I'M HOME! It still doesn't feel like real life. Do you know how weird it is to wake up in my own house? My family. English. America. Cold weather. Peanut Butter. Technology. Music. TV. Internet. Jeans. The real world is crazy!
Being released as a full-time missionary and having to take off my name tag was a lot more difficult than I ever thought it would be. That`s my identity! I don`t know how to be anyone else but a missionary.
Good thing I still can be. And will forever be.
I've always heard returned missionaries say that their mission changed their life. Now I have seen it for myself. I am not the same person I was when I left. Well, I'm still Sydney of course (do you know how weird it is to hear my first name??) but my heart has changed. I feel different, I am different! And this change doesn't stop here. I'm on the journey to become the person I once was. The person Heavenly Father knows I can be.
What an honor and privilege it has been to represent my Lord and Savior every day and every minute for the past 18 months. It is He who has lifted and carried me, who has been by my side every moment, moments of happiness and moments of trial. I can`t even express the joy I felt as I walked down the escalator stairs at the airport and saw my family for the first time. Knowing that I returned with honor. Knowing that I made them proud. Knowing that I was able to find lost sheep for the Lord and bring them back into His fold. Just imagine how Heavenly Father will feel when we will return to Him. What joy!
The day before we left Brazil, all the missionaries in my group that were going home had the chance to eat a special lunch with our mission president, President Farnes. His last counsel for us was this phrase: "No Empty Chairs". Now that we have completed our mission, we are on to the next- to keep our spot that is saved for us in the celestial kingdom.
My chair is there waiting for me. Yours is too. What can we do TODAY that will assure that our chair will be filled?
And I will give him grace and assurance wherewith he may stand; and if he continue to be a faithful witness and a light unto the church I have prepared a crown for him in the of my Father (D&C 106:8)
I know God lives, He is our Father, He loves us, and He has prepared our place in His kingdom. More than anything, He wants us to return to Him, and this is why He sent us His Son Jesus Christ. Only through Him, His Atonement and His gospel, can we return with honor. No empty chairs!
Let us all strive to LiVE Valiantly!
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
Dear Family & Friends,
"Then spake the Lord to [Sister Jorgensen]... Be not afraid, but speak, for I am with thee...and I have much people in this city. And [she] continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them" (Acts 18:9-11)
Well, today begins the last week of my mission. I'm laughing to myself as I write this because it doesn't seem real!!! after church I'll travel back to São Paulo. That we will have a special training, will be transfer meeting, our last lunch with President Farnes, and that night I'll board the plane...to the United States... home.... .... AHHHHAHHHHAHHHHAAA! Ok that's it.
Not sure when I will get to email next week or how much time I will have so this just might be my last email home!
Just have to share something that happened this week. we were traveling home on the bus from Mission Leadership Council. My companion was asleep beside me and I was just sitting there blinking back tears, deep in my thoughts about how the week had been going. I have to admit I was a little bit depressed because the people we were teaching were not progressing like we wanted them to. I was silenting praying and asking Heavenly Father to help me know if we were doing anything wrong, desperate for a spiritual confirmation of peace and calmness. A few minutes later I heard a voice from behind, "Sister, why do you have a mad look on your face?" I turned around and saw a man I didn't recognize, but turned out to be Alessandro, the brother of our less-active friend in the branch. He is 25 years old, inactive too.
So we start talking and I explain why it probably appears like I am mad but I am really just trying to do everything I can to help these people accept the true gospel. He asked me how my mission was going and he talked a little bit about his life story and how he fell away from the church. Then he says a few words that went a little something like this: "The work that you missionaries do is incredible. I know that you are helping so many people and your converts and their families will remember you forever. Missionaries always worry about their baptisms but what you need to see are people you are helping. And the change that you've seen in them." Heavenly Father put those words in his mouth. I cried.
How did he know what I need to hear? How did he know that I needed someone to talk to in that very instant? Here is a guy, super tired after work, thinking about his wife and family, how easy it would have been to sit back in his seat. But he noticed that the missionaries were on the bus with him. And he noticed that I wasn't doing very good. And something touched him to find out why. This was a tender mercy to me. An answer to my prayer. A little miracle from my Heavenly Father to let me know that He loves me and He hears me.
