Thursday, July 9, 2015

the NINETEEN months that changed my FOREVER.

I'm HOME. 

I still can't believe it's all over.

It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in this exact same spot nervously writing my first blog post. I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach. I can still remember all of the worries and all of the excitement. And all of the determination to serve the very best mission I could. And now it all kind of feels like a dream.

A dream that changed my FOREVER.

And even though it seems like a lifetime ago, I want to record my last week in Fiji. Because it was fabulous and heart wrenching. All at the same time. All of the Goodbyes were so tender. Sister Kesa and I spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday farewelling and having our last lessons with the people we've come to love SO much. A highlight was definitely chopping off Pelekina's dreads to prepare for his baptism. I love that boy so much and I'm so proud of him. I cried when I heard his tender testimony. Mostly because that's the same time the Holy Ghost whispered to me that "This is what it's all about." And that's just the beginning. I BAWLED in our last lesson with Joeli as I reflected on everything he's taught me. He is my Hero. I'm gonna miss these people so much. But they'll always be my people. And I'm so excited to hear all about their baptisms!

Thursday we spent cleaning and packing and finishing up projects. PLENTY WRITING. I think I wrote over 40 letters in the past 6 weeks. And although it was tons of work, I'm so grateful for the sweet experience to reflect on some of the people that shaped my mission. Thursday night we said a few final goodbyes. The hardest of which was my precious daughter. Sister Kesa. She has taught me SO  much these last 3 months. And if nothing else, I'm so grateful I extended to be able to be her companion. She has changed and grown so much and I am completely confident leaving everything in her hands. She is gonna have a rockin mission.

Friday was mission home day. And I just tried to soak in every last ounce of wisdom from President and Sister Layton. Sister Layton shared some fabulous advice from returned missionaries. My favorite was something my old Zone Leader said. He said something to the effect of.....

"Be excited to be home! The next phase has a lot in store! If the Lord wanted you to still be in Fiji, you would still be there." 

That one caught me a little off guard! But I felt the Spirit so strong as she read that one. Because I think a lot of people think that if you come home happy, it means you didn't enjoy your mission or serve well. But that's when I realized .... it's not true. Heavenly Father wants us to be happy at every stage of our lives. So I'm  trying my best to be just so happy! Happy that I served! Happy that I'm Home. And Happy for the future!

Then, after a fabulous farewell dinner, a powerful testimony meeting, some serious hugs and tears, and a sleepless night..... we were off! FOUR hours on a bus back out to the west. SIX hours in the airport. TEN hours on a plane to LA. FOUR hours in customs and immigration (ok, not really. But pretty close!) And TWO more hours on a plane. HOME. It was so fun to travel with the other Elders coming home with me.

But I'll always remember how my heart sank when I felt those little airplane wheels kissed the land of Fiji goodbye. The land that I just love SOOO much. With my whole heart. And part of me stayed there. It will always be there. And part of Fiji is with me! Here as I write this post. It's inside of me. Like they say.... "You can take the girl out of the island, but you can't take the island out of the girl." And I will forever be so grateful to all of the people and the experiences that changed my life. In the tiny island country right in the middle of the ocean. And most of all, I'm so grateful for my Heavenly Father. For knowing that Fiji is where I needed to be. And for sending me there. :)

I have LOVED being a missionary and I wouldn't change it for anything. And I look forward to being a missionary the rest of my life! This Gospel is true. I have absolutely seen too many miracles and too many lives changed to ever deny it. And it is absolutely BEAUTIFUL.

Loloma LEVU,
Sista Matheson :)

                     Combined Zone P-day                     
 Last ZTM
 Our cute investigators :)
Chopping Pelekina's Dread! Poor guy!
 LOVE the Kumar Family!
 Exploring Sister Kesa's new area. 
 Long Live the Suva 3rd Missionaries!
 The Louis Family :)
 "Re-Planting" our hair. It's way bad to just throw it away in island culture.
 Our Favorite Korean friend :)
 Gillian is 10 yrs. old. And she's a stellar artist!
 Sister Parata (replacing me), Sista Kesa (na luvequ), and me.
 Isa! My Tongan Family! The Koroinamuas
 Last Dinner!
 Our Out Take 
 After TWO years of no suits....
 Last Joji's by the seawall. Gonna miss this!
Ready for the BUS (LOVE THESE GIRLS!)

