Sunday, January 4, 2015

Full Circle

Kamusta na kayo? This is coming live from the ice box we call Utah! Yep. I'm back in Utah. 18 months has come and gone and it kinda feels like it was all a dream. But then I open the door and get hit by a wall of freezing coldness and I know that it's real life and 18 months of miracles and Shalee-changing experiences really did happen. Because of the holiday, we left a day early and didn't get a chance to email so I wanted to send out one final update to all of you lovely people!
Our last week in the field we had Christmas zone conference, which is always fun, and I got to bear my last testimony. I was really worried about it because how do you put 18 months worth of experience into a 1 minute testimony? But then I realized that a simple testimony is often the most powerful. As each of the departing missionaries shared their simple testimonies, the spirit filled the room and I realized that the things I used to say I knew were things that I had hoped and believed were true. As I said them this time, I KNEW they were true.

The thing is, I've learned and felt and experienced so much that I'm not sure how to convey it all to you. I remember in the MTC our district read Alma 26 together and when our teacher asked me what I liked about it I replied with verse 16: "...Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." The Elders thought it was a pretty clever way of getting out of answering. But I was serious. And 18 months later, I stand by that statement even more so. I don't know how to put into words the feelings that I have about the mission. But if I had to pick just one thing that I learned, it would be about the atonement.
It's funny how things really came full circle. In my 2nd week in the field, I was really struggling. I was sure I couldn't do it for 18 months. I was ready to get back on the plane and head back to what I knew. But then President Peterson gave me a talk, "In the Strength of the Lord" by Elder Bednar. And as I studied and applied the enabling power of the atonement, I came to understand that I indeed COULD do it. Because my Savior had already done it, He'd already made it possible. And He could strengthen me above and beyond what I could do on my own. At my last zone meeting, we were given that very talk yet again and challenged to teach everyone about that enabling power. As I did so, I came to realize that my whole mission was centered around the atonement of Jesus Christ. I realized that though I had known about my Savior before, I know knew Him. I am so thankful for the testimony of the atonement that I have gained because I know that just because the mission is over, doesn't mean I have reached perfection and experienced every trial I will ever face. Perfection really isn't the point. The goal is constant, never-ending progression. I am excited to continue on in my journey towards constant, never-ending progression. I know that my Savior lives. I know that He loves us each individually. I know that He made the way possible to return to our Heavenly home through His atoning sacrifice. I know that God's plan is perfect and that there is never a time in which we are left alone. I know prayers are heard and answered. I know that God called a prophet to restore His true church to the earth and that that prophet was Joseph Smith and through the power of God He translated the Book of Mormon. I love the Book of Mormon and I know that it contains the answers to the questions we all have in life. I know that families are forever. And I will never regret the decision to serve a full-time mission. Because of it, I learned how to truly love. And I encourage anyone who desires to do so to take that step of faith and just do it. I love you all forever and I am so thankful for all of the support that you have given to me over the last 18 months. So many times I literally felt the power of your prayers for me strengthening me. Thank you.

XOXO, Sister Shalee Brown

P.S. The wonderful Sister Peterson sent this to me in my first month in the Philippines. It pretty much describes how I feel.
As I stared out the window in silence
and wiping the tears from my eyes
I see all the faces of those that I love
we had just said our last good-byes.
The ride was long and trying
And two questions were plaguing my mind
Do I want the life that lies ahead
or the one that I just left behind.
Eighteen months is such a long time,
But others have given much more.
It’s contagious, this desire to keep driving on,
And hope for the very next door.
In no time at all you cherish each day,
The work is replaced with a song
All the good you can do, today’s not enough
There’s more and then more as time goes on.
As I sit once again reflecting
That the time has so swiftly gone by
It’s strange how this feeling’s familiar
And I blush cause I’m starting to cry.
As I stare out the window in silence
Wiping the tears from my eyes
I see all the missionaries and the contacts I love
We have just said our last good-byes
The ride was long and trying
And two questions were plaguing my mind
Do I want the life that lies ahead
Or the one that I just left behind.
 I didn't exactly believe it at first. But I believe it now.

The Vilela Family
Farewell FHE

Cock Fighting Arena by our house

Sister Gigi Minas


Sis. Anna Borlaza

Christmas Dinner

Right after Sis. Tzanis took Sis. Rose down

Last Batch Picture

Christmas Morning

Christmas Zone Con 2014

Sis. Lisaca and her 2 Nanays

"We're going home!" face

Matching House Skirts!