Well family this is it...I just finished with my last training and am just getting ready to go out for my last lessons of the mission. This is my last night of teaching because after this is pure transfer madness. Today Elder Stott got his new companion Elder Nino de Guzman. He’s a really good friend and I’m really excited that there’s a great elder taking my place. He will do a great job. It’s getting real now.
Thanks for all your emails. I love your emails. You all have been so great and I’m so grateful for such an awesome family.
As for your questions...
1. YES! Bring church cloths... I’ve got something special planned for yall :) Be prepared!
2. And yes, I’ll watch for the packages. We’ll be around the office here so I’ll keep my eyes peeled.
3. And yes, you can just be here at the office at 10. We may not get back from dropping the elders off at the airport until a little after 10, but you can come to the office and meet the senior couples. Just don’t listen to anything they say;) Jk! They’re great! We’ll be pulling up as soon as we finish at the airport...unless I decide to flee to Mexico haha!
It truly is a weird feeling. I’ve never put so much into anything in my life, and I’ve never had anything mean so much to me. I though it was scary leaving home for the mission, but this is crazy. I have no clue what to expect and it’s a scary thing leaving this new home and not knowing when I’ll be back. McAllen has stolen my heart for sure.
I’m excited to see you all though. Kinda nervous, but excited. :) I know that you are all excited too and I hope you enjoy your trip and I know you will feel very welcome here in Mcallen. It’s the best! I think you will feel something special:)
But that’s it for today. I’ve got one last big miracle to share, but I’m gonna wait till you all get here:) Travel safe.
But, I better wrap it up...
So family, as I write these last few words to you, I hope that you can control the tears...Mom..I know you’re crying right now.. Dont cry:) Next Saturday I promise that I’ll tell you all a story in place of an email!
I owe you all so much. Thank you. This has meant EVERYTHING to me. Thank you for allowing me to be here. Thank you for supporting me. I have ALWAYS felt your prayers. Thank you for your love. I think you’re gonna be surprised at just how big of miracles your prayers have brought.
You guys crack me up! Everyone has been asking me if my Momma has gone crazy yet being this close to picking me up. I think it’s ok for you all to go a little crazy:) Today I was very grateful for all of your emails and the pictures! Especially from Keg and Taylor Walker! Thanks guys!
But I’m excited to see you all. I was wondering if you could come say hi and spend a week here and then leave me? Think that would work? Just an idea:) I feel like the closer it gets, the more attached to my mission I become. It’s been so good this past week, we have been so busy that I haven't even had time to think about it. This week we had a mission wide leadership training and it was AWESOME!! It definitely kept our hands full!
I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I know a lot of missionaries fear and avoid the end, but I’m excited! I think if you have done everything you could, you should be able to go home happy and fulfilled and able to hit the next stage of life just as hard as you hit the mission. It’s gonna be the test of EVERYTHING that I learned on my mission. I say, “Bring it on!” It doesn't however make leaving any easier. It will break my heart to leave this place. But I've come to learn that it’s not always about what Elder Smith wants. It took 21 years to learn that;) I have seen the importance of working up until the last minute. There’s no getting around it, I think you definitely see your true colors in the last few weeks.
But, I actually wanted to share one of the most special experiences of my mission with you all today. It starts back in Laredo when one of my district leaders invited me to set a mission baptismal goal; the number of people I wanted to find, teach, and baptize on my mission. He then told me, “It’s not about the number, but it’s about being accountable to the Lord and showing him how many people you want to bring unto Christ.” Of course I wanted to bring thousands unto my Savior! That’s why I came! So I set a goal that was rather high. I prayed to my Father in Heaven pleading with him to guide me to that many specific people that I could love with all my heart and bring them to the knowledge of the Gospel.
The first few months was rough. We didn't find or baptize hardly anyone. I was rather discouraged and quickly put that goal and commitment with the Lord out of my mind. But, as I went through my mission, the success started to come. I began to find people that stole my heart. I loved them SO MUCH! And every time we found them and were able to baptize them I felt the love of my Heavenly Father letting me know that they were some of the ones that he had promised me. Some of the ones that were waiting. That feeling fired me up a lot. I quickly repented of forgetting that commitment I had made with Him and promised I would do EVERYTHING in my power to reach that goal, that I wouldn't miss a single soul that He had prepared for me. There was a lot of ground to make up, but He definitely began to bless me.
The months passed and I came closer and closer, until this last month. I was ONE short of my goal and ALL of our baptisms had dropped. I felt an uncomfortable weight on my shoulders, feeling that I hadn't given everything or maybe I had missed one of His children along the way. I spent many nights crying unto Him, asking for forgiveness and praying for a miracle. With 3 weeks left......nothing. Too short of time to find someone and get all the way through the teaching process. It seemed almost hopeless. I couldn't help but feel that if I went home one short, I would feel like it wasn't quite finished.