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Builder in His Kingdom!

Bula Vinaka! 
I never thought the day would come. The day I would write my last weekly email from Fiji. As a Missionary. Crazy. And I kind of just don't know what to say. Except that it has been wonderful. And Life Changing. And the best 19 Months of my life. And I just wish I could put it all in this email. And it still doesn't feel real that I'm going home this week. Mostly because this week has been SOOO BUSY! 
Here's a little bit of what we've been up to this week...... We went on exchanges in Samabula! Flash back to the past! And I got to be with one of my favorite Kiribati sistas! Sista Itioa! And I did a District Meeting training on grace (which probably helped me more than anyone else), then the next day we had the opportunity to participate in the Sister Training Leader Seminar and I presented a few trainings on Time Management, Exchanges, and Maintaining Your Area. And it was just so fun to reflect on all the things I learned and experiences I had as a Sister Training Leader. And then to finish off the week strong, we had a Ward Missionary Activity! A movie night complete with popcorn and "The Testaments" Friday night, then a sweet Book of Mormon workshop on Saturday that turned out to be SO fun.

Also, I don't think I've ever eaten so much food in my life. That's one thing about leaving the islands..... you eat a TON! But that's ok. Because it's delicious. And here in Fiji... FOOD = LOVE. :) 
I tore apart another delicious talk this week. It was Elder L. Tom Perry's Talk entitled Be the Best of whatever You Are. SO GOOD! And this one part that I read helped me to feel just a little bit less heart broken about taking this name tag off.......

 "Each day since the restoration of the gospel there has been greater opportunities for service in the church than there was the day before."  (*insert BIG sigh of relief)
That makes my heart so warm and happy inside because that is one of my deepest desires! I can't wait to keep serving and building and strengthening and sharing! For the rest of my life! I'll be whatever HE wants me to be and serve however HE wants me to serve. And I stand with Elder Perry when he said.... 
"Next to my family, the most rewarding experiences in my life have been Church service opportunities." .......
and ......"I give you my witness that I know by personal experience that, the more you serve the Lord, the greater are His blessings to you.  There is no greater joy than being a builder in his kingdom. I challenge you with all of the great power and potential that is within you to be the best of whatever you are!"

I will forever, forever, and FOREVER be grateful for these 19 months. These 19 months of tears and smiles! Of Struggles and Triumphs! Of learning and growing. I know that everything I did in the 21 years before my mission prepared me to be "a builder in His kingdom" here in Fiji. And the incredible experiences I've had here, have molded me into the "Builder in His Kingdom" that He wants me to be. For the rest of my life! I can't wait to keep serving. And keep building. FOREVER! I LOVE being a missionary. And although I dread the moment in the near future when I will take off this beloved badge, I'm grateful that the serving doesn't stop here. :) 
Loloma Levu, 

Sista Matheson :)

 On Exchanges with Sister Kaititi's cute family!
 THE KHANNA FAMILY! I miss them so much! 
 My project for the last 12 weeks. Some of the recent convert letters I've written! And some still to go! #handcrampsfordays
 Some of my SISTAS!
 STL Seminar! :) 
 My adorable daughter! I'm gonna miss her va'a levu SARA!

 Joeli and his family are the sweetest! They surprised me with a big huge farewell feast complete with a "Farewell Sister Matheson" cake! I just love them to pieces! 
 Preparing sandwiches, sandwiches, and more sandwiches for our Book of Mormon open house activity! 
I'm gonna miss ELDA ARTHUR! I'm glad I got to be in his district for one day. Even if it was only on exchanges!
 Isa Naomi! Our companion! I love her! :) 
 Sister Solanki is so kind and surprised us with PEACH COBBLER after our correlation meeting! YUM!
 Hiona drew me the cutest Fiji picture and even laminated it for my farewell present! COOLEST 10 yr. old EVA! 
Abby and Sister Kesa and I on the ride home! She's also our best friend.