I gave Alessandro my copy of the Liahona (church magazine) that I had recieved that day and I shared my testimony about the importance of family and why he needed to return to church. Guess what... Sister Vogel and I were able to visit his nonmember wife yesterday and she is super excited about coming to church with him !
What is one thing I have learned these past 18 months? This experience is exactly it. Heavenly Father knows each and every one of us. He listens to the pleas of our heart and He wants us to be happy. He works through others to answer our prayers. We need to act on the promptings we recieve because we never know the impact it can make. Through small and simple things are great things brought to pass.
Just a glance of my mission that began September 25, 2013...
-6 weeks in the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center
-6 months waiting for my visa in Sacramento, California (Northridge)
-2 weeks in the Brazil Missionary Training Center
-10 months in São Paulo, Brazil (Santana, Rio Acima, Itapetininga)
Sister Lowther (SC), Sister Zenger (UT), Sister Clevery (CO), Sister Pinon (VA), Sister Garner (AZ). Sister Paredes (Peru), Sister Nascimento (Brazil- Curitiba), Sister R. Santos (Brazil- Recife), and Sister Vogel (Brazil- Porto Velho)
Two missions. Three mission presidents. And lots and lots of memories!!!!
My mission has built, shaped, and molded me into the person that Heavenly Father knew I could me, a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Serving a mission has been the best decision I ever made. I have been my greatest convert.
I know that our Savior lives. I know this is His true church and this is the only way we can return to our Father in Heaven. He wants ALL of His children to return Home. I've seen this gospel touch hearts and change lives. Faith brings miracles. Read the Book of Mormon and pray about its message. And you will see how the gospel will change your life. More peace, more love, more joy, more purpose!
Thank you so much for the countless emails, letters, packages, and most importantly, your prayers. I have the best family and friends in the whole wide world!!!! I LOVE YOU ALL!!!! See you soon :)
Seja Valente e Fiel,
P.S. Just a flash back from the MTC almost 18 months ago and now (we took this pic at leadership council this week). The four of us are in the same mission, the other two are serving in Goiana, Brazil. I love these sisters!!!! We will be sisters forever :)
Monday, March 2, 2015
Dear Family & Friends,
It's March. I can't believe it! Yesterday was my last fast & testimony meeting at church. It seems like from here on out there are going to be lots of "lasts". I can't even express how I am feeling... so for now, I won't. Let's just put on a smile and keep going!!!
This week was a full one! We did an exchange with the sisters in Cerquilho and Sister Santos came to my area to work with me. She goes home the same day I do so it was neat to work with her and hear about her mission and all that she has learned. We both agree that it has gone by SO FAST and we are going to miss it. She taught me 3 valuable things she has learned throughout all her experiences: pacience, time, and control. Many times, things happen and we don´t have control, so we just have to accept the Lord's timing and patiently wait for the blessings to come.
I think Heavenly Father really wants me to learn this lesson because unfortunately Giovana and Felipe weren't baptized this week and don't want to meet with us anymore. And they were so firm. More shed tears.
These past few weeks I have been learning alot about agency. Heavenly Father loves us so much that He gave us all the ability to make decisions for ourselves, so we could learn, grow, and experience the difference between joy and sadness. As much as I want all the people we teach to accept this gospel, people still have the choice to accept it or not. And sometimes, even after they feel and know that it's true, they turn all these blesssings down. Why??! How? It's hard for me to understand. But all I know is, I have gotten very close to my Savior this week.
Imagine how Christ feels, after all He did for us, and we turn Him down. I have so much more appreciation for the Atonement now.
On a lighter note, two incredible youth were baptized in the other sister's branch (Itapetininga 2) last night and now they are inviting all their friends to learn more about the gospel! There are two girls who live in our area, have already been to church, and want to be baptized!!! So I know that this week is going to be a week of pure miracles. Get ready!!! This baptism was SO special. All the youth from the two branches were there to support and it was incredible to see. Reminds me of the powerful Hoover/Inverness youth! They all sang the EFY song "Embark" and now it's my favorite song ever. IT IS SO GOOD. Look it up! It's cooler in Portuguese :)
"Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall LîVE, for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life" (3 Nephi 15:9)
Have an awesome week everyone! I love and miss you all! It's March. Now I can officially say "I will see you soon"!!!!!!!!
Seja Valente e Fiel,
P.S. I forgot my camera today (my mind is kind of going crazy) so no pics. Sorry! Next week.