This is still surreal.
Hopefully this email answers everyone's questions in one swish:
Every day we do the exact same things that we've always done, but then we get home and I look at my half-packed suitcases on our living room floor, and I realize that this is almost over. And it makes me sad. Obviously, there are things I'm excited about. But it's hard to imagine. People keep telling me goodbye, and it just doesn't feel over. I feel like any hour President Walkenhorst is going to call me and say, "Actually, we need you to start over".
But I'm ready. 18 months is a long time. I feel tired. I feel excited to apply the things that I've learned and be a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.
One night, I couldn't sleep, and I wrote the following:
"It's hard to imagine a life where you're not infinitely within sight and sound of another individual, where you can't offer unsolicited religious advice to strangers on the street and watch their countenance change, where all of your friends have the same standards and morals as you, and are all working toward the same goals. It's hard to imagine that on Thursday, I won't be in a place where Mormons are the minority and Southern Baptists are the majority. I've forgotten what it's like to see vinyl stick-figure families on mini vans instead of "As for me and my horse, we will serve the Lord" bumper stickers on Dodge Rams. This is, indeed, a different world. In my soon-to-be world, there's a different vocabulary. People don't commonly cringe at the sight of sin. There's no white handbook full of rules that feel more binding than commandments. Here, we're accountable for our actions, but it's different. Our punishment isn't disgrace and a lack of blessings, at least not as evidently. As a missionary, everybody expects you to be a missionary. At home, you can be whatever you want. And there's a little bit of anxiety behind all that freedom."
Which is so ironic. I feel like I've always considered myself to be so independent. But now, I don't feel independent at all. I am completely reliant on my Father in Heaven. It's only in Him that we learn anything, it's only through our Savior that we change. All of our blessings come from them, and there is very little we do on our own.
I would love to say there was one over-arching theme I've learned as a missionary. People always ask, what's the biggest lesson you've learned on your mission? For future reference, that is an impossible question to answer. Don't ask me that. I learn something new every hour. Deep, life-changing principles. The experience of serving a mission is so rich and dynamic that to sum up the lessons you've learned is an insurmountable task. Slowly, all of life and human existence clicks into place one vertebrae at a time. Some lessons I learned were vitally important at the time, but have since gone quiet in the back of my mind. But there are a few things I can testify of.
I know that patterning our lives after the example of Jesus Christ is the absolute happiest way to live. I know that surrendering our will to abide by God's will will ultimately grant us success in achieving our purpose in life. I know that it is only in and through ordinances and covenants that we have access to the requirements for salvation- and by salvation, I mean the ability to walk back into the presence of our Heavenly Father one day, and ultimately to become like Him. I know with surety that Jesus Christ walked the Earth, that He performed miracles by the power of God, that He loves us so much and is so perfect that He was willing to be the conduit through which we could be forgiven for our faults and foibles.
But I also know that true repentance comes only in and through the direct power of God; the Priesthood. I know that there was a time of darkness when that power was not on the earth, and that people hungered and thirsted for truth and for their guilt to be swept away, but could not find it. I know, with all my heart, that when the World was ready to receive the truth again, our Heavenly Father sent Joseph Smith to the earth; an innocent, lively boy with questions. He had to be born in America. He had to be born when he was. It was the only time the World was ready; the timing was perfect. I know that Joseph Smith prayed with real intent, and that his answer was a vision. I have no doubt in my mind that he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. And that they testified to him of the necessity for a restoration of the Gospel. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Restoration of Christ's church would require the restoration of the authority to act in God's name, a prophet, 12 apostles, and all of the ordinances and covenants required for salvation. Now, when I say salvation in this context, I'm not just talking salvation from the grasp of Satan, or even living in the presence of God, but even salvation from the struggles of this world. Living the principles of the fullness of the Gospel grants us peace in our current, mortal condition. So even when life gets hard, which it is on occasion bound to be so for all people, we can have faith the our Heavenly Father is working intricately in our life to bring us home. And as we allow ourselves to live the Gospel, meaning having faith in Jesus Christ, repenting daily of our downfalls, making and renewing baptismal covenants, striving to maintain the power of the Holy Ghost in our lives at all times, and "pressing forward with a perfect steadfastness of hope", we will be happy. We will be kind. We will be gentle, inviting, meek, grateful. We will serve others. And we will prepare ourselves to live in the presence of God.
This is my testimony, or at least the most minuscule portion of it, and there are 4 thousand ways I have come to gain this testimony. I can't wait to share them with each of you
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." -Romans 1:16.
Thank you, all of you, who have supported me in, been a part of, or simply watched from afar this experience. There are people I have met that I will never forget, I have seen people change, I have watched people give up life-long addictions, I have watched people pray for the first time, and I have been an instrument in helping others know that they are not alone. And I would love to take credit for any of that, because it is so rewarding, but I know that I have simply been an instrument. I am so grateful that my Heavenly Father loved me enough to quietly tell me to go on a mission. I don't remember filling out paper work, I don't much remember how I got here at all, it seems like most of the preparation was a blur, but now I know that it was divine intervention. No one benefited from me coming to the Oklahoma Oklahoma City Mission as much as I did, and I will forever be grateful for my experiences here.
As to you, my family and friends, I am so excited to see you again. My flight gets in at 4:19 on Thursday evening. I love you.
Sister Sara Best
These pictures are all pretty cute.
Conor went on a "mini mission" with the elders. I kind of felt like a proud mother sending her son on a mission because I just love him so darn much.
Brother Lusk took us to Pops on Route 66 last Monday. :)