Did I ever mention how much I love Nephi? He is my favorite Book of Mormon prophet. I love reading his record because I can see how human he was. He didn't start out with instant faith, he had to pray for it and it grew little by little as he journeyed along. He trusted in the Spirit to show him how to get the brass plates and then he grew more confident and trusted in the Spirit to help him build a boat and then grew more and eventually became king over a civilization and led them righteously. It can't have been easy.
The last words he wrote have spoken to my soul this past week. He said: "...I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry. And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal." (2 Nephi 33:3-4)
I love it because of how he speaks of his love for his people. He cried at night with concern for them. He worked tirelessly to persuade them to believe in Christ and follow Him because Nephi knew that that was the only way to find eternal life and happiness. He knew what he'd done during his ministry wasn't perfect, but he trusted that God would consecrate his efforts and make it good enough.
I guess you could say I feel similarly.
You can't help but get reflective and sentimental the last week of your mission, I guess. I tried. This was brutal. I never expected it to be so hard to end. (Mostly, it was so hard because I sincerely hate goodbyes. It got to the point this week where people would start to say "I'll probably never see you again!" and I would be like "Nope! Gotta go, bye!" And then I would run in the opposite direction. You probably think I'm joking but that actually did happen. Twice. Ha ha.)
No, but my point is that I look back and I can say I wasn't perfect. I wasn't everything everyone thought I should be all the time. But, I did my best to bring people to Christ. I loved everyone as much as I could. Most importantly, I never gave up. I always kept trying. So I know, even though I wasn't perfect.... I know the Lord will consecrate my efforts for the gain of the people I've taught. He has this amazing way of taking out imperfect offerings and transforming them into something incredible. Miracles happen every day in the mission field, and miracles can happen every day in our lives. That is what happens when you trust in the Lord. :)
I know Jesus Christ lives. When all is said and done that is what it comes down to. I have been touched and completely changed by His influence these past 18 months. He has made me into something better than I knew I could be. He loves each of us, and He never gives up on us. We are, too often, the ones who give up on ourselves. He never will. We are never out of His reach.
Approaching the end of your mission feels a lot like approaching death. It feels like my life is about to end, even as I know all the reasons why I've leaving. But as I sat in my last sacrament meeting yesterday, I had peace come over me and an excitement in my heart - as if the Lord was saying "Don't worry. I have a work for you to do in Utah."
So, the good news is that it's not ever. Not ever. I'm sad to leave (I have never felt such an unshakable sadness before) but I am excited to come home too. I can't wait to see what the Lord has for me there. I will always be a missionary, friends. I love the work too much to give it up now.
I truly, sincerely love you. And I will see you very soon.
All my love, Sister Ball