Hi friends and family. I know I haven't posted Lee's missionary letters since he returned to the field, but thought this was worth sharing. It is excerpts from his Christmas e-mail. It is the best gift a mother could receive for Christmas. It is long, but I hope that you will each take the time to read it and feel of our Savior's love as you do so! Lee loves you — as do we! xoxo — Carolann
WOW! This week felt like a dream it was just SO AWESOME!! And it was such a blessing being able to talk to the whole family and share laughs and smiles. Sure LOVE all of you and appreciate more than you know all you have done for me this year. It has been a rollercoaster to say the least but I know it has brought our family closer together and we are stronger because of it. I know personally, I am a lot stronger, feel the love of the Savior more, have a greater understanding of the atonement, and understand people and their situations better.
.....This week we had some great lessons, but there is so much else to talk about I'll focus just on a couple things. One of the most Important, if not THE MOST important, Besides Christmas itself and the Birth of Christ, was JOHN'S BAPTISM! :) OH MY GOSH SO AWESOME! This week we helped him prepare for it, trying on the clothes, discussing his worries, what he needed to bring, and he even asked us to give him a blessing the night before. He is the most prepared person I've ever met for Baptism.
Saturday, Christmas Eve, we drove to Pittsford, about 30 minutes away from Canandaigua, and had the Baptism at our Christmas Mission Conference. We had probably around 150 to 180 missionaries, senior couples, mission president and family and counselors and family there. We then had around 20 Members that came from the Daigua to support John. It was sooooo awesome! John had asked our Stake President to conduct, and he closed the service by saying how never had he seen or even imagine such a army missionaries and members coming to a baptism before. It was memorable, for sure!
A member of the ward spoke on Baptism. He is a recent convert and we sure love him. He's doing great and did great at the baptismal service. We then performed the baptism and lets just say John was the happiest guy there he was glowing. As I said the prayer, immersed him in the water, and when he came out he just had the biggest smile on his face. He gave me a big hug and right away said so sincerely, "I love you man!" I'm Never ever going to forget those words and that experience. I love Brother John more than words can describe. He is my friend. Someone I only met 3 or so months ago that has a big soft spot in my heart. He is an example to me of a true believer, and what a glorious day it was. After the hug he put his hands up with excitement with a big ol' smile on his face. :
The rest of the service went awesome. My other favorite part though was when John got up to bear his Testimony. He shared how he had been waiting for this day for a long time. How he feels the spirit so strong and he loves his brother in Heaven, Jesus Christ so, so much. He is CONVERTED to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of his reasons for wanting to be baptized is to be sealed one day, for time and all eternity, to his wife who passed away. He shared how he is excited to help more people and help them come unto this great gospel.
We then had the rest of our mission conference that day. We took a mission picture, did a gift exchange, had lunch, and had a little conference on Jesus Christ being Christmas. President asked us "what do you want to get out of Church tomorrow? It's His meeting. What do you want to learn? And what do you want to DO for him?" I pondered that, as the musical numbers were played and sang, and I thought back to about a year ago when I had a conversation with a fellow missionary in Portugal. We were talking, and this was when I was pretty beaten up, pretty low, pretty unhealthy. I said, "I have always Known this Church and Gospel is true because of attending church, reading the Book of Mormon, etc. It just makes sense. After reading the Book of Mormon, it just HAS TO BE TRUE. It just HAS to be true. If this Church isn't true, there is no other out there that could be. But I too want to KNOW without a doubt, that this is HIS Church, run by Christ Himself, through a very Spiritual experience and an understanding of Coming to KNOW HIM. I Know I have had times in my life, living this gospel, that I have felt the spirit here and felt the spirit there, testifying to me that this is the truth, but I've never heard a voice like some have, I've never had this Huge Experience that others have had. Why not? By the end of my mission, I want to KNOW that this is HIS church because it won't be sufficient in these last days to just believe and hang on to saying, "It's true because it just makes sense". That isn't going to be enough. We ALL Need to be CONVERTED to His Gospel and actually KNOW our Savior."
Well, I'm here to say today that I've had that experience. Yesterday, on Christmas day, after a whole year of ups and downs, I KNOW that this is His Church, Christ's Church, and I have had that experience, an experience that will carry with me for the rest of my life. As we were called up to confirm John as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and as we put our arms on each others shoulders as Melchizedek priesthood holders of God, and placed our other Hands on Johns head, the spirit was as real as if I could see it. The confirmation blessing I gave was what God wanted said, but also what God wanted me to feel and Know was true. The spirit in our Chapel was so strong. Later in the day, the Bishop came up to me and shared how much he loved the confirmation blessing. And right then, a man I don't know too well in the church, who is usually quite shy, stopped while walking passed us, looked at me and said reverently and sincerely, "Oh my, The spirit that was in that room while that blessing was there was so, so strong. I could feel it."
Being the last email I will write this year in 2016, and being a year full of many ups and downs, I want all of you to know, that I KNOW this is His Church. This is His Gospel. What I said to my missionary friend just one year ago, of coming to know that for myself, and not just have a superficial knowledge, has been answered, by my Father in Heaven. It maybe was not, no it DEFINITELY was not the plan I wished for. Coming home from my mission in Portugal, being beaten and broken, confused and feeling like my testimony was getting shattered, but it was HIS PLAN for me. He could see what I needed in my life to become a life-long Disciple of Jesus Christ and He allowed me to go through exactly what I needed to go through to achieve that.
I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I know that He Knows me, as He knows each and everyone of us. He is the head of this Church. He leads and guides us through a prophet on this earth, Thomas S. Monson. He broke the bands of death and He died for each and everyone of our sins here in this life. I know He has felt every pain that I have felt, am feeling, and will feel for the rest of my life, and I am beyond grateful for all that He has done for me.
I hope your Chirstmas was centered on Him. I hope next Christmas and all to come will be centered on Him, and that we all can remember what we felt this week, yesterday on His day, for the year and our lives to come.
Love and miss you all! I owe all of you a whole lot for all you have helped me through. Thank you. Sure Love you! :) Merry Christmas one last time!