I hope I can properly express the feelings of my heart in this letter. Deciding to come on my mission was a difficult decision. There were several events leading up to my decision, but I think there was one particular conversation when I decided, at that point I began to prepare. To my family's surprise I had received a call, and to all of our surprise I was being sent to a place called Estonia (later changed to Lithuania). As soon as I began my papers I was so excited and ready to go.
The MTC was a great experience. I am so glad I had the opportunity to be in the MTC during Thanksgiving and Christmas. There really was a special spirit there. I really enjoyed all of the devotionals and learned so much, but little did I know that this was just the beginning of huge spiritual growth I would gain throughout my mission. Finally the long awaited day after nine weeks arrived. As we began our long journey to Riga, we were anxious to leave the MTC and share the testimonies we had gained in the nine weeks we were there. I was excited for the next phase of my mission.
After a long travel, we finally arrived in Riga where we were able to meet President and Sister Harding. It was great to see their smiling faces, while our faces looked very weary from the travel. The next little bit was a blur as I struggled to keep my eyes open until finally we were able to sleep. The next day I was a little more alert as I prepared to meet my trainer and find out where my first area would be. Everything was still a little cloudy but I do remember that all of the sisters who were there to train looked so nice, and I thought to myself, "all of these sisters are going to be great trainers so it really doesn't matter which one I get." After we were assigned our new companion, Sister Hoskin and I headed on our way to my first area in Siauliai. That is where all of the experiences and learning would begin to take place that is now the sum total of who I am today.
From this point on I will write about the people I have met and the experiences I had with them and what I learned from the experiences and from the person. I will start with Sister Hoskin. Sister Hoskin was a great companion. One of the first lessons I learned was about how we all come from different backgrounds with different experiences. Sister Hoskin and I were similar in some ways, but different in many other ways. I found as I learned more about her and her family that she had a very different upbringing. I learned that we all have to be tolerant of how others think and act differently. Sometimes we forget that people have different families and different ways of thinking. Sister Hoskin was very good at loving others. We had one member who was difficult to love sometimes, but Sister Hoskin was always her friend and trying to serve her. Sister Hoskin also was very brave, she was so good at talking to people, and I really admired that every time she spoke with someone, whether they were interested or not, she was able to leave them with some kind of commitment, even if it was just to attend their own church more often. Another time she was brave was when we were out contacting in a more dangerous part of town and it was getting late and time to start walking toward home. There was a man on the corner and he said something that I didn't really understand, then he was kind of pulling something out of his coat. Then all of a sudden Sister Hoskin told me to just turn around and run. So I turn around and follow her across the street. We kept running until we were able to get home. We are not sure what he was pulling out, but Sister Hoskin suspected it was a gun. I am glad she knew what was going on, because I wasn't sure. Then even after that very scary experience she was still very calm. I am glad that she was following the spirit and knew that we should run. Sister Hoskin also helped me learn how to let go of some of the things I was holding back, so that I could become a more consecrated missionary.
My next companion was Sister Seaman. Sister Seaman was a great, very consecrated missionary. I learned what it meant to work hard. She really had righteous desires and wanted to work really hard always. I can see why she was chosen to be a leader early on in her mission. Sister Seaman was always happy and bubble and excited to see people. She had a quote that would stick with me for the rest of my mission, "what you focus on increases." I applied this quote in many different ways throughout my mission. I mostly applied it to my companions throughout my mission. I learned that although everyone has faults, they also have weaknesses and we can choose to let those weaknesses go and try and focus on the good they have within them, my view changes completely, but it can also go vice versa. If I focus on their bad qualities then all of a sudden I only see them as a terrible, annoying person. It helped me to see the good in all of my companions to remember that I also am not perfect and they can choose to focus on my faults as I might do to them and then we will just hate each other and never get along.
I had a very brief experience with Sister Penrose. Sister Penrose was also a hard worker. She was very humble about her language skills, I think she was better than she gave herself credit for. She was always so good at pushing me and helping me to get out of my comfort zone. During our brief time together we had an experience that drew us very close together. I am glad she was so calm and able to help me stay calm through that very scary experience.
