Monday, February 27, 2012

And then there was none.

This is it. The final one. The time where I have to wrap up all of my thoughts and feelings from this 18 month experience and try and express how it feels to do that. The time to prepare for the rest of my life. The time to reminisce about my mission. I love my mission. Every. Single. Minute. This is the time for me to realize what I have learned, and to decide how I am going to apply that education to my life. The time to realize that I won't be Sister Brinkerhoff in a couple of days, and to evaluate and decide how I will still incorporate Sister Brinkerhoff into plain ole' Bailee... I'm a little nervous to be Bailee again.

Saturday night we had dinner with Abuelo. A farewell dinner. He gave me a necklace, wrapped in an adorable little box with ribbon. I saved the card to read later in the night. We had a delightful time. He is sad I am leaving... and he was such a gentleman to us at dinner. He is the kindest man in the world. When we got home, I was kneeling down waiting for Sis O-Taquita to get out of the bathroom so we could pray and start our planning session. I read his card while I waited.... And then it happened. I just sobbed and sobbed. And sobbed some more. Sis O-Taquita didn't know what to do so she just gave me a hug... I don't want to leave these people.

But then I hear about my nieces Volleyball tournament that I get to go to this weekend and I remember that there are people who I love so much waiting for me... it makes it a little better.

We had a huge miracle this week. We felt prompted to have Abuelo come to the VC for a lesson. During the lesson, Sis O-Taquita and I looked at each other and we both knew we needed to invite him to be baptized for this weekend... just four days from then. Abuelo said he would think about it. And then he asked if I would be his Madrina. (It's a Catholic thing... look it up.... super sweet) So then we decided, after he had left, that we needed to fast for him. We just started right then and fasted that Abuelo would get his answer about being baptized. I mean it has been 7 months that he has been investigating and he is SO ready just doesn't think he has gotten an answer. SO... we ended our fast and Abuelo called that night and said "I had a dream last night that I told Sis Brinkerhoff I was ready to be baptized, and I was so happy." He said he was ready. It was incredible! What a huge miracle! He got his answer. He said "I hope I can be a good member of the church. I can't believe this is happening... Me, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." Abuelo will be getting baptized in a few weeks. It didn't quite work for this last weekend because we need some more preparation for him... But such a miracle that he is ready to be baptized.

Last night was the "Departing Missionary Fireside". It was incredible. So many people there who I just love so much. Those people have changed me... investigators, members, recent converts, friends I met at the VC.... so many memories and experiences and so much love. I just sat up on the stand looking around catching RWLJ's eyes, Quadra blowing kisses at me, Abuelo giving me a big smile. The miracle of Kasey... Anastasia came too. People from all of my wards and areas. So many people that I just love. Singing "Savior Redeemer" was pretty hard. The hardest it's ever been... My voice got a bit wobbly if you know what I mean. All of us sang "Abide with Me tis Eventide" in Spanish and "How great thou art". We all bore testimony too. Of course, my luck would have me bearing my testimony right after my song so I was kind of awkward and said, after the song ended, "Well... I guess I'm not going anywhere. I'm gonna bear my testimony now. Thanks, Assistants!" I felt so much joy as I bore my testimony of the Savior, of the plan God has for us, of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and for the opportunity I have had to be a servant of God and preach His gospel. I was able to talk with all of these people afterwards, although with not at all enough time to spend the time I wanted with each of them, and I was so happy. People that I will remember forever... They are all a part of me now.

To express my feelings.... I am stealing an idea from my person.

From Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 and from the brain of Sister Brinkerhoff:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, and a time to die...

Ahhh... Mission lingo. I am "dying" as it goes in the mission field. I was "born" in Santa Monica a year and a half ago, October 2010, and I am "dying" in Brentwood Feb 2012. I came with a serious case of pride, and an attitude that I was going to baptize the whole world. All. By. Myself. Little did I know that I would have a serious slap of humility and that I would soon realize I needed some serious help from my Father in Heaven to do His work. And this is HIS work. Not mine. I know that I can't do anything at all by myself, that I need His help in every aspect of my life. I will never forget the first day I tracted with my trainer, Sis Browning. We talked to some very interesting people and I thought "You have got to be kidding me". I will never forget inviting Daniel to be baptized and him saying yes. Meeting Jae. Teaching RWLJ and being able to see him throughout my mission. What a blessing! I will never forget the lessons I have learned from the Santa Monica 1st, UCLA, Westwood 1st and Santa Monica 2nd wards. My whole mission was within 5 miles. Pretty crazy and very rare. I also spent my whole mission half of the day at the Visitors Center. Something I did NOT want to do in the beginning. I learned very quickly that this is a place of miracles, a place I wanted to be. Most of the other sisters have served" off site" and I never did. I'm not sure why... but I am sure that that is what God wanted for me. I might have a different picture of my mission than others, but it is my picture and I like it. I spoke all types of people.... from every part of the world. Every day at least one from another country. I told people who Jesus Christ was. People who had no idea who this man was because they came from a country where He is not very well-known. I realized really quickly that the person I was needed to change and realize what the most important things were. It's a work in progress, but I am closer nonetheless. I have realized how blessed I have been. What a wonderful family I have. What wonderful parents I have. And I realized that Heavenly Father is a real being, that He loves me and knows me perfectly. I would be fulfilling the mission HE wanted me to do. Not the mission I thought I should do.

