. Searching for
meanings and applications and patterns has become a fascinating
pursuit. Simple readings of the scriptures are anymore insufficient,
for without thought and the Spirit, revelation cannot come. My
scriptures have become my ally, my ethos, my pathos, my logos and my
strength. I've learned to rely on them and use them with agility in my
teaching. They have become a part of my life in a very real way.

- Revelation - Revelation has become a source of comfort, strength and
direction to me. I live to receive revelation and follow it, for that
is how I find who The Lord wants me to be and how He expects me to
become that. The two greatest gifts my mission has given me concerning
revelation are how to receive revelation and how to recognize
revelation. How to follow revelation simply requires diligence and
effort on my part with a firm reliance on Christ. Receiving revelation
I have found to be an application of the grace formula, which is:
Faith + Diligence + Humility = Grace. Since revelation is a
manifestation of divine grace, it then follows by the mathematical law
of substitution that faith+diligence+humility=revelation. As I
approach The Lord faithfully, listen for Him diligently and humbly
prepare to act on whatever direction proceeds from His mouth, He
answers. Recognizing revelation is simpler in principle, though often
harder to do. It simply requires listening with real intent. Real
intent is the principle of submitting my will to the will of The Lord
and being ready to act upon whatever He says. By listening with real
intent, I can recognize revelation regardless of how it is given or
when it comes. By doing so, I receive the revelation and all that
remains is to act upon it.

Another part of his challenge is to record your testimony. I figure
that's most fitting of all, both for memories sake, and because my
mission has been a time of testimony. Perhaps - should The Lord allow
- this final written testimony from my time set apart as a
representative of Christ will yet reach the ears of those thus far
unconvinced of the divinity and truth of the restored gospel. Please
know that everything stated below is stated in absolute certainty as
given to me by the Holy Spirit, which Christ promised would lead us
into all truth:

I know that God is the Father of our spirits. I know He loves us and
wishes for us to return to live with Him. I know He sent His Son,
Jesus Christ to make that possible. Christ took upon Himself our sins
that we may be forgiven as we repent, becoming more like Him and our
Father. I testify that His suffering included our pains, trials,
temptations, infirmities and sufferings and thus I know that He has
perfect empathy for each of us. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ
has been restored by a prophet, and that another prophet stands at the
head of the church which espouses that gospel, leading and guiding it
as directed by the Master, Jesus Christ. I testify that as proof of
this restoration, additional scripture has been given to mankind
standing in its existence as a witness of the Church of Christ and in
its content as a witness for Christ Himself. I testify that that book
is true, for I have experienced the blessings and spirit of it and I
know that mankind will get nearer to God and find more answers,
comfort and solace in this life than in any other way by burying
themselves in that book of scripture. Among the many miracles which
accompanied the restoration of the gospel and the coming forth of the
Book of Mormon was the restoration of the priesthood - Gods power and
authority to act in His name on this earth. Through that power,
baptisms may be performed, the church may be run and organized and we
may ultimately be granted with the power to see the face of God and
live in His presence forevermore. This power comes through holy
ordinances and sacred covenants, many of which are available in the
temples of our God. Chief among these ordinances is the sealing
ordinance, through which families are bound together beyond the feeble
grip of death. I know that by living worthily of all of Gods promised
blessings, and by sacrificing and consecrating our lives to the God
who created us, we will gain more happiness in this life and in the
next than by any other way. Of this I am sure, in the name of Jesus
Christ. Amen.

I have loved and cherished my time as a missionary and wish The Lords
dearest blessings upon each of you. I love you all and, though
saddened to leave my home here in Virginia, I am excited to see you
all soon!

-Elder Matthew Hodgson

No comments:

Post a Comment