I can't believe it's this time already. My last email as a missionary (because I'm pretty sure I won't be emailing next week.) My heart is full at this time. It's so hard to accept the fact that I have to leave! This has been a truly wonderful 18 months. I have loved being a missionary. I have loved meeting new people. I have loved studying. I haven't loved tracting. It seemed like the mission would go on and on forever, but now it's ending. It doesn't even feel like 18 months have passed! I don't think it's really going to hit me until either on the airplane or when I get off and see everyone. It's going to be hard to leave!
This last week, as I'm sure you've all heard on the news, was rather interesting. On Thursday we were going to go to the boardwalk to contact people. Once we were there we checked our phone because it had been on silent for a while. We had about 5 voicemails, all from different people in the ward who wanted to let us know that there was a man hunt going on and that we needed to get inside. We went to the church and I practiced the piano for a while, and during that time, three more people called to tell us about it. It's nice to know that they're all looking out for us. After hearing a little bit more about what was going on, we decided the majority of Big Bear residents were not in immediate danger, since he had that list and wasn't going after random civilians. But all the schools went on lockdown and so did the hospital. The next day they brought up 300 police officers, there was a swat team, I think they talked about getting the marines up here. And then that night they had five black hawk helicopters searching the mountain with infrared...it's been interesting. But we're all alive and haven't seemed to be in any danger. :)
And then something really cool happened on Sunday! We had a meeting with Alyn (ward mission leader) and we had a conversation about Andy and decided to just ask him at church if he wants to be baptized. We ended up having a lesson with him right after church. Andy likes to overanalyze things, especially the things that Alyn says. After we had taught the whole lesson, they got into a LOOONG conversation, which ended with Andy saying 'there isn't anything I've learned about the church that I don't like and I want to be a good person and follow Christ' so Alyn said 'Okay then let's set a baptism date'...and he did! Andy knew I would be leaving next week, so he wanted to make sure it was this week. So Andy will be getting baptized on Thursday! What a great way to end a mission! There is nothing that makes serving a mission more meaningful and worth it than being able to see someone you've taught get baptized. It is so special. And now I can tell people 'I baptized Andy Griffith'. haha
We had a great lesson with Kevin last week. He is so so so so excited to be able to go to the temple and loves learning all that we can tell him about it. We had a really spiritual lesson about the temple. He's going to do baptisms for the dead next week. He's already planned on going to the temple the day he hits his one year mark. I'm excited to be able to go to the temple as often as I can! Once every few months is not enough! What a blessing to have so many temples way close to us in Utah!
Today we also hiked Mormon Rocks. There is so much church history here, and so many people don't even know it. It was a fun little hike. Even though it's warmer in the desert, it felt more cold because they have really cold wind there! I'm happy to be in the mountains where there isn't too much wind.
We also got a lot of snow on Friday during the man hunt. It was a pretty decent storm (but not 'blizzard-like' as the news called it). We got around a foot of snow, and then a couple more inches last night. I remember my last email in Fontana that I was complaining that it was getting a little chilly there and I wasn't sure how I would do going back to Utah. I'm glad that I was able to get used to the cold again before going back.
Those are the highlights of the week. I'm excited to see all of you (as many of you as I do see, anyway) next week! :) 18 months come and gone. Weird. I have no idea how to respond to the question 'how was your mission?' because 'it was good' doesn't come close to how my mission was. There were good days, there were bad days. There were almost impossibly difficult days, and there were days that were full of miracles. I've learned so much and completely changed my entire future. I've acted upon my testimony and become converted to the gospel. Most importantly I come to know the Savior so much better. Reading the scriptures will never be the same because of the experiences that I have had serving a mission. There are verses that I never knew would mean so much to me. I love the Lord. I love being one of His missionaries. Even though I'm going to have to take off my name tag soon (which will be the hardest thing in the world) I hope that what it means to me will be forever burning in my heart.
I love you all. I appreciate all of your letters and your words of advice. I can't imagine what this would have been like without all of you supporting me. :)
Have a great week! See you soon!
Love, Sister Stacey