Dear Family and Friends,
Wow...I'll see most of you in two days. I don't even know what to say. It has been...a really incredible eighteen months. I don't even know how to express to you how much I have loved every last second of the last eighteen months. I can't even express to you how much I have struggled and persevered and learned to love the people of the California Fresno Mission--mostly Fresno, but some in Hanford too :)
This week was a really emotionally exhausting week. I broke down over a silly pumpkin project we were doing with Sister O and then I cried a lot on Thanksgiving. I got to spend the day with people that I love which was good. We went to see H and C in the morning, and then we had dinner with the W’s. After that we spent some time with the O’s. I love them so much. They are like family and I feel like family with them. I promised them I would come visit so...I'll have to make that happen. We played Mafia and then Telephone and then we just hung out and talked. It was great. Today we went to help them pick out a Christmas tree. It was a lot of fun--something I have never done before. They want us to help decorate too. I don't really know what else to say about my week.
I think for my parting words, I will leave y'all with some words of what I've learned.
1. I've learned the Atonement. I think that the biggest thing I've learned is the Atonement. I have learned how to use it and how to rely on the redeeming and enabling power of the Atonement. It is so much more than I can even express. I have had many times in the last eighteen months where I have just needed to kneel down and pray and pour my heart out to my Heavenly Father because I know He and my Savior are the only Ones who really know me and know what I need. They know what I am going through and what I've gone through. I struggled with homesickness and anxiety and frustration and heartbreak and...so many other things while I have been in Fresno, but I have been able to overcome so many of those things on my mission. Because of my mission, I have been able to see my strengths. I have learned that grace works for everyone, not just the nonmembers or investigators or less actives or every other member in the church. It works for everyone. I read this morning that grace doesn't mean Christ will be there AFTER all we can do. He's going to be there every step of the way as we do all we can do. He isnt' waiting at the finish line. He is walking alongside us. I have seen that on my mission. I have seen His hand and His help. I know He is there, and as I've learned that, He expects me to use it. The Atonement is the center of the gospel. Everything else is an appendage to it. I know that. I know the only way to fully access this power is to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for that.
2. I learned to love. I have come to love so many people on my mission. I could list so many people whom I love to you but I won't. I just know that I love this mission and I love these people. I don't think I would have ever learned to love people if I hadn't served a mission. I am filled with so much love for them. I am filled with so much love for those I have seen baptized and those I have seen progress and the members who have taken me in and made me feel like family. I have been able to see the way that the Lord helps us to have charity for those we serve. I never realized how much I could love someone who wasn't my family so much. I know I was terrible at loving people before my mission, but I hope this is something I will take with me as I return home.
3. I have learned to give my will to God. I know with all my heart that if we give our will to the Lord, our lives will go so much more according to His plan for us. Three years ago, when I was first thinking of serving a mission, when the age change was announced, I didn't want to go. I didn't want to step out of my comfort zone and come on a mission. But I did it because I knew He wanted me to, and by the time I got there, I wanted to go too, because I knew it would help me with so much more than I could ever imagine. And as I have served a mission that I knew God wanted me to, I have learned to give it all to Him. We have to lay it all on the altar of sacrifice (figuratively). The only thing the Lord doesn't have from us is our will. The only thing He doesn't take away is our agency. That is the only thing we can give Him. I hope I can always hold on to that.
4. I have learned to be humble. Humility is so key. If we aren't humble, we won't be able to get along with the person we are with. If we aren't humble, we won't be able to give it all to God. Humility is the act of aligning your will to God's. So I guess it kind of goes with the above. Choose humility as Alma says in Alma 32. Don't make the Lord "compel" you to be humble. I have learned we need to choose it.
5. I have learned who I am as a daughter of God. I don't think I was ever able to be myself until I came on a mission. I have learned that I have worth too and no one is better than anyone. We are all different and God loves us differently but all the same. I know that I matter in the plan. Even as small as I am in comparison to the rest of the 7 billion people on earth. I matter in the plan. I have changed the lives of so many people here and I know that matters. I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father. And I know He loves me.
I love my Heavenly Father and my Savior. I have come to know them personally. I have grown in my relationship with them. I know them and I know they are always there, every step of the way.
I love you all!!
Sister Abigail Reese
PS I had my exit interview! President Clark is awesome and told me that I will be okay. He asked me to teach him what I have learned from the scriptures. I shared Alma 36. Read it. It's great. And then he asked me what I was worried about coming home and I know that I will be okay because he is so reassuring. I had to promise to keep in contact in order to leave the room. I also had to promise to call if I needed anything. I am so grateful for the mission president I had. He is the best. I love him so much and I know I needed him.