Well, this is it. It's here. It's really, actually HERE! Apparently I'm coming home this week? APPARENTLY I served a full 18-month mission? Really? Are we sure about this? I feel like I just made my grand arrival in Quebec, and now I'm being ushered out?
Whatever the case may be, I'm going to go ahead and take the time to give you a recap of this glorious week and then a few final words about how amazing it was to serve the Lord for the past year and a half.
This week was absolutely glorious! I couldn't have asked for a better last full week on the mission. I was incredibly blessed day in and day out. On Monday we went to Old Montreal for my last time. It was POURING rain, but I honestly didn't mind one bit. We went with Sister Alvarez and Sister Dick, and then somehow... eh hem... I had nothing to do with this... uhhh... SOMEHOW the beautiful Spanish elders from Monterrey ended up joining us. Like I said, I had NOTHING to do with this. But it was fun to hang out with elders for my second to last P-Day! What are they going to do, send me home?! Ha! I've been saying that ALL week. It's kind of getting old. But it's a funny joke nonetheless. Anyway, we had a beautiful day. We went and got bubble tea in Chinatown and walked the Parisianesque streets, feeling very European. I would say I felt more Spanish than French though, because the majority of the day I was deciphering missionary conversations in Spanish... sigh. All I could contribute was "METE LA PANSA!" when we were taking a selfie, which in Spanish means, "Suck in your stomach!" Still, I had a riot.
After our fiesta in Old Montreal we went over to see some of my favorite members, the Gagnon family. Sister Gagnon made me curry because I told her how much I missed my Mom's curry, and she was an angel and made some especially for me. I was in HEAVEN! I can't believe how much I miss curry! The members have been spoiling us rotten this week. We had a dinner appointment every single night, and even lunch appointments on a few days. I think we opened our refrigerator all of four times last week haha. I'm rolling home on one LARGE Canadian tire! I hope you can recognize me at the airport! But seriously, I have been beyond blessed to be in the LaSalle ward. The members are incredibly kind. LaSalle will forever be my home away from home.
So the farewell tour... what on earth did I NOT do this week? It has been an exhausting, fulfilling past few days. On Wednesday I had my exit interview, which made me trunkier than trunky. President reminded me that, "It ain't over till it's over," but I couldn't help but be an anxiety-ridden mess thinking about all of my future possibilities. He told me that I was supposed to go home now and "actively seek" my eternal companion. What is that supposed to mean?! I'm freaking out! I am FREAKING out! The exit interview is supposed to happen right before you go home, but there were too many missionaries leaving with me, so I was fortunate enough to get to be a trunky little mess for the past week. ;) It was an awesome interview though and it brought me a lot of peace about the future, but then I went straight back to work and forgot about the fact that I have to go home soon and deal with real life.
On Thursday we went to see my dear friend Sister Ross for the last time. She is literally the sweetest elderly lady I have met on my mission, not including Lucy. Afterward we went and saw my fab friend Nadine, who makes fun of all of my missionary clothes. And the funny thing is that it doesn't even offend me because I hate my missionary clothes just as much as she does. Ha ha. Thursday was CRAY... what else did we do? Oh yes. We had a lesson with this AMAZING girl name Jasmine who has been searching for the church her whole life and finally realized that this is what she has been looking for. I have never felt the spirit so strong in a lesson in all of my life. This girl is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. It is just so amazing to see that there are people out there who really are searching, but it's even more amazing when they realize that their search is at an end. I feel extremely blessed to have been able to teach her a few times on my mission.
After our amazing lesson we went to have dinner with the COOLEST family ever. The wife has a Ph.D in Philosophy and is seriously my role model. They are an awesome family to be around, and their kids are absolutely adorable. I feel like I could see my future family being like this family. I just want to be them. Seriously, I do. But enough of this trunkiness. After our dinner with the Rennicks we went to our investigator Donna's baptismal interview! We sat outside for an HOUR (longest interview ever) and gossiped with Cedric, the king of Montreal. I honestly have no other way to describe this man. He just runs the show in the Montreal region of our mission. So our zone leader comes out at the end of the interview and motions for Sister Orozco and me to come into the room. He had a very solemn look on his face, and he didn't say anything. We were just like, "HOW could Donna not pass?! She's golden!" We walk in and Donna is wiping away tears, looking soooooo sad. Our hearts literally dropped to the floor. Then she looks up at us and says, "I PASSED!" And starts laughing. Aaaaaah! Typical Donna! Haha! We were so thrilled!!! She is such a trickster, that one. We just hugged her and cried and tried to stop shaking from all of the anxiety she had given us just moments before.
Friday we had our zone training meeting, and Sister Orozco and I put together a skit for my final training. It was a highlight in my mission, to be sure. We were talking about using time effectively and not asking for permission to do good. It was based off of a true story. My story. One day Sister Varela and I had made a goal to contact 50 people in one day. Actually, we made that goal every day. It was during an era of missionary work where we counted every single contact we made and had a weird quota that we had to report on at the end of every week. So we knocked doors ALL evening, and we were having absolutely no success. Then we get to this one door. There was this super cool young woman who told us that she wasn't interested in becoming Mormon, but that they were about to have a Christian rock jam sesh with a bunch of people from her congregation, and we were welcome to join. Um, HELLO?! Why didn't we go in and join and baptize everyone?! Because we thought it would be a waste of time, and we wouldn't meet our quota of 50 contacts if we didn't keep knocking. Ughhhh... biggest regret of my mission! So yes, sad story, we did keep knocking. For zone conference we told the story through a skit, and at the end we all had a Josh Groban jam sesh. It was awesome! The elders brought a harmonica, a mandolin and an ocarina. We named our Christian folk band "Jericho Street" and rocked out to "If You Could High to Kolob" at the end. It was brilliant. You had to be there. After the zone training meeting I said a LOT of goodbyes to missionaries, some of whom I will probably never see again. It's a strange feeling to say goodbye to people that have become your whole universe. I honestly have no idea what I'm going to do with myself when I come home and adjust to a new universe.