Then 6 days ago we decided to give it to the Lord. Elder Stott and I started a special fast for that one person who would finish my mission. We fasted that day and nothing came until the last 5 minutes of our fast. As we stood in line to buy some fruit to break our fast the phone rang, it was Bishop Vargas. "Elder, I just wanted to call and tell you that a new family moved into your area 10 minutes ago and they need some help moving in. Could you come?" ABSOLUTELY! "Oh and just so you know, the mom isn't a member yet."
My heart filled with hope! This was gonna be it!!! We got in the car and flew over to their house to meet the Medina family. The sweetest, most humble family ever. Within 20 minutes we had set a baptismal date for the 24th, one day after I leave. So grateful for the answered fast, but still sad about the goal I set with the Lord, I continued to pray, harder and HARDER. I guess you could say it was selfish of me, but it meant SO MUCH!
I have a testimony that God answered prayers. I have seen it so many times. I know how much He loves us and that He won’t EVER let us down. I really needed a miracle and even though it was a selfish thing, He knew how much I wanted it. Never doubt that he listens.
The second lesson we had a FHE with the bishop and discovered that Sister Medina knew nearly everything and had been to church before in Mexico! In the last 5 minutes, the bishop invited her to be baptized on Sunday - TOMORROW! I must have looked ridiculous cus tears were streaming down my face. She agreed to this Sunday, and she is completely ready! Finding her, teaching her, and getting to the baptism in less than 2 weeks! It was a miracle!
I Love my Heavenly Father so much. He has changed me completely. I never deserved such an incredible mission, but He gave it to me anyway. I feel SO indebted to Him but know that He's expecting a lot of me for the rest of my life. He expects a lot of us:) I know that after the baptism of Sister Medina, I will feel that love just as I always have. That love that He has for these people, His children. It’s more contagious that any feeling that you could ever feel.
I love you all so much and hope you all know that I KNOW that He lives, loves us, and always hears us.
Thank you for all your emails. You all are so great! I have the best family ever:) I’ve been thinking about you and just how grateful I am. Never missed a week of emailing me. Pretty faithful I’d say:) Thank you for that! I feel very blessed.
Coming into this last month I’m just so grateful for the mission God has allowed me to serve and for this time I have still to serve. It is SO precious to me. I’ve thought alot about how you can tell someone served a good mission. I know there are alot of missionaries that would say that the titles of District or Zone Leaders or even Assistant are what make you a good missionary. I have realized that that’s not gonna get me anywhere in Idaho or in life haha! I’m grateful for these opportunities I've had to serve with MY Presidents and for all they have taught me and I know that the things I have learned and the experiences I have had are what have made me.
President Maluenda taught me a big lesson. He said that you can tell how successful someone’s mission was by the person they are when they go home. How they apply the things they learned, how they treat everyone, how they talk, how they carry themselves. Different scene, different actors, but the principles NEVER change. And then he kinda shocked me when he said,"Elder Smith, everything you have done in these past few years doesn't mean a thing if you go home the same person you were before." I think I've been stressing about the last little changes I want to make in myself before the end, hoping I am changed enough. I truly am so grateful for the Atonement of my Savior and the way it can enter into someones life and change and mold them, scrape of the rough edges, take away the hard feelings, wash away the guilt, and then build you back into something you never could have been without His help.
Sometimes I feel like I’m not deserving of the INCREDIBLE mission that God has given me. It is the best! But I think the thing I wanted to share most today was my gratitude for you all preparing me for my mission, for my whole life. I wish I could express how much that means to me, and how much this place means to me.
For Alex, I’m sooo proud of you. You HAVE to be SO excited for your mission! It is 10000000X better than football or anything else you could ever do! I’m so proud of the football player you are, and the student, and the brother!! I’ll be so proud when we have another Elder Smith out in the field. In this family we serve missions! That’s for you too Addi, we have some amazing sister missionaries here. You will be great.
I feel like I’m getting to that last stretch of the 400x. Remember when I would always bust past Chan in my Skyline speed suit leatart;) The way your legs get kinda wobbly from the long race, but you just run harder and harder. I wanna finish, falling into the finish line! I’m grateful for you all. From sitting in the stands at ever football game and track meet and every basketball game, and now the mission. . . The most faithful fans. It has always made me wanna run harder:)
This is the greatestthing I've ever done. The funnest, the craziest, the scariest, the most magical, spiritual, lovable, memorable, exciting thing I HAVE EVER DONE! I’m pretty determined to finish that way. We are teaching a bunch of families. Unfortunately, they all are looking to get baptized the week after I leave, but the important thing is that they get baptized. We’ll see what miracles God has up his sleeve.
