Monday, October 22, 2012

Final Entry

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. 
(See third pic)

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

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week 104: Last one... Let's make it count!

Hello everyone!

What a week we've had! There have been so many wonderful and exciting things that have happened within the past week that I need to tell you about! And once again, so little time to say it... So lets get started!
First off, it was President Lindley's birthday recently! So we just had to celebrate!  On Monday for lunch, the office had a party for President and Sister Lindley's birthdays, which are within about 2 weeks of each other (which makes it convenient to remember). Pizza and salad, followed by a yummy dessert made by Sister Brinkerhoff. :) It was delicious! (See first picture)
Next, we had Zone Leader Council! This is definitely one of my most favourite meetings in the mission field. Its a wonderful opportunity for the leaders of the mission to meet together, receive instruction, as well as council together about the needs of the missionaries, both on and individual and group basis. This Zone Leader council was especially different because Elder Donaldson, from the area seventy attended and added his wise input. He is such a kind hearted and knowledgeable man! In addition to his welcomed visit, we also gave President a present fro his birthday! All 14 zone leaders got together along with Elder Page and myself to pitch in for a gift for our wonderful mission president... And after weeks and weeks of searching, we finally got it! It was an antique oil on canvas 'Third Degree Tracing Board'! This is of great symbolic significance in the Freemason religious culture, and President is a HUGE fan of antiques as well as symbolisms. We gave it to him at the end of the meeting at his home. He was so excited, and he even mentioned he had been searching for something like that for quite some time on his own, with no luck! As soon as we gave it to him, he began to explain some of the meanings of the symbols on the board :) See second pic.

Over the past week I have been blessed to set up tea appointments with some of my favourite families I have met in the Leeds areas. Such as Sister Gardiner in Leeds 5, and the Craigs in Wharfe Valley (Leeds 2 basically).  At Sister Gardiner's home, I was finally taught the secret to cooking Yorkshire Puddings! It was pretty fun, and every one was very complimemtative of my yorkshires :) At the Craig's house, I was greeted by two of the people I baptised on my mission last year! Damien and James! We had lunch at the Craig's and then watched general conference together. And it was such a nice day as well! In this next picture, you'll see the Craig family and James, on my left, and Damien, the guy standing on the far left. What a joy it is to see them again, and to hear that they are still attending church! 

Not only was I greeted by that great news, but I was also informed that last month two of the others who I had seen baptised in Leeds 5 went through the temple, and took out their endowments! Not only that, but Ben and Kitty got sealed for time and all eternity in the Preston Temple! Ben was baptised in April of 2011, about the same time that we were reactivating Kitty, which is where they met! What a great story, eh?

Our tea appointments last week also included our final steak night with President and Sister Lindley! This was definitely the best steak I've had in England. See final picture!
So... I've got some good news, and some bad news... Lemme start with the good news first!

The good news is, I have been blessed enough to complete just about all goals that I had set out to do on my mission. I feel very fortunate about that, and I have certainly developed a testimony of the importance and benefit of goals. So that's a welcomed blessing. :)

Now for the bad news... I don't know if you know this, but this will likely be my final entry/email/blog post as a full time missionary for the Lord. Yup. That's right. Three days from now I'll be on a Delta flight home... and that's it. Back to the land of eternal p-days. End of the emails, end of the blog, nuthin :-/ So there you have it... Thanks for reading! Thank you for your prayers. I love this work! I think I'll include my testimony on my final email, which will come soon. So expect just one more I guess!


Elder Gabriel G. Spencer