All is said and done, the flight home, my being released, and the calling itself is over ... My time as a full time missionary is through, and its all just a memory. Looking back, its weird to think that I'm an RM now and I'll be telling of experiences from my mission for the rest of my life. However, I am SO very grateful for the opportunities and experiences that will shape the rest of my life. But first a final cap on the final days of my mission...
The last days didn't seem real... Time was just flying by, and the last 48 hours seemed like a race against time to do as much as I could before Wednesday, where every hour of the day was detailed for transfers. This included tea with members from the surrounding wards who I had the honour of getting to know and dining with, buying last minute things that I would need for the trip home/being home, and playing racquet ball for P-day. (I finally won!) I there was so little time and so much to do, but I think the things I did were sufficient for what I wanted to accomplish that week. Anyways, Wednesday finally came, and a full day of work began at 5:30 in the morning (with no sleep, mind. Stayed up all night packing/doing t-books/tying up loose ends).
Picked up the new missionaries from the MTC (one of my most favourite experiences) and took them to Chatburn for their mission dedication. Ironically, this was the first time I went through with President and Sister Lindley since I had dedicated my own life to the mission two years earlier (all of the other times we were rained out). It was a choice experience that I will treasure forever. (See first pic) There were a couple aspects that made this group of new missionaries special. One being that Elder Weggersen was the younger brother of a missionary who was serving as the assistant when I was picked up from the MTC. It was neat cuz it kinda went full circle :) The other was that in that group was my GREAT GRANDSON!!! Elder Amos-Smith! Yeah, that's right, Elder Belliston had a son, and now my posterity goes on! I was so proud :) Yay! (See second photo).
After the transfer meeting, (including giving my departing testimony, which was an experience in itself) we went to the mission office followed by the mission home, where we had the last supper, final instruction from President and Sister Lindley, and then one more testimony meeting. After that, we said goodbye to Elder Woodbury, who's parents were picking him up from the mission home, and then we said good night, all ready to wake up and head to the airport the next day.
We drove to the airport first thing in the morning, and said goodbye to President and Sister Lindley, Elder Page, and the new Assistant to the President, Elder Weitzel from Germany. On our way up the escalator, we gave one last goodbye. The traditional missionary departing shout for the missionaries of the England Leeds Mission... Half way up the escalator, the 6 of us left shouted triumphantly "HURRAH FOR ISRAEL" and it echoed through the airport. Something I will never forget.
The plane ride was long (9 hours, then 4 hours), and it was sad to say goodbye to my friends who I had known for so long. As we moved from one plane to the next, missionaries dwindled, until the flight to SLC with me, Elder Stettler, Elder Kapetanov, and Elder Prisbrey. But it was worth it. My family was there waiting for me, all done up in leis and balloons (a weird unexplainable Spencer tradition), ready to welcome me home :) Out of all the pictures I could have chosen from, I think this one captures the emotions of that night perfectly. (See final pic)
Within a couple hours, I was released, and no longer a part of the great work which I had grown to love and enjoy so much. My homecoming talk went fine. I was the only speaker there, so I had a whole 35 minutes to spend, but that wasn't a problem, and the open house afterward was great. (Thank you to all who attended either or both!) And here we are :) Life back home is alright. Not as exciting I guess, but its alright. I guess I'll have to adjust sooner or later. But I can never adjust from the lessons I learned, and the growth I experienced.
The past two years have been not a sacrifice, but a blessing. Every second of it. Every moment was nothing short of a privilege to experience. It was an honour to serve the great people of northern England. 12 Companions, 6 areas, and a whole bunch of amazing times as a result. I now know that the atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite. I testify that this is His church, this is His priesthood, and that God is our loving Heavenly Father, who's sole purpose is to help us, His children, to return to Him someday. And that's exactly what I did these past 2 years. Help others to come unto Christ through His gospel. I am a different man as a result of this experience. My perspective has been broadened, and my priorities are clear. I know that God loves each of us, and knows us by name. He has a plan for all of us, and I certainly testify of that. Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration, and the Book of Mormon is a true book that serves as evidence of Jesus Christ's divinity and Joseph Smith's sacred calling. I testify that it is through the Holy Ghost that any of us may come to know this. That is how I know all of these things are true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Thank you for reading, I hope the words I've written do some kind of justice to the times 've had here. I love this work. And because I love it, I promise to always be an effective missionary!
Hurrah for Israel!!!
~Elder Gabriel Gaylen Spencer