But for my most faithful fans, I love you all so much. Thank you for everything:)
You’re emails are getting shorter every week;) Haha just kidding, they are great I love you all! Thank you so much for the pictures as well they were great! Alex looks like a stud in those football pictures! It’s good to see and hear from the guys as well.
Things have been really good here. Just normal as ever. It doesn’t feel any different and I love every day. I’m so grateful for every opportunity we have to teach, and to serve, and to speak Spanish! You gotta look for a Spanish ward for me up there in I.F. It’s all too good:)
This last Sunday was incredible. After a crazy lesson Saturday, we got the Vargas’ all ready for their baptisms on Sunday. It was amazing! The member that found them (selling pesticides) baptized the dad Mario. I baptized the mom Lorena and Elder Stott baptized Mario Jr. We had Valeria and Cata Maluenda come to perform a special musical number. I donno if I told you, but they are crazy talented with music and it was amazing. It was a very special baptismal service and the whole family was sooo happy. Minus Lori Jane, who was a little sad because she has to wait till December to get baptized. Luckily her dad will be able to baptize her. They are such a fun family and I’m so proud of them. They will be confirmed tomorrow! The picture below is of them!!
So besides that all has been well. We’ve got 3 really busy weeks coming up and we are just preparing and planning so we can hit it hard! Starting next week we have some BIG meetings and then a 3 day leadership training after that. It’s gonna be crazy, but I’m excited! I’m gonna go out big! It’s great to be with Elder Stott he has definitely helped me a lot this last transfer and has been a great assistant. He’s gonna do great when I leave and I’m really proud of him. We are gonna go get lunch with him and Elder Hill and a bunch of my really good friends that are here close by in The Valley, so you can meet some of them. A lot of really great missionaries, and great examples.
This week was actually Elder Stott’s birthday so we took him out to lunch. That was the cause for the money I spent, sorry! But we got to go to Pte’s and it was a lot of fun. I LOVE the Maluendas. They are great. They have a big dinner planned for yall!
Besides that all is well. I’m happy and healthy. I feel just the same as I did my first 3 weeks in the mission. Just with a little bit more knowledge and a bad back from these crappy mattresses. HAHa jk! But I am loving everyday. We’ve still got a lot of people to find and baptize! Sorry for the short email, but I hope you all know how much I love you! You’re all so great and are the most faithful writers. I wish I could explain every single detail, but I think that’s just how the mission is, really personal and unique for each person. But I’m glad you all will get a little taste of it in a few weeks!
You all are so great! Thanks for your emails! It was great to hear from you all! I can’t believe Colt is home. Man he looks great I’m so excited to see him. He served a great mission. Please tell him I say hello. I really, REALLY hope he goes to Rexburg. But if not we will still be hanging out. I love that kid. His family looks good too. As well, I’m happy I got the same tracks as Chandler. That’ll be good. As for the trip, I’ll see what we can come up with. You could probably stay in the same hotel the Trayner’s did the night before they went home. It’s just in downtown McAllen but it was really nice. Kind of a cool spot too. I talked to bishop and he wants to set up an FHE with the whole Spanish Ward for you all so everyone can meet you. Practice your Spanish haha! A lot of them will be able to communicate in English. . . . kind of. We’ll see. They are great, I love our Spanish Ward.
But once again thank you so much for the emails. Alex looks like a beast! I’m so proud of him. He’s an amazing football player and will be an even more amazing missionary. How’s Addi doing? Hope you’re doing ok hun! And I cant believe that little Rose Rammell is 18! I’m sure she’s the most popular girl at Skyline. Tell the Rammells I say hello! As well all the grandparents and Jay. Love you all! We were laughing at the big cone on Chan’s freind’s head. Poor guy. Did his date mind?
This week was amazing! It has been so crazy getting the Vargas family ready for baptism! A lot of ups and downs with the family but finally we got things all figured out and good to go! They are such a special family, I truly love them so much! It’s been crazy cus we are teaching them but they live outside of our area and have been going to another ward. It’s been a bit hard to get the right member support because we don’t know the members too well, because we don’t go to that ward. But everyone has done so well in friend shipping and getting behind this family. They are gonna be AMAZING members!
They are really excited to meet you and I know you will love them. Their 2 kids, Mario and Lauri Jane want to meet Alex and Addi! They will love them! This week has been super great though. I feel like every week the mission gets better and better and I enjoy it more and more. It really is the best time of my life. I just get super happy especially on Sundays to see all of our converts and the great progress they are making! Active and happy :) The Cantu family is doing great as well and the rest of the family is coming up from Mexico so we are gonna try to work some magic with them this evening! I’m so proud of them, they are already making plans for the temple, as is the Vargas family.
