We have a full hour and a half to email for the first time this transfer (finally!) and I am going to make it count.
News from the week: Sister Hirschi got Emergency Transferred down to Olhao (you were guessing it was me huh? made you look!!) and we have Sister Galloway with us now. I miss Sister Hirschi a LOT but it's all good because Sister Galloway is also wonderful. I'm just happy as a peach that Sister Stewart and I get to stay together, because I love her so stinking much.
Earlier this week I was reading President Monson's latest conference talk. It is titled, "Love: The Essence of the Gospel". It talks about when somebody asked Jesus, essentially, "Which commandment is the most important?", and Jesus responds LOVE. Love God and love your neighbor.
That really hit me, even though I have read that story many times before. When Jesus was asked, "What is most important?", He did NOT say going to sacrament meeting or baptizing or paying your tithing or even having faith or EVEN repenting!! He said LOVE. This is the great commandment.
For some reason that is hugely comforting to me. I sometimes wonder if I have not helped that many people get baptized on my mission, or if there is something wrong with me because I still have fears and doubts sometimes and I don't know all the answers and I am ridiculous and imperfect. But as I reflected on this I thought, "do I have greater capacity to love than I did 18 months ago?" and the answer, I think, is yes.
If Heavenly Father has taught me anything on my mission (and He's taught me more than I can ever express), He has taught me about love. His love. Pure, powerful, divine love, which is found in such unexpected places and showered upon His crazy, wonderful children in all the earth.
It is a privilege to get to feel that love for all the random Joaos and Marias in the streets of Portugal. It is an abundant blessing to have loved and been loved by eight true sisters who have lived with me, laughed with me, cried with me, and stood by me through all the craziness and wonder. It is inexpressible to love this land, to love this language, to love these people and traditions and this culture. Most of all my love for the Lord has increased and deepened and broadened. I Love Him. I trust Him more fully than I did before. I have felt His love and seen it manifest in so many tiny daily miracles that I am left astonished.
I feel like I am doing a very poor job of expressing how I feel, that it is coming out pious and trite. But I am just trying to say that even if nothing else good even happened on my mission (and many many good things have happened), the way my heart feels like a deeper receptacle for love is a stunning and brilliant and absolutely worth-it-all miracle to me.
Sacrament Meeting yesterday was indescribable. Our investigator, Joao, who is from Guinnea-Bissau and is ELECT and is marked for baptism on the 17th with his sister Sira and neice Sara (pray for them please!!), came and LOVED it. So did a couple other really high-potential investigators. The Spirit was like a river. It was fast and testimony meeting and this ward is INCREDIBLE. He was reading the Gospel Principles book and asked me if he could underline a certain paragraph about service, and I was like Be My Guest. He didn't sing in the hymns but would follow along with his finger to show me he knew where we were. :) He is just super awesome. I haven't felt so much potential in a person for a long time. He needs to get baptized PRONTO.
I wish I could describe to you how my soul was feeling during the meeting. I guess all have to say is that I was feeling the spirit super strong and you all know what I mean. It was just so powerful and poignant and important and felt a lot like happiness but also a lot like sadness, as only eternal things can.
After church we took naps because we have been kinda sick, but then we went to Adriana's house. We didn't have a marked apt. When we knocked she invited us is, but said she had visitors. We looked into the kitchen to see several of her friends, sitting around with their Sunday afternoon beers.
Earlier on my mission I think I would have been like, "oh, hey, you're busy, we'll come back later, we don't want to interrupt this or incommodate you....", but I am losing my vergonha (shame/timidity) and becoming more bold about what I know to be true. She invited us in, right? And I mean, THESE ARE THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE. There is never a time when we ought to apologize for being there, trying to help people be eternally happy. So we just went in and started talking to people and handing out our cards. The party was winding down and pretty soon most of them left.
We sat down and talked to Adriana for a bit. I looked around at the empty beers and it just seemed like such a cheap substitute for that real, bone-deep, eternal whatever-it-was that I had just felt.
What do you seek in your life? What do you wish for?, I asked her.
It took her a while to respond but she ended up saying, Happiness I guess.
I looked into her eyes and told her that the world has a lot of voices. The world has a lot of paths that it will tell you lead to happiness. But the world has a lot of falsehood. We cannot trust the world. But there is One we can trust. There is One path that leads unfailingly and always to happiness. True happiness. Real, eternal joy that doesn't last a few seconds or a few minutes or even a few days or years, but for eternity.
I testified that Christ showed us that path. That He is the way. The ONLY way. That loving Him and following Him and doing what He asks us to do is the ONLY way to acheive that true, lasting, real, deep happiness.
It brought to my mind the exchage between Christ and Peter when many of His disciples had stopped following him and He asks Peter, "Will ye also go away", and Peter is at a loss that He would even ask and responds, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:67-68).
There is nothing else that even comes CLOSE to the words of eternal life. To whom else could we even go?
It breaks my heart how often people don't understand what they are turning down when they decide not to follow Christ and keep His commandments. They must not understand, because if they truly understood, to whom else would they go? He has the words of eternal life!
I often feel like such an insufficient vessel. If I could somehow help people to better understand this! Oh, that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart ....
At the very least, Heavenly Father is sure helping ME understand this, and I suppose that is a good start.
We contacted a Sao Tomense family and the 3 light-filled little boys were giggling after the prayer and exclaimed, "we didn't close our eyes!!" , and I laughed and my heart hurt because they were so full of light and pure and innocent. Children are astonishing to me.
I have to end this.
My heart has been feeling so much like a heart of flesh lately, not a heart of stone, and that has felt really good. Heavenly Father is pouring out a lot of grace and understanding upon my head during this the end of my mission and I can't express how grateful I am. Minha alegria transborda. Overflows. There's too much to contain.
You all are miraculous. Thank you for being your magnificent selves.
Be kind, be good, be gentle, be honest, forgive, love.
Walk in His paths.
I love you.