Monday, August 2, 2010

"The true sacrifice is...coming home."

At this point, words simply fail me. Countless people, mostly members, have asked me what I think of it all and I really can't settle on just one word! I will say that this past weekend, I was certainly feeling overwhelmed with joy as well as spiritually drained. The baptism was spectacular!!!! I will never forget the look on Shawntae and her kids' faces as well as Jeff's once they came out of the water. We were all crowded around the font because we wanted to see them all get baptized, and the room where we held the service was basically standing room only. Afterwards, both Shawntae and Jeff bore their testimonies, which have come so far in the months that I have known them.

Shawntae expressed her nervousness at testifying in front of everyone, but testimony is better expressed in fewer words anyway. The main part of her testimony was this: "I am happy, as happy as I have ever been in my life." Is there really anything else that needs to be said?! Jeff talked about how, after the loss of his wife of only 4 years, he vowed he would never set foot in a church again and basically lost his faith altogether. He then said to those present, "You see now how far I've come." Sunday was a busy day, as there were 6 confirmations and a baby blessing, followed by a power-packed testimony meeting. I had the privilege of confirming 8 year-old Jaquell, who I also baptized, sharing my final testimony with the ward, and offering the closing prayer in sacrament meeting....yeah, I was busy! After I bore my testimony, I watched with awe as Shawntae went to the podium and bore her testimony yet again, and even more powerful than on Saturday!! I heard later that she did so again in Relief Society and that Jeff did likewise in priesthood. Naturally, with so many testimonies being shared over the course of 2 days, I was pretty much walking on "cloud nine" for most of the weekend!

I've come to recognize that anytime you have the Spirit and you recognize it, you are basically on "cloud nine" all of the time. Although still far from where I should be, the mission has taught me to a certain degree how to know when I have the Spirit with me and when I do not. It truly is, as the scriptures say, an "unspeakable gift." Shawntae and her family, Jeff, and the others I've taught who are now members of the Church, now enjoy that marvelous gift which can and will effect every day of their lives as they live worthy of it. The next step for all of them is, of course, to attend the temple for their own saving ordinances. I do hope to be present for as many of those as possible.

These next few days will find me doing a lot of packing, saying goodbye to people, packing, shipping things home, packing, and hopefully taking some time to ponder on these last 2 years that I have tried to consecrate to the Lord. Today we'll be having a big basketball tournament with a bunch of missionaries, and we have meal appointments with members lined up everyday through Wednesday, so that's a nice send-off. Please give my thanks to Aunt Terri and Uncle Shawn and their family for the very thoughtful package they sent. I know that Shawntae's kids will definitely enjoy the candy! Well, I can't really think of a better way to end this e-mail than closing with words that I used in my testimony in Church yesterday. They are from Alma 26:16, 28, 30, 31, 37.

16- Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yeah, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.

28- And now behold, we have come and been forth amongst them; and we have been patient in our sufferings, and we have suffered every privation; yea, we have traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world---not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.

30- And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.

31- Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.

37- Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.

I am very excited to see all of you this Friday, but it is going to be very difficult to leave all of this behind. As Mom told me at the beginning of this adventure, the true sacrifice is not leaving on a mission, it is coming back from one. I am a witness that this is true and that this experience has wrought a mighty change within me. I am much better because of it, and you as well as everyone else that has supported me is a big reason why I am where I am. Above all, the Lord has patiently taught and tutored me, and begun molding me into the person He needs me to be within His Church. As long as I have the Spirit, everything will work out as it's supposed to. Well, I will see you on Friday!!!!

4 comments:

A THORN AMONG ROSES said...

Elder Livingston, what an inspiration you have been for the last 2 years as I have read your emails. We love you and cheer that you have been part of so much good and so many conversions. Now, the next chapter of your life is about to begin and we are the fortunate ones to be able to embrace you and have you among us once again.

Best of luck with the transition and remain true to yourself and your Savior.

Love, the Landrum family

JP Anderson said...

I can say that I am very impressed in the maturity with which you speak of the true meaning of missionary work and the gospel. So few, sadly, truly understood that in my mission and I could probably say that of myself as well. I, however, am not surprised that you have grown to such maturity. You were well prepared for what lay ahead of you and all you really needed was to stay on track and time.
The words your mother spoke to you before you left are oh so true. The most bitter-sweat feeling I have ever had was when I walked around the corner in the airport next to the escalators where I knew my family was in waiting for me. I stood there and watched as the other missionaries headed down the escalator to meet their loved ones. It hit me like a speeding train that my two years of service was over and it was then that I really understood how much I loved my mission and didn't want it to end. Mom still says to this day that I stared out he window and cried all the way home because of how brown and ugly I thought Utah was in December in comparison to Chile.

shawn rowley said...

you cast a long shadow.
everywhere you have gone.
it will remain
not as a darkness
but rather luminous
as it is remembered
by all you have touched.

issac.
the people who you have affected cannot be numbered.
welcome home.

Brit said...

True words, all of them.