I will be honest, when I found out I would be with Sister Neeley, I was a little nervous as I knew her least of all the sisters. I tried to put everything I had heard about her aside and tried to just get to know her, although I tried to do that, I think it still played a role in my relationship with her. There was a lot to learn from Sister Neeley, including some communication skills from our often long and frequent companionship inventories. I will say companionship inventories are definitely inspired and I am glad that we were able to discuss things open and honestly. I again saw how one's upbringing effects who they are today. Sister Neeley is also excellent at thinking deeply and at studying the scriptures, so those are definitely lessons I learned from her. I thought that these three transfers with her were my hardest, but I still had yet to experience my hardest time on the mission. Often though, the hardest times are also the times with the most learning, so I still had much learning to come. With Sister Neeley my time in Kauans came to an end, which I was sad because I absolutely love Kaunas and the people there, but I also knew that I couldn't become comfortable for too long. I left the city I love and came to Vilnius to start a new adventure with Sister Bestenlenher.
Sister Bestenlenher is great. She is definitely one of the bravest, and most dedicated people I know. She taught me a lot about diligence. This short time with her became the hardest time of my mission, not only because I had to become used to her speed and try to match it, but because this is the transfer I received the news about my nephew who had gotten cancer. I feel really bad because we had just barely become companions and, luckily, I knew her before, otherwise it would have been a lot harder. She was so good during that difficult time. I went into a depression. I knew that he would be okay, there were promises made to him and my family. I never thought that I could become depressed. I really didn't think it was a very real thing. I was just sad all of the time and I never felt like I would be happy again. I blamed my depression on the news, the weather, and the time of year, but I know now that although those things may have played a part I know that it was something that I needed to go through to grow closer to my Heavenly Father, and to know that He loves me. I needed to learn to rely on him more fully. I got a blessing from Elder Nuttall and it gave me comfort to know that Heavenly Father is so aware. I thought it would be a blessing of comfort, but it turned into a blessing of healing. Sister Bestenlenher was always so good and patient as I burst into tears over spilled milk or when I had no desire to work. I also learned how important communication skills are when it comes to making decisions. We both felt that we had a hard time working together because we were both experienced missionaries who have had different experiences, so we both had different opinions of how the work should be done. I still felt like I still had much to learn from Sister Bestenlenher, but all too quickly our time ended and I was transferred away to be with Sister Madison.
Sister Madison is, as all of my companions are, one of the best. She is not only hilarious as everyone know, but I also found out that she is also a very deep person. I was very impressed by her ability to see a problem and find a solution. I think that this was a gift from the Holy Ghost. All of the time she would see maybe a character flaw in herself and be able to pinpoint exactly what it was and what she needed to do to fix it. I really admire that about her and I do want to learn to emulate that. Our two transfers have been interesting together as we have both been preparing for our return home. Sister Madison is great at complimenting and building people up. She is always kind to remember or notice the little things. She is a great socializer and I am glad that I have been able to learn a thing or two from her about that because that is definitely an area where I lack.
Overall I can say that my mission has been a great experience and I cannot wait to share it with those I love. My mission was definitely one of the most challenging and joyful experiences I have ever had. I don't think I changed anyone's life, but I do know that I am returning a much better person because of it. I hope I was at least a little helpful in building up the church here in Lithuania. I have come to love the people here. I will end with my testimony. I know that Heavenly Father loves me and is aware of my situation. I know that Jesus Christ has felt my joy and my pain. I know that Joseph Smith restored this church, the only true and living church, back to the earth. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that we can receive real solutions to real problems in our lives. I know that we can pray and we will be comforted. I know that this church is led by Thomas S. Monson and that he is a prophet called by God. I know that my mission has been the one thing that could catapult me into progression. I know that my life will never be the same as before my mission. I know that commandments help us to receive blessings. I know that member missionary work is important. I can honestly say that I love my mission and I will never regret going.