The mission has been full of many firsts. First companion, first week, first area, first lesson, first baptism, first day of homesickness. But it's also had a lot of lasts. Last companion, last week, last area, last chance to share the joy of the gospel before it all ends.
I started my mission in Banfield 2, and I'll also be ending there. My firsts and lasts are coming together.
Many people ask me why I decided to serve a mission. My response has always been one word, "Joy". I felt so much joy from the gospel in my life that I couldn't go without sharing it. I felt that it would be selfish to not share the joy that I felt. This joy is hard to explain, but so wonderful to have. It's a feeling I don't ever want to lose. Like Lamoni, "I will give up all that I possess... that I may receive this great joy" (Alma 22:15). And if "men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25) how could I not go out and share it with all that would listen to me?
Luckily I didn't have to give up all that I possess to declare "good tidings of great joy" (Luke 2:10). My sacrifices weren't that great. My family and my studies are still waiting for me and jobs are easy to find. The message that day after day I share with my fellow brothers and sisters is a message of joy, and this joy comes from Christ.
This week I had my last interview with President Calquín and he shared the following scripture: "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad..." (2 Nephi 2:11). Those words went straight to my heart as I thought about these past 18 months. I have felt moments of pure joy, but I only felt them because I felt moments of sorrow. As missionaries, "we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some" (Alma 26:30). Every rejection, every rainy day, every moment of exhaustion was worth it because my joy is full because I could be the means of saving some. I've seen that joy in others as they receive their answer about the Book of Mormon or as they leave the baptismal font glowing for joy.
My joy is full.
My joy is full through my Savior, Jesus Christ. He is my rock and my salvation. He has conquered death and sin and I know that thanks to Him, one day I can too. I know with all my heart that He lives. I know it just as I know that the sun will rise tomorrow. He died and rose again that we might all live again. I know that this is His church and that He guides it. He is the author of man's salvation.
These past 18 months representing Him has brought me so close to Him. I've had Him in my thoughts and everyday I've strived to be a little more like Him. I invite you all to accept His invitation of, "Come, follow me". He offers peace and joy unto all that are willing to come unto Him. Of these things I testify in the sacred name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, amen.
"The joy of living comes from immersion in something that we know to be bigger, better, more endureing and worthier than we are"
-John Mason Brown