Last Email! Beautiful Testimony! Homecoming April 20th 1:00!!
Priesthood session is televised now? Wow. Well I don't have a lot of news this week. And we are planning to make the most of my last pday here in Portugal. :) We are going with the AP's to Rodizio, and then bowling. :) We are pretty excited. This last week went by really fast because me and Elder Denney had so many meetings! We had mission council, a meeting with the stake president, a meeting with the branch president, our zone meeting. It was just meeting after meeting, and then General Conference weekend to top it all off! And seeing as General Conference in Portugal is basically all day S, we were at the chapel from to 10 p.m.
Conference was incredible! I really enjoyed Elder Eyring's talk on being a worthy role model, also Elder Hallstrom's talk about being changed, and not falling into the attitude of "that's just how I am" and finally the talk on gratitude...that I think was by Elder Uchtdorf. It was a great conference! I really enjoy conference, especially because it also gives you an idea of what God wants for the world to work on at this moment. I'm also expect something big to be announced! My first general conference in the mission was when the mission age got changed! Since then I always expect something big to happen!
With this email I would like to share with you a learning experience that I had this last week, and leave with you my final testimony over email. This last week it had been raining the entire week. However, despite the rain, me and Elder Denney still worked with happy attitudes, knowing that the Lord had been blessing us immensely this final transfer. Everything was going great and we still had Lili's baptism to look forward to the following week! Life could not be better! Friday afternoon while we were proselyting in the pouring rain we had received a phone call from Lili. She called telling us that her uncle had murdered her aunt, and then committed suicide. Their family was leaving the next day to Germany for the next two weeks to be with the family and attend the funeral. This shattering news took me and Elder Denney down into a sudden mode of discouragement. We immediately went over to Lili's house and taught her one last time as she told us that she would not be back in time for her baptism. Unfortunately, we did not rise up from this occasion with the attitudes that we should have. We "gave up" that day. In our disappointments we allowed the adversary to tempt us into complaining and pulling the whole "why me?" routine. I know. We should definitely have known better. But unfortunately, we let this news affect our attitudes that day. It would have affected me throughout the rest of my mission, had the Lord not intervened. After having given up that day, and working aimlessly, not really putting forth much effort, the next day I woke up and I could feel Satan start to say, "Why wake up on time? You have nothing to work towards now. There is no baptism at the end of your mission, and you might as well just keep the casual attitude towards missionary work now..." Fortunately, I ignored that voice and got up on time. I went into the exercise room and sat down in the armchair, with no intentions to do exercises. I was still quite discouraged. Exercises was such a small mission rule, and I was sure that I wouldn't be penalized for not exercising. During this thought process, I felt the Lord intervene. Suddenly thoughts such as "am I really going to let this upset destroy the rest of my mission? Am I going to let this keep me from ending my mission diligently and with honor?" Although it doesn't seem like much, the feelings that came with these thoughts brought me to realized that the Lord has been SO good to me in my last transfer. Although I was so excited to have Lili be my final baptism in the mission, I had failed to show forth the gratitude that the Lord deserved for all of the blessings that he had blessed us with. He had given us 4 baptisms in my last transfer. This already is a huge deal! From that point I jumped out of the chair and began exercises and I began to face the rest of the mission with a happy attitude, doing my best to push out discouraging thoughts. I now see this entire experience as a powerful lesson from the Lord on gratitude. While I was only worried about receiving one more blessing, one more baptism, I had failed to be filled with joy and recognize that the Lord has already blessed me with such an incredible ending! What could I wish more? And as a token of my gratitude, I put away the attitude that I had, and I look forward to the final week of my mission, working hard and with a happy attitude, despite the fact that there will not be a baptism this week! May we all remember to count our blessings, no matter what the circumstances are! This lesson I learned was then complimented with Uchtdorf's talk on gratitude!
Finally, I would like to leave my testimony. At the beginning of my mission, I had a very hard time. I suffered. I wanted so much to give up. Not too far into my mission I had told you that I had no idea why I was sent here. I figured that I would be of much better use in a mission that spoke English. You sent me an email that I have never since forgotten. You told me that as you prayed fervantly for my cause, you felt that I would know exactly why I was sent to Portugal. However, you felt that it wouldn't be until towards the end of my mission that I would receive my answer. Well, about a month ago, I received that answer.
As I was reading in the Liahona during my personal studies, I came across a talk by an Elder from the seventy. He talked about missionary work. In the very beginning he had talked about the miracle of the mission. He said something that touched me deeply and was the answer to the question I had posed 2 years ago. I don't remember the paragraph word for word, but I do remember which part touched me the most. He said something along the lines of: "God knows exactly what mission president we need, which investigators we need, which members, which less actives, which companions we need to become who he wants us to become. To become the priesthood holder, husband, and father that he needs us to be." This struck me and as I thought about all of the people that the Lord has led me to in my mission, and as I think about everything that I have learned from my mission president and his wife, I know exactly why I came here to Portugal. My mission has been a trial and a blessing. I will be eternally grateful for this mission. A couple days ago I read a letter that you sent me at the beginning of my mission. You said, "The process is hard. But the outcome will change eternity." I am a testimony to this phrase.
I know that Jesus Christ lives. I love Him. I have come to know Him in a personal way that has molded me and allowed me to gain my own personal testimony of His gospel. He has been with me through every step of the way. Through the dark moments. Through the happy moments. I have seen His gospel change the lives of people who I have come to love. He is our Savior and Redeemer. He truly did take upon our infirmities, and He will come again. Heavenly Father loves us. He has a plan for the salvation of every single one of His children. If we follow that plan, we will indeed return to live with Him. Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration. I am so grateful for what he did. Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's chosen prophet and leads His church in these days. How grateful I am for the experiences that have led me to a burning testimony that these things are true!
I love you, I am so grateful for all of the things that you have done for me while I have been away. I know that our family has been blessed. Thank you for everything! I am very excited to see everyone again! I'll see you in a week! :) Love you!!
Elder Colton Wayne Richins