Alright, on to Saturday! Saturday was Donna's baptism! Ohhh my. What a GLORIOUS day! Words cannot describe the beauty of this day. The whole program went so smoothly and so beautifully. Our amazing amie Marina even came to the baptism and totally saved the day! Elder Critchfield and I were going to do a musical number for the baptism, him on the violin and me on vocals, but our accompanist still hadn't shown up, and we needed to practice! Well, Marina is super woman, so she just came in and agreed to play. Then she thought the song was too simple on its own, so I sang a jazzed up version of "I Feel My Savior's Love" for the baptism. Ha ha. It was incredible! The whole evening was just the most beautiful, perfect, glorious thing I have ever experienced. Sister Orozco and I stood inside the baptismal font and watched as Donna entered the waters of baptism. She had so much joy and so much light in her eyes. It was a moment I will never, ever forget.
On Sunday she received the Holy Ghost, which was another incredible experience. It was truly such a miracle to be able to watch her receive these two great gifts in her life on the last weekend of my mission. I had always hoped to see someone baptized and confirmed on the last weekend of my mission, and it actually happened! I feel so blessed. So, SO blessed.
Church was incredibly hard yesterday. I bore my final testimony and said goodbye to people that have literally become my second family. It still hasn't really hit me that I'm leaving. Every goodbye feels like a "see you later," when in reality I actually do have to leave these people. No matter. I am definitely saving up to come back as soon as I possibly can. I won't be able to leave if I don't tell myself that! In the evening we went to see Mommy and Daddy Morales for dinner. We had tons of fun together, as always. Being with their family reminds me so much of being with my family. It made me excited for when I will actually be with my family, but it still all seems surreal! Later in the evening we went on another nature walk with my sweet pea Anne Marie, another woman I will be sad to leave. Cedric invited himself, and we had a fabulous time chatting away and swatting at mosquitoes by the river. I honestly live for these moments. The sun was setting, the water was calm, the atmosphere peaceful. I just felt so much joy and accomplishment in that moment. Joy to be surrounded by people I love, joy to have served in the Canada Montreal Mission. I'm doing my best to treasure these moments because soon they will become memories, and then this whole experience will feel like a dream.
I just wanted to close this letter with my final thoughts about my mission. It has been an incredible journey, and I have been blessed daily. My mission has truly been the greatest blessing of my life. I have been indescribably blessed with support and pure love from family and friends back home, as well as some of the most amazing people in the Quebec province. My mission was not always easy, but it was always a joy. When I look back I have nothing but good feelings and fond memories. The times that were hard seem to fade into the knowledge that Heavenly Father was always there preparing the way before me, always blessing me, always giving me help, peace, and comfort through the Spirit. On my mission I learned that the Atonement is real. I watched people change daily. I watched myself change daily. I know now that nothing we do is done by our own strength. It comes from our loving Savior's atoning sacrifice, and to Him I will be forever grateful. Words cannot describe the love I have in my heart for these people, and I know it is not love that comes from me, but a love that comes through the Savior. I can't seem to find any other word to express what I feel but gratitude. I am grateful for the people I have met. I am grateful for the miracles I saw. And I am grateful to be a missionary. I am so grateful to be a missionary.
Alright, so I'm just going to go ahead and cry now. That was my mission! I have enjoyed every single moment. It's hard to believe it's almost over. I just wanted to express my gratitude to everyone who helped me through the past 18 months. I love you all to the moon and back, and I have felt your prayers and your loving concern, no matter how far away you may be. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making this season of my life AMAZING!
And last but certainly not least, I just wanted to write my last BIRTHDAY SHOUT OUT! This one goes to the one and only PAPA Q. BEAR! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, my sweeeeeeet Daddy! I just wanted to take the time and let the world know how much I looooooooooooooove you! Thank you for being 100 percent supportive of me during my absence. You are the world's best. A spiritual giant! A poetic soul. A wise wizard. A witty wonder. A sharp sasquatch. A bright beam. Quite simply, I love you to pieces and I hope you have the world's best birthday! I will be seeing you VERY soon, my dear daddy. I hope I qualify as the world's greatest birthday present! Save me some blueberry pie. DON'T eat it in my honor. I'm coming back for it. Don't celebrate too much without me! I'll see you in a few! Smooooooch!
Aaaaaand this is officially the longest letter ever. I hope you have enjoyed my words of wisdom. Take care of yourselves over the next few days! I love you all forever and am eager as a beaver to see you ALL! And it better be all of you. Friends, family, blog stalkers, lovers. You ALL better be at my triumphant homecoming. Love yous forever! Misssssss you! But definitely not for long.