Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Last Post

I cannot really explain what it feels like to be going home after this 18 month journey.  It really started about two years ago when a prophet of God made changes to missionary age requirements, giving me the option to drop my books, my job, and leave my friends and family for a year in a half in pursuit of a more spiritual cause.  
Announcement by Prophet Thomas S. Monson:
I am pleased to announce that effective immediately, all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19. . . .
As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service, we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.
We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty—and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service.
After waiting to get to home base in Nashville, Tennessee.  I began to apply for the journey of a lifetime.  My application, something that normally takes months, was completed in under 4 days.  I don't know how many doctor and dentist appointments I went to in those few days, but all my requirements were filled and I was healthy and spiritually capable to serve the Lord.  My application was sent to Salt Lake City.
Back at school, the big white envelope arrived in the mail.  With friends around me and family on Skype, I got the call.  "Sister Copeland, you are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."   I was about to go to the opposite side of the world.  My destination: third-world Asia.
MAY 2013
I entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.  I would receive Tagalog language training as well as teaching training.  I think it was my first day at the MTC when I really realized what I had signed up for.  For the first time I put on my black tag, something I would wear everyday for a year and a half.  It said " Sister Copeland" and under my name was the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  There is really something to wearing a name tag and giving up your first name for 18 months - it is giving up some of your personal identity and accepting to serve Jesus Christ fully.  I wasn't Leah anymore; I was a representative of Christ and His church.
I am about to be Leah again.  I cannot really believe it.  I feel like I only blinked five times on my mission - once in San Nicolas, then in Laoag, and Sanchez Mira, then in Aparri and Laoag again.  The Lord has given me the opportunity to touch a few lives during this journey and I hope they remain touched.  I love the people that I have served.   Before I became a missionary, I thought a mission was for perfect people to help imperfect people.  I have now come to realize that missionaries are on a journey leading to perfection and encourage others to join them on the way. I hope some of those I have met and taught will stick with me and not forget the eternal goal.  
This week I will board a plane, go home, be officially released as a missionary, and I will remove my nametag.  I am not sure what it will feel like.  I know I will cry a lot.  When you give up everything for 18 months, it is hard to imagine what it was like before your pre-nametag days and what it will be like in the future.  
I want to thank you.  I am grateful for the love you have sent through your prayers and mail.  I didn't really realize in October 2012 what I was about to do, what sacrifices I would be required to make, or who I would become.  I don't think I have changed that much, but I have improved myself and started a lifelong journey of coming closer to the Lord.  I thought that 18 months would be enough, but not even a lifetime provides the needed time to learn and grow.  It is a good thing that we don't finish progressing here on earth but that we will continue for the eternities.  
At sa wakas, para sa mga brothers at sisters ko sa Ilocos at Cagayan.  Mahal ko kayo at mamismiss ko kayo.  Di ko pa alam kung kailan ako makakabalik, pero hindi ko makakakalimut ang mission. Di nyo alam kung gaano kagrabe ang epekto nyo sa akin buhay.  Magtiis kayo, ah?  Narigat ti biyag ngem Ti Simbaan ket pudpudno.  Walang iba.  Kita kits sa Celestial.

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