I have been trying to figure out how to accurately describe the flood of emotions I have been experiencing since the close of my missionary service last night. While I still have several hours here left in Washington until my arrival home tomorrow afternoon, it will be filled with various events related to my departure. It has been a very humbling experience to think back and reflect upon the past 2 years here in Central Washington. I had never imagined how much my life would be impacted by my service to others. It is an interesting phenomenon. It is a mixture of deep and immense appreciation for everything that I have learned from others and from the hand of God but also a tinge of sadness as I leave a people and culture I have come to love so dearly. It is then topped with a sense of excitement and drive to begin this new chapter in my life and watch it all unfold before me.
As I reflect upon the events of the previous two years I am brought back to many fun and entertaining memories, like learning how to do drywall and even some masonry work, I have seen the process go from start to finish with apples/cherries/etc. (fun fact, apples get picked in late summer/early fall, and so the apple you eat in the middle of the winter has actually been literally put to sleep and has been chilling out in a storage room somewhere). I have learned how menudo is made (still don't think it would be appropriate for human stomach to eat cow stomach, it seems to me like a sick form of cannibalism). I discovered that washing a car when its 24 degrees outside is not a good idea. The water freezes before it falls off the car. I learned that outside of Southern California there’s this thing called "winterizing" that one has to do for their house. It never occurred to me that when it’s below freezing outside, your pipes can freeze. That’s usually a problem if that happens, in case you are wondering. I also have been to the Les Schwab tire center in every single one of my areas. I also picked up Spanish along the way. That was pretty cool.
Aside from the temporal, I have learned several things for myself that, although not dependent on serving a mission, were definitely facilitated by the experience. First of all I have learned that your circumstances don't have to dictate happiness. Despite setbacks and trials in life, there is always joy to be found in something on a daily basis. If not, you're not looking hard enough. Part of that comes with also recognizing that sometimes you can't do anything to change things, so there is no use in fretting over it. Getting worked up or anxious or sad over something you have no control over doesn't do anyone any good, so choose to be happy instead. Along with that gospel living also helps to avoid a lot of those things that so often trouble and plague others. When we choose to live in the guidelines Christ has given us through prophets and scripture, we can achieve a fullness to life and enduring happiness that won't be found in any other place. I have also decided that there is no problem that enough humility or charity can't make better. Someone is being difficult, show some charity and it gets easier. If life is being difficult, be humble and trust God and everything gets easier to endure.
Most importantly though, through my personal experience and seeing it work in the lives of others, I now know that Jesus Christ lives and that through revelation given to modern day prophets with Priesthood Authority He guides His church, and that through His atoning sacrifice He can change lives, if we let Him. In conjunction with that, I know that Christ and our Heavenly Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in 1820 to call him to be another prophet in these last days to prepare us for when Christ shall come again. Shortly thereafter, Joseph Smith was led to ancient records containing communication between God and ancient prophets on this side of the world which got translated into English and came to be known as the Book of Mormon, and that anyone, if they are willing to sincerely ask, will found out for themselves too that the Book of Mormon contains the word of God and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church, once again established on the earth.
To close, I know it may seem kind of cliché but the words of Paul at the end of his ministry seem fitting for my situation and what I feel right now. In chapter 4 of his second letter to Timothy [verses 6 and 7] he declares:
"I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
It has truly been a once in a lifetime experience serving the Lord's sheep here in Central Washington. I hope you all have been able to learn something over the course of my journeys and enjoy something along the way. Tomorrow I'll be back in California, but the work still goes on.
Signing off for the last time,
Elder Matthew Kupferer