Besides that all is well. We have been working hard staying busy every day and it stinks cus I feel like the sun goes down so fast everyday but we are seeing some great miracles. Besides that there’s not much to say. It’s started to get a bit colder here and we are wearing sweaters today. I hate the cold! I’ve been spoiled with sunny days for the past 22 months. The Lord knew that this was where he needed to send me.
But family I love you all so much I’m gonna send some pictures right now. I don’t think you have seen these yet but I hope you enjoy them! I love you all so much and I pray that you are all safe and happy. Love you alot!
Hey how’s it going! So good to hear from most of you;) Haha I love you all so much and I loved your emails. Sounds like not much has changed back in I.F. It kinda scares me because I know that I have changed and I WON’T go back to the old me! I remember Chan worrying about that and I thought he was just being a girl haha. But I’m so happy that you are all doing well. I loved that picture of the grandparents at Alex’s game. Four of the most faithful fans I’ve ever met. Even when they couldn't even see well enough to enjoy the game, they never missed. I’m so grateful for them! Tell them I love all of them so much!
Glad to hear that y'all are getting everything ready for winter. I can hardly believe summer has already passed. It is still hot as can be down here and I feel like it’s not going away. However, we did feel our first semi-cool breeze a few days ago. There was just one though haha....It was nice.
So these passed 2 weeks have been nuts. We have been all over the place. It’s been a miracle that we even have people to work with but I wanted to tell you about this super special family called the Vargas family. I believe I told you about them a few weeks ago. We received a referral from a young man from Utah that is down here to sell security systems. He ran into this family and got their info and went over with us a few days later. The family was INCREDIBLE. All so ready. There’s the Dad (Mario), Mom (Lorena), Mario Jr (12) and Lauri Jane (7). A COMPLETE FAMILY! They all accepted baptismal dates and have been solid ever since. They came to church the first Sunday and loved it. Last week they watched every session of conference and took notes! It’s super funny, Mario has a notebook just chuck full of notes, questions, and experiences. He is a great father. They even bought me a late birthday cake because they found out that they missed my birthday haha! Their family has seen so many great changes. Hopefully, I haven't already shared this, but a few days after our lesson on prayer, Mario Jr. got his shoes stolen at school and he remembered that we told him he could pray for ANYTHING. He knelt down on the locker room floor and offered a little prayer. A few minutes later, someone brought back his stolen shoes:) After he shared that in our lesson, his father teared up and admitted, "I know this is what God wants for my family..I can’t deny it." They will be baptized on the 20th of October and Mario already has plans to send BOTH of his children on missions. I really do love them.
Besides that we have been busy busy with Pte. Maluenda. We have done A LOT of exchanges with our Zone Leaders because there are some new ones and that have kept us really busy. I though I would share one more experience from our Brownsville exchange that we had 2 days ago.
The night before the exchange we got to the apartment super late because we went to rescue the ZL’s out on this country road because they had gotten a flat. The next morning we had to plan, because of our crazy night and we took about 30 minutes to plan up a great day. I was with Elder Welker. I opened up the book of formers and said a prayer to maybe pull one out that would get baptized. I told Elder Welker that the one I pulled would get baptized in November and I bet him an ice cream on it. I pulled one out of a Part Member family, the Galvan family. A family of 9!! Juan Galvan was the father’s name who is not a member. I was super excited but then realized that the elders hadn't put an address or a phone number because the family was moving. There was no way in heck that we could find this family. But, it seemed weird because I felt so good about it. So we filled in the rest of the plans and took off.
It was a little bit tough that morning because they had just opened a new area and so we kept getting lost. We were out in the middle of NOWHERE, absolutely lost and we drove past this old gas station and up ahead about 200 yards I saw a man walking. I had a SUPER strong impression to talk to him. He looked rough, but I pulled over and yelled at him (In a nice voice) :)
"Como estan Elderes!" He replied, with a huge smile on his face.
People NEVER call us Elders!!! I asked for his name. “I’m Juan Galvan.”
I couldn't believe it. We jumped out of the car and right there on the side of the road had a 5 minute lesson. The night before brother Galvan had prayed for help. It was answered the very next day. We invited him to be baptized and he happily accepted. We went back that night and set baptismal dates with about half of his family. I was so grateful for that impression. IN ALL OF BROWNSVILLE THE ONE PERSON WE STOP ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD WAS JUAN!! Pretty cool experience.
I love being a missionary. . .I wish it never had to end.
Thanks for everything family, I love you so much! Have a great day!!!