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal: a time to break down and a time to build up...

Now these verses have quite a lot of meaning for me. I planted seeds every single day. I hope. There were times where I was frustrated, wanting to eat the fruit from the tree that I had planted, but sometimes I had to trust that someone else needed to be the one to teach that person. There were times I was able to pluck delicious fruit! Wonderful people who accepted the Gospel. There were times where I cried and cried, wondering what we were doing wrong and why no one wanted to listen to us. Wondering why people wouldn't change. I was healed on many occasions by the Savior. I was healed through others, I was healed through Priesthood Blessings, I was healed through prayer. I was healed by reading the Book of Mormon. Participating in the Lord's harvest is a remarkable thing. He can see his WHOLE field, while we can only see the 2 feet in front of us. But we have to trust that the field that He see's is beautiful and perfect. That every part of the field is being harvested as well and that eventually we will all be able to enjoy the harvest together. I think of Susan and how we were there for each other to help heal each other. I think of Skeema who I wanted SO badly to heal, but she wasn't ready for it yet, wasn't ready to not be hurting. I think of My lovely Goldie... Who I just prayed and prayed for.... And oh the things I learned from her. I think of how the Lord had to break me down several times to build me up again, hopefully getting more strong with each build. I have learned that God will always heal us and will always give us an opportunity to grow...

a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance

Oh the weeping. And oh the laughing! There was some dancing too.... Remember "Bye bye bye" with the WW 1st ward boys. Or moon walking in the front of the VC and getting the evil eye and a "Sister Brinkerhoff...." from E. Macdonald. Or teaching Sis Browning "Say yes" and laughing and laughing and laughing. Oh the laughs with the sisters... and the tears in special moments. Tears with people I barely met. Tears for people who I wanted to just save, and then tears knowing that they had to choose for themselves, there was nothing I could do. I will never forget singing for Mike.... and then him deciding to be baptized and asking me if I would sing the song that had inspired him to be baptized at his baptism. I will never forget singing for Sis Woods in the nursing home and her saying "I think about you all the time... how you used to sing for me...." with half-opened eyes while she struggled to stay awake. I remember singing with Sis Bodily in church, at meetings, and at the VC. I remember singing with different elders for different occasions. I remember crying for joy when I would hear about miracles happening at home. Growing closer to my Mom with every e-mail. And closer to my Dad with every prayer. I know he is proud of me. Both of my Dads... both somewhere far away, but oh so close.

A time to get and a time to lose, a time to keep, and a time to cast away

The first thing I thought of when I saw this one was that this was a time of "getting" and now at home it will be a time for "losing". I'm talking about weight. Wow. The food. Always food. Always treats. Always gifts with chocolate everything... The kitchen at the VC was my biggest nightmare and best friend all at the same time. There was always something there to get me in trouble. And the times we sisters just wanted to pig out because we could. We couldn't go shopping or even go watch a movie, so instead we would pig out. Nice. It is a time to "cast away".... For sure. I think of trying to make Sis Henry get rid of things, and rejoicing when she would say yes. I also think of those who weren't quite ready to receive the Gospel. Their time for "keeping" will come. I am definitely coming home with a much more trust in Heavenly Fathers plan than ever before. I know the getting, losing, keeping and casting away is all a part of it. In every sense of the words...

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail, which god hath given to the sons of men to be excersized in it. He hath made everything beautiful in his time.

I want to thank you all for being with me on this journey. Thank you for your prayers, love, support, jokes, and even some visits :) I hope you all know that I have a testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ. I know He lives and loves us. I am so grateful to have been a missionary and to be able to serve these people. I love them. I will forever remember my mission in LA... Thanks for joining me.

See you soon :)

Sista Brink

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