Hola familia y amigos!
Happy birthday Keagan and Kiera! I know Kiera's was earlier this month but I can't remember if I told her happy birthday or not...sorry if I didn't!
Does Keagan have her first date planned yet? I can't believe she's 16!!
Let me start with the most exciting news: we have a baptism coming up on the 22nd of this month!!! Well..kind of two. It's a 10 year old and her 8 year old sister from a part member family. They've been coming to church, but their mom hasn't (she's a member) and we wanted to wait until she was more involved before setting a date. When the girls found out they could be baptized so soon, they were ecstatic. We're running around like chickens with our heads cut off to get everything ready in time, but the bishop is on board and all is well! They were all at church yesterday and it was so cute to see them there together!
Saturday we did a district blitz and we went to the other sisters' area and knocked for like 2 hours with us, them, and the elders. I actually kind of like knocking, it's not very productive, but always gives us some laughs. We met quite a few nice people and passed on 4 addresses for the sisters to go visit, so hopefully that turns into something!
Thursday was MLC, and some guys from Salt Lake (like the Missionary Department or something) came down to train. COOLEST TRAINING EVER!! They actually trained on planning, which sounds horribly boring and long, which planning does tend to be, but they taught us how to be better planners and more thorough to plan for the progression of our investigators and recent converts. It was awesome! I was so excited to put it into application, so I came back and Friday during planning I explained it all to Sis. Moe-Tufaga, and we set our baptismal date that night. Not a coincidence!
I have learned to appreciate the little things way more during my mission. I know before people would laugh because I get excited about everything, but I feel like now I've developed the ability to appreciate little spiritual experiences and tender mercies from the Lord. Every week it seems like I have a super small experience that has a huge impact on me. So here's mine from this week. Maybe it isn't super small, but in the big scheme of things it isn't a huge event.
This last week was super hard, and I'm totally hitting that panic mode where people bring up that I'm going home and I nearly start crying because I'm not ready. I felt better after General Conference, but then MLC on Thursday was the best and just made me want to stay even more. I mentioned that to Sister Passey during the meeting, and told her how my extension request was rejected, to which she responded, "Do you know what President does when he has to tell you that you can't stay?" I told her no, and she said, "He goes in his office, shuts the door, and cries. When he signed you and Sister Sutherland's release letters, he cried. We would keep you the rest of our mission if they would let us, but it just can't happen." I love the Passeys SO much. And would happily stay here another 2 years and serve with them. In some ways it's helpful to know that I'm not the only one sad that I am going home in 2 weeks, but it breaks my heart because I would give anything to stay longer.
Anyway, I was feeling so bummed to be leaving, that by Saturday night I asked President Passey for permission to get a blessing. He of course said I could, and Sunday evening the elders gave me a blessing. Maybe this is more personal than I would normally post on a blog, but this was such an incredible spiritual experience that I can't not share it.
To me, priesthood blessings are a very sacred experience, and I am always reluctant to get one from anyone other than Dad, simply because they are so special to me. I've had a few on my mission, but have always asked for them from an elder that I know at least fairly well. I had thought about getting a blessing at the beginning of this transfer, but didn't feel like I could ask those that I was serving around, even though they're awesome people and great missionaries. So I didn't get one. But my district leader Elder Davies (the one who gave me the "hug") is just awesome (I decided to adopt him as my little brother just so you know) and so I felt totally comfortable asking him to give me a blessing. Nothing particularly different or significant was said in my blessing - it was all things that I already knew for the most part - but the Spirit that accompanied was the strongest I think I've felt since receiving my patriarchal blessing. I felt so much love from Heavenly Father. I know that He is so proud of me for serving a mission and knows how hard I've worked and how much I love the people here in the Arizona Tucson Mission. And He wants me to feel peace as I come home and move on with my life. I'm not to the point where I feel completely at peace yet, but this blessing was a little miracle to me. I am SO grateful for worthy priesthood holders. I'm also so grateful for the awesome missionaries I get to serve with because they have helped me and taught me so much!
Have an awesome week!
Sutherland, Blackford Budge
Outing to the Air Force Base