Monday, March 30, 2015

10 Things I've Learned/Gained on my Mission

Dear Family,

This is most likely the last email I will get to send to you. Next Monday is a Bank Holiday and after that my mission is pretty much over! I can't believe it. I wanted to share with you all the valuable lessons that I've learned on my mission. I want to assure you that these lessons are more than skin deep and that they will affect every decision I make for the rest of my life. The love and gratitude I have for my mission is indescribable and I will never be able to say it in words. But hopefully this email (which is way longer than I intended it to be) will share some of the most valuable gifts Heavenly Father has given me whilst I've been in the mission field.

10 Things I’ve Learned/Gained on my Mission

1.       An intense love and gratitude for the Atonement of Jesus Christ
·         When I embarked on my mission, I expected to learn more about the Saviour and his Atoning sacrifice. But I never could have expected the overwhelming amount of love that has grown in me for the Saviour or the literally countless moments when I have experienced the power of the Atonement first hand. I’ve grown to love and understand my Saviour, Jesus Christ, more than I ever anticipated. Something I wasn’t expecting to learn was that the Atonement all started with a loving Heavenly Father. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Before my mission I didn’t really understand the relationship between God the Father and His Only Begotten Son. The Saviour said: “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38) and “I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me” (3 Nephi 27:13-15).  I’m so thankful that it was Heavenly Father’s will for Christ to perform the Atonement and I’m grateful that Jesus Christ was perfectly willing to follow His Father. On my mission I’ve come to realize that everything happy in my life I owe to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

2.       An obedient heart
·         Because of my mission, I love being obedient. I love living on the Lord’s side of the line. I’ve learned that there is absolutely nothing happier, safer, or more satisfying than keeping the commandments. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments…He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:15,21). Not only has serving a mission helped me to love being obedient, but it has helped me to love being obedient for the right reasons. I want to show Heavenly Father how much I love him. Keeping the commandments is the best way to do that. I’m so thankful for commandments because they are road signs that guide me down the path of life happily, safely, and joyously.

3.       How to struggle productively
·         Before my mission, if something was hard, I would get anxious, nervous, and overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to use the Atonement to help me overcome my personal trials and challenges. Serving a mission has taught me HOW to access the Saviour’s power and receive relief, comfort, and strength even in the midst of adversity. At the beginning of my mission, if something was hard I would say a prayer something like this: “Dear Hevenly Father, this is uncomfortable. I don’t like it. Please, please, PLEASE take it away!” When God didn’t take my trial away, I felt abandoned and like God wasn’t hearing my prayers. But slowly throughout my mission (with specific help from my brother in law, Jeff) I’ve learned how to not drown when the waves of adversity come my way. I’ve learned that, “[God’s] thoughts are not [my] thoughts, neither are [my] ways [God’s] ways…For as the heavens are highter than the earth, so are [God’s] ways than [my] ways, and [His] thoughts than [my] thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Because of my mission, I trust the Lord enough to not panic when something turns out to be much more difficult than I anticipated. I’ve really learned to trust that trials are allowed and given to help me stretch and grow. Because process can be painful at times, God sent His son to experience everything we would go through so there would be a comforting force to help us when we go through adversity.

4.       How to pray
·         My mission experience has also taught me how to have meaningful conversations with Heavenly Father. I now depend on my regular communication with Him whereas before I might’ve been able to survive a day or two without it. Heavenly Father’s love for His children is steady and unchanging. On my mission I’ve felt that love more than ever before as I’ve knelt and communed with my Father.

5.       How to repent daily
·         “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). My whole life I’d say I was a pretty OK person. I made an effort to repent if I did something I thought was EXTRA bad, but generally I just assumed that because I was going through life pretty averagely that I didn’t need to repent every day. On my mission, I’ve learned how to joyfully embrace sincere daily repentance. I’ve learned how to account to Heavenly Father every night and seek His help for ways to improve. As I did this, I learned that repentance isn’t just saying sorry or simply quitting a bad habit. It is actually a change of heart. Since my desire to be obedient has also grown over the past 18 months (see #2) my heart has truly turned towards God and my greatest desire is to please Him. Learning to embrace daily repentance has made me happy and feel better about myself than I ever have before.

