Monday, June 9, 2014

Last letter. A mission doesn't end with the plane ride home.

Hey family!
So, this email is going to be short, because one, I don't have a lot of time, but two, I'll be able to tell you everything next week anyway. I don't know if I'll be able to email next Monday. I assume not. We'll see.
It's been an interesting week. Definitely one of the more eventful weeks of my mission, what with seeing K come home, then making the decision to listen to him speak, which then led me to packing most of the night and transferring a day earlier than I thought I was going to. In retrospect, I'm grateful I have the chance to spend the last week in the field. It is the right way to end my mission. I am excited to be serving in Krakow with Elder Saltmarsh. I found myself trying to roll up my sleeves and give myself assignments while I would be down here, but I realized that such would not be effective nor helpful for Elder Brown. I really think the clean switch is best. It will be hard, certainly, but I won't have any temptation to try to step in and take over. It will give Elder Brown a real chance to step up and rise to his calling. Elder Lanham and I talked about the transition a lot. I think it was something we both dreaded, but knew needed to happen. I was so pleased to have served with Elder Lanham. As I look back on it, I know the Lord prepared both of us to serve at a specific time and fulfill a specific role. I feel honored and humbled to have been a tool in the Lord's hands to help the work move forward here in Poland.
I had a special experience yesterday in Kielce. Throughout my mission, I've never had the opportunity to bless the sacrament. In most branches where I would have been able to do so because of lack of priesthood, I've always played the piano. President Najberg gave me the opportunity to bless yesterday while we were in church. It seemed only fitting that my last Sacrament Meeting in Poland as a missionary would be the one and only where I was able to bless the sacrament. The Spirit there was powerful. Part of it was the return of K, but I'm convinced that the Lord was also telling me that I was in the right place at the right time. It was a feeling of comfort. It was so special to be in such a small gathering of faithful saints, all wanting to renew their covenants and follow the Savior. It was strange to think that the next time I'll take the sacrament, it will be in English, and with a huge group of people. I will forever miss Poland! The most comforting thing to me that happened during that whole Sacrament Meeting was the feeling that the Lord has accepted my offering. He knows me, He knows what I've done, and I feel that He's proud of me. My mission in Poland is not over yet, and I plan to make the most of this week. My life mission will never end so long as I'm on the earth. It's comforting to know that the Lord still has a work for me to do. I plan on doing it well and serving Him in all capacities that I might be able to.
I had an influential personal study this morning. I read Alma 5, but only made it about 8 verses into the chapter. Verses 6 and 7 talk about the Lord being merciful and freeing the fathers of the people from bondage. Alma calls them all to remembrance of those experiences. I was drawn back to my time in Szczecin and the trials I dealt with. As I think about them now, I'm amazed at the speed with which I changed and recovered. There were specific people around whom I served that helped me tremendously. The Lord placed them in my path for a reason. The Lord would not have me forget the lessons learned out there, nor the influence which He had in the matter. They will play crucial roles not only now, in this last week of my mission and in my preparation for President Uchtdorf, but throughout my whole life. The gospel is one of remembrance. That's why we keep journals, that's why we study the scriptures. If I can remember the lessons learned and perspective gained on my mission, I know I'll be able to deal with whatever might come my way.
I'm excited for a good week here in Kraków. Good things are going to happen. I can feel it. Elder Jensen's already given me a challenge to find 4 new investigators this week. I'm going to do so. I'm excited to have a chance to focus just on the work again.
Just like revelation doesn't end with the closing "Amen" of a meeting, neither does a mission end with the plane ride home.
Just a few highlights of the week--leaving our keys in the office and having to go back and get them at 10:15 at night; seeing 4 baptisms across the country on the day of Pentecost; being able to bless the Sacrament in Polish for the only time on my mission during the last true Sacrament Meeting I'll have as a missionary.
I love you all. Keep up the great work. I'll see you soon!
Elder Vernon

It is a busy day today! June 2nd letter

Hey howdy hey family!
It's a busy day today, and I have very little time. I love you all, but this week's letter is going to have to be short. I'm trying to keep my journal updated, so you can all read about it when I get home.
It's been another solid week here in Poland. I was grateful for a chance to have an exchange with Elder Allen. It scared me to think it was the last one of my mission. Yet, I feel like it was successful. We had a lot of great miracles happen while we were in Kraków. One specifically comes to mind. We talked to a young guy named T in a park for probably the space of an hour. He was a university student who is studying theology. It was a spiritual lesson and one of the first times I felt like I really put together how to teach a Restoration lesson and then relate it to the person I was teaching. T was touched by it, visibly. It was a powerful experience. I felt like the Lord placed T in our path so that we could specifically teach him. Elder Allen and I talked a lot about teaching during our exchange. He is a good missionary and he is excited to improve his teaching skills and do the things which the Lord expects of him as a missionary. All in all, I would consider the whole exchange successful.
I was pleased to be able to attend a few zone trainings this week. It's always refreshing to see other missionaries and be able to see the information the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leader pass on based on our teaching. Each training was a bit different, but each was led by the Spirit and was what needed to be taught. Elder Lanham said something during the one in Kielce that caused me great reflection. He mentioned how each of us was called here for a purpose, and if we don't know that purpose, it's because we haven't spent enough time in prayer trying to figure it out. Honestly, that offended me. I didn't feel like I knew why I was called here or what exactly the Lord had used me to do, and I felt it outlandish that he thought he could tell me that I hadn't spent enough time in prayer trying to figure it out. I had spent much time trying to figure it out and it had been a subject of my prayers for a long time. I talked to Elder Lanham about it later, and as we did, understanding came for me. Had my mission have passed the way I would have had it, I would have had incredibly high numbers and been known as a missionary who worked incredibly hard. I've worked hard, but the numbers haven't ever been there. That's humbled me a lot, especially since results have been such a high indicator of what I accomplished before my mission. It was then that I realized the Lord taught me a lesson. He's used me, I feel, as a big influence on other missionaries, to help them and guide them as they go about in their work. That's something I can't measure with numbers. In order to feel like I've made a worthwhile contribution, I have to trust Him and be able to look past numbers. That's still a hard thing for me to do, but it's something I'm getting better at and learning about.
My mission isn't over yet, and I plan on making the next two weeks some of the best, but I've thought a lot about the changes that have taken place in me. None of them are what I expected to happen while I was on a mission. Well, I should take that back. The big ones were ones that I couldn't have predicted. Yet, I feel like I've become more of a complete person.
Heath, congrats on graduation. I'm excited for you.
Dad, tell Nate hi for me, as well as Austin Waddoups. He and I spent some time together in the MTC. We were in the same branch. Good luck with releasing.
Mom, thanks for all you do. I appreciate it greatly. I'll give that topic some thought.
Emms, keep on being awesome! Get excited for High School.
Doobs, keep Starszy happy! I'm excited to see him.

Love you all. The gospel is true!
Elder Vernon