Monday, July 24, 2017

I Know That My Redeemer Lives: Nihon Week 72

This is it . . .  the last official email of Alyssa's mission.  I Can Not Believe It.  It is over and I have no words.  Tomorrow I board a plane to go to Japan to bring Alyssa home.  My heart is so full and I am filled with so many emotions.  I am so excited to meet so many of these amazing people that have changed Alyssa's life.  I feel so blessed for the opportunity and I am so grateful that Alyssa chose to serve a mission.  None of us will ever be the same again because of it.  I will just let Alyssa's words sum it up:
Minasan, konnichiwa! 
Well everyone...can't believe it is time to write another group email already and even harder to believe that this will be my last. Emotional wreck does not even begin to start to describe my current state of being haha. 
Monday night after P day we had the chance to meet with one of our investigators named Serika. She is a college student and is crazy busy, so being able to meet was a total blessing. She is way cute and doing well and I feel blessed to have known and taught her for the time I was in this area. I can't wait to hear what good things come from her and her progression. 
Tuesday morning we were up waaaaay early and got on a train to head to my last companion exchange down in Sennan, and I was blessed to work with the one and only Sister McGuire. One of the biggest blessings of my mission has been the chance to work with her for four transfers now, because she has truly become one of my best friends in the world. I am sure I knew her in the preexistence and I know we will be friends waaaay beyond this life, and so I am just grateful to have finally met her here! We had a super great and miraculous day, with probably the highlight being the chance we had to teach the Restoration together to a member. The Spirit was crazy strong and I was just SO moved and just became so much more grateful for Joseph Smith and the First Vision, because I know it is true with my whole heart and soul. I really felt it that day and it was a blessing to teach it like we were able to. 
Wednesday we ended the exchange and headed up to Sakai where we would be spending the next few days! That day after studies and planning and basically just figuring our lives out, we went out to go and visit tons of less actives and people to invite them to the upcoming ward party. It felt SO good to just get out and put in work in an area that I just love so much. God was so good by giving me this chance to serve in Sakai again. The evening was great because we had our classic Eikaiwa class, where this time I had to explain what "obstruction of justice" means as well as break up a fight between two students when one guy confessed he saw a man get shot when he was in New York. Well. Never a dull moment here haha. 
Thursday was another day in Sakai and it was actually pretty emotional if we are being honest. During personal study I was filling out this mission evaluation questionnaire thing that they make us do as cruel and unusual punishment, and in those moments of reflection it really hit me I was leaving. And then all the tears came and basically haven't stopped for like four days now haha but it's whatever. It was another awesome day where we had a bunch of plans, but God completely rearranged them but it ended up being miraculous and perfect. I got to teach an investigator named Hisako (the cute lady we found in the cafe) and she is still doing way great. Ahh missions are the best blessings, you make so many eternal friends and it was a blessing to be one of the first missionaries to contact and meet her. 
Friday we headed out to Hashimoto to have the last district Meeting of the transfer. Our district is sort of unique in literally half of us are going home this transfer, and so we had a great talk about goals and plans and dreams (related to the mission and not) and just how the gospel can help us achieve all of them. As I pondered that, I was just filled with so much gratitude! Every hope and dream I have has come because of this amazing gospel, and it has truly grounded me to be who I am. In the afternoon we taught the a Fukumitsu couple about Hope from PMG (this time I gave the right reading assignment haha, hurray), and then taught the Oonishi and Ueda families as usual. I love those families with my whole heart. They are so special to me and helping them come closer to Christ in even the smallest way has been such a blessing to my life. 
Saturday was insane haha. We were outside literally ALL day doing various service projects between cleaning this pond and then going and doing service in the yard of a member (which required me climbing a sketchy ladder and playing with a chainsaw, so that was fun), but it was great because I really just believe that service is the easiest and happiest way for us to feel the Spirit. It is a blessing to serve others. That evening we literally SPRINTED on and off of some trains to go BACK to Sakai where there was a Pioneer Day party and we got to help with some stuff and friendship investigators and whatnot. We met these three cute girls from Vietnam and they will start investigating in that area after coming to the party, so that was a cool and happy miracle as well! 
Sunday morning we headed back to Kawachinagano and this day was a doozy I tell you haha. As I kept having to make appointments and realize I wouldn't be there, or hug people good morning, or anything like that, it just hurt my heart. I love these people so so so much. This ward is amazing and has changed my life. I had the chance to give my last talk as a missionary about how my experiences here have brought me closer to God and my Savior, and that was emotional in and of itself for so many reasons. Lately I have been having so many crazy flashbacks of like my whole mission and everything I have learned, and I am just so crazy grateful for everything. In the evening we spent some time with the YSA and the family of the Bishop and I just love them all so much. Overall this week was just so solid. There were some hard and emotional parts to it, but also so many tender mercies. I can't count the number of times I would be sad and then receive a letter from a family member or my amazing trainer or just a small miracle from the work here. God is so good and is so so aware. 
Well folks...this is it. After 18.5 months, 14 companions, 4 areas, and millions of miracles...this Thursday I report to the mission home where I will meet my parents and be released as a full time missionary. I will spend about a week and a half here with my parents before returning to the United States on August 5th. 
It is nearly impossible to put my feelings about my mission into words, let alone try and explain it over a silly email. I have so many thoughts and emotions and things going every which way, but one thing that keeps coming to my head over and over is this quote I love by C.S. Lewis:
"We can say we believe in Christ as we believe in the sun at noonday, not that we can see it, but that by it, we can see everything else."
Of all of the miracles I have seen and people I have met and things I have experienced, the biggest testimony I can bear and the thing I am most grateful for is the chance I have had to come to see the Savior and His influence here in Japan every single day. I never saw Him personally, but I saw His light shine to touch souls shrouded in darkness, I saw His love change those who wished to repent, I saw His hope bring comfort to those with sorrow, I saw His peace soothe those in times of trouble, and I saw His doctrine and His beautiful and perfect atonement change lives again and again and again. I love my Savior Jesus Christ more than I can BEGIN to describe, and getting to know Him as His representative here has been an amazing blessing.
I know Jesus Christ lives! I know He is my Savior and I will glory in Him forever. I know He loves us infinitely and knows us personally and that His hand is ALWAYS outstretched towards us. I am so grateful for the chance I have to walk with Him here in Japan for these past 18 months and try and bring others along with me as well. 
I love you all so much and am so grateful for the prayers and support and letters and tears and everything you have all done on my behalf over the course of my mission, it means the world to me and more.
Thank you so much for everything, and I will see you all again soon, okay?? Aishiteimasu!! 
Sister Pickering 


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