6.       How to love and be compassionate
·         I’ve always been a pretty blunt person. On my mission I’ve had to learn that the blunt way I communicate with people can be hurtful and damaging. I used to feel justified in being angry or impatient with the shortcomings and weaknesses of others, forgetting that I too have weaknesses and appreciate when people are patient with me. On my mission I’ve become softer, slower to anger, more willing to see the bigger picture. Things that used to make me so upset simply don’t anymore. These are lessons that I’ve learned from each of my companions as well as from President Ulrich. One of the things I will remember forever that President Ulrich has said is: “There are two types of people in the world. People I love and people that I don’t know yet.” For the rest of my life I will be working to increase the amount of charity I have for all those around me. I’m grateful for the example of the Saviour who said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 4:44). I hope that on my mission I’ve learned how to love and show mercy to those around me.

7.       Love of the scriptures
·         Throughout my life I’ve gone up and down with my love and dedication to gospel study. But on my mission my desire to “Feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3) has increased dramatically. The scriptures have become my guide book to life. I love this quotation from Richard G. Scott: “Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media.” For the rest of my life I will make studying the gospel my FIRST priority.

8.       Actively seeking truth is vital to eternal progression
·         Most of the people I’ve come into contact with over the past 18 months have considered themselves to be either Catholic or Church of England (C of E). The peculiar thing is, they have no idea WHY they are the religion that they are. If I had a pound for everytime I’ve had this conversation: Me: Hi! I’m a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Them: I’m not interested, I’m Catholic. Me: Oh, so you believe in God? Them: Well, no, not really. I don’t go to church. I’m just Catholic.  I’ve also asked many people if they believe that the church they attend is the true church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. Many of them have said no! And yet they still have no interest in learning about anything that is different than what they’ve been brought up with. The bottom line is, many people don’t care what is true or not, they just want to be comfortable living the way they are living. They’ve never prayed to know if God is there- they’ve never even wanted to know. They don’t care what is true or not, it just doesn’t bother them.After being exposed to this problem in our society on my mission, I’ve learned that actively seeking truth is necessary to living with God after this life. I’m sure there are moments in my life where someone could’ve asked me why I’m Mormon and my only response would have been, “Because my parents are.” But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is designed to help people of all ages to eventually know for themselves that all it’s doctrines are true. To be able to live with God after this life, you HAVE TO KNOW FOR YOURSELF. You can’t reach the judgement bar and say, “Oh thank goodness my parents were right! I wasn’t really sure until now. Good thing I just never thought for myself and went with the flow.” That kind of life doesn’t inspire change, true worship, or real faith. I’m so thankful for this lesson I’ve learned on my mission because it will help me as I try to help my own children and others around me to actively SEEK truth in a world with so many false doctrines, philosophies, and ideas.

9.       Loving missionary work is essential to becoming like God
·         Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know that “This life is the time to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32). When we meet God, we want to be like Him so that we would feel comfortable living in His presence. Something really wonderful about God is that he rejoices in sharing what He has with everyone possible. In fact, giving others what he has is his entire purpose as described in Moses 1:39: “For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” The way God gets out the very gospel that can help others achieve eternal life is through us, his servants. As members of the church, I’ve noticed we can be very proud of ourselves when we are doing our own family history work, going to the temple, reading our scriptures, attending our meetings, accepting callings, etc. And we can forget that if we don’t care about the spiritual progress of others, it really doesn’t count for anything and we aren’t becoming more like the Saviour or Heavenly Father. On my mission I’ve learned that until sharing what I have with others is my #1 priority, I can’t live with God because I’m not like Him yet. God thought that giving EVERYONE a chance to live with Him was so important that he sent His Son to suffer and die for all of us. Imagine living with a God who was willing to sacrifice so much for YOU, and you weren’t willing to share it with others. It would just be uncomfortable. Missionary work changes our natures and helps us become more like God.

10.   A HUGE appreciation for my parents and sisters
·         My mission is the second greatest blessing of my life. The absolute greatest and most wonderful blessing God ever could have given me on this earth is Steve, Krista Lee, Elisa, and Marianne. My mission has only increased my love, admiration, and respect for the 4 members of my immediate family. Their support and encouragement meant everything to me over the past 18 months. I couldn’t have done it without them. I’m very excited to be reunited with them.

 I love you all. I'm so grateful you've been able to support me and communicate with me throughout the best 18 months of my entire life. I'll see you soon :)

Sister Bement

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