Saturday night we got a phone call from our District Leader who told me that I was leaving Lake Charles. If my memory serves me correctly, here's how I responded:
*throws phone down*
*runs into bedroom closet*
Yes, yes I think that's how it went.
Seriously. Sometimes I handle things well. Other times, I don't.
Leaving Lake Charles is proving itself to be the hardest thing I've had to do on my mission. This place is my home. This people are my family (away from family). How amazing that God gives us the capacity to love these people SO MUCH that when we have to leave them we cry for an unspecified amount of hours, and also possibly all the way through church the following day.
But before I get into that, a few other things.
#1 Christmas Conference
So on Wednesday ALL the missionaries in the Texas Houston East mission - which is roughly 180 missionaries - all filed into a chapel near Houston for our annual mission conference, where a lot of missionaries proved themselves far more musically talented than the rest of us, but where I showed everyone else up with my dessert consumption skills. Ok so maybe I was out-desserted by some elders, but seriously - desserts. SO MANY DESSERTS. But in all seriousness, Christmas Conference was amazing. Our mission president and his wife addressed us, and then they also had a number of recent converts come and share their stories to remind us of what this work is all about. And then we also got to watch a movie - YES A MOVIE - a pioneer movie called Ephraim's Rescue. I've come to the conclusion that a missionary audience is any entertainer's dream audience, because of course we've all been so entertainment deprived that basically every cheesy one liner is the best line ever and every joke is the funniest joke ever and when somebody dies it's the most tragic dramatic death ever. No joke. And then a member who is from Australia (and so who at several points said such things as "bloody" and "bugger" in front of 180 missionaries plus their mission president, haha) came and played the bagpipes for us in the chapel, which was pretty brilliant. And what's more, since all the missionaries were there, I got to see my mommy again! My mission mommy, that is - Sister Barton. Missions are amazing in that you just come to love SO MANY people be them members or investigators or other missionaries, and it means so much to see them again.
#2 Ward Christmas Party
So earlier this year we had our ward halloween party - or "fall fest" - which is always the biggest event of the year, and after it was over, Bishop Gibson told the whole ward council that his goal was to make the Christmas activity the biggest, and let me tell you - it happened. We had well over 200 people there in attendance, including an entire local choir that received "Joy to the World" DVDs as thank you presents.
Really fast, story about the DVDs. So all 20 of these DVDs had to be obtained by Sister Johnson and myself, so we ordered them from mission supplies and were supposed to pick them up at Christmas conference, but then some other set of missionaries must've accidentally picked them because we were 2 hours away from the conference when my head popped up and I was like "oh no. DVDs." So then we started frantically calling people to try and collect all the DVDs we needed, and the elders who are in Orange, TX told us they had like 10 and so we were like "ok we need to take them!" and they told us that since they were going to be gone from their apt the rest of the night we would just need to break in through the window and get them. So Sister Johnson and I get to their apartment and find their apartment window that is left unlocked (after we may or may not have tried breaking into their neighbor's apartment...awkward) but the best part was that as leapt from the car to hurry and break into the apartment, Sister Johnson goes - "wait, we need our Books of Mormon!" (since we always have to have one in hand) so we hurried up and grabbed our Books of Mormon because if anyone was to see us breaking into an apartment, we wanted to be sure they knew we were Mormon missionaries! Oh missionary life.
But anyways, back to the party.
So it was a HUGE success. There was lots of gumbo. Lots of people. Lots of singing. Possibly an un-practiced musical number by the missionaries (which may or may not have been recorded somewhere...let's hope not) and then lots of dessert. Because it's Christmastime, and there better be lots of dessert no matter the function. But it was absolutely AMAZING to be part of that, to see how much this ward has grown and how much this ward is doing and just how on FIRE it is with missionary efforts. Absolutely incredible.
What better way to end my time in Lake Charles than with another baptism? Saturday night, Kristy got baptized. Kristy is the cousin of a member in our ward, whose family we've become SUPER close to. Basically whenever we show up for dinner they have another person for us to teach. It's my favorite thing ever. But Kristy is amazing. We first met Kristy when she sat in on a few of Anabelle's final lessons before her baptism, which means that Kristy's first lesson was the Law of Chastity, which she agreed to living, and then the next day was the Word of Wisdom, which she also agreed to living - before she even knew who Joseph Smith was. Like I said, she's amazing. And on Saturday she was baptized! It was so incredible. Baptisms are just seriously some of the most wonderful experiences ever - to see how happy these people are, to see how much they want to be baptized, and to see them feeling the Spirit that is there...there is just nothing that can possibly compare to it. It was about 3 weeks from the time we first met Kristy to her baptism. That is pretty fast. And it goes to show us how much God has prepared these people for us, how much his children are ready to hear about Him and receive His gospel as long as we are there willing and ready to share it. I love Kristy SO MUCH. And I loved seeing her all dressed in white, entering those waters of baptism, and realizing all those blessings that lie ahead of her as she enters on this path.
Basically, missionary work is the best.
Even though sometimes you have to say goodbyes. The best part is that I've already had an offer from a family to build an addition to their house so I can come back and live here after my mission is over, which I think sounds like a perfectly good plan - even though my family at home may disagree :D
I LOVE YOU ALL! I am so excited for the adventures that await me wherever I go next, but more importantly I am so grateful for the time I've had here. And saying goodbye is hard, yes, but what's more important is that we just TRUST in God. Seriously. That's #1. Trust God. LOVE EVERYONE. And eat gumbo. And you're good.
Sister Bayley Enright