Well this is a strange feeling...
This was a hectic week. We had a meeting every single day as I began to train my replacement to take over the "tech specialist' assignment and other things that I have had to train others on. We had half as much proselyting time as the week before and yet did better. That was a tender mercy.
This past week was my last MLC.
I'd like to share a scripture that I feel very accurately portrays my personal feelings and the last 2 years of emails home. It's in the Book of Mormon in the book of Alma, chapter 28, verse 8.
"And this is the account of [Elder Johnson] and his brethren, their journeyings in the land of [Arizona], their sufferings in the land, their sorrows, and their afflictions, and their incomprehensible joy, and the reception and safety of the brethren in the land of [Phoenix]. And now may the Lord, the Redeemer of all men, bless their souls forever."
Missionary work has brought the highest highs and the lowest lows that I have ever experienced in life. It has pushed me every single day. It has been a time of intense spiritual growth. I feel like I have experienced pure joy on my mission as I have ignored myself and served those around me. That is something I want to do for the rest of my life.
I honestly thought I would die this last week. I had no energy and didn't think I could make it another day. But I felt the sustaining power of prayer and this week I was blessed with more energy than I've felt all transfer.
I was blessed with the ability to go to the Gilbert Temple this past week. Elder Myler and I, along with other missionaries "dying" with us, were able to attend a session with President and Sister Toone. That temple is magnificent. It is breathtaking from outside and out of this world from the inside.
The chairs are much larger than those in the Mesa temple, and much more comfortable. We had 13 people in the room with us, and 9 missionaries. Seven "dying" missionaries and two visa waiters being sent to Brazil and India. Elder Chandroo, one of Mark's friends, was there. It was fun to catch up.
I will never forget the feelings of walking into the celestial room in that temple.
I will never forget how I felt when I hugged President and Sister Toone. President Toone held me for a long time in a hug and wept as he whispered, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Your offering is accepted by the Lord. You have nothing to regret." I will never forget that. Ever. That was one of the most powerful spiritual confirmations I have experienced.
There was almost no one inside of it and I walked in and saw Elder Myler looking at the GIANT stain glass window. I walked next to him and we looked at it together, in silence for a few minutes, and he said, "Are you ready?" ... "No. Are you?" ..."No. Lets make these the best last days ever."
Yesterday I was asked to speak in church. I spoke on experiencing a mighty change of heart. I think it went pretty well. I'm really going to miss Montana del Sur. This ward has changed my life. The people in it are absolutely amazing.
South Phoenix has proven to be a refiners fire for me. I came out on top. I kept the faith. I learned that faith is what you have when you have nothing else. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I'd like to just take some time to share how I honestly feel.
I feel like I have fulfilled my calling. I look back over these last two years and I have no regrets. I am completely sure that I was called to Tempe Arizona for a very specific reason. I know the reasons.
I am not who I was when I left. I hope I don't go back to Paul, because Paul was mediocre. I'm not perfect and far from it, but I am better. I love the gospel; I have a passion for the gospel. I know my Savior. I know that what He did for me was done out of love and out of trust. We are all trusted with the ability to choose the right and we are all trusted with the ability - and responsibility - to repent when we fall short.
I'm so grateful for the amazing members, missionaries, and investigators that I have been able to meet. They have all influenced my life. The lessons that I have learned as a missionary are lessons that will stick with me forever.
I'm absolutely terrified for the future. I have a very good grasp on what I want to do and how I'm going to get there, but there are a lot of unknowns between here and there.
But I feel ready.
I think the Apostle Paul summarized my feelings well in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. He said,
Thank you all for your support and prayers. I've felt it. I've felt it in the hardest moments and I've felt it in the best moments.
I'm excited for the next best two years of my life and I hope that, for the rest of my life, I can confidently say that every two years is better than the two years that preceded it. This mission has prepared me for the rest of my life. I feel ready. I feel excited.
Excited to see you tomorrow,
Elder Paul Johnson
Arizona Tempe Mission, July 2012 - July 2014