Dearest family and friends,
I can't believe this day has actually come. The end is actually here. It came faster than I possibly could have imagined. But here we are. This will be the last weekly email from my mission. So sit tight!
Two highlights I wanted to share...from yesterday.
The first highlight began as I walked out of ward council to see Sister Judy Guest standing in the foyer. She came all the way from the Sunbury ward to see me on my last Sunday. It was the best thing ever!! Got to see her and hug her and be with her...it was just amazing. And the fact that she would come all the way to see me...I felt SO loved, it was incredible.
The second highlight of this week was the "Why I Believe" fireside we were apart of last night. We drove with the zone leaders, Elder Madsen and Elder Montgomery, to the mission home to hop in with President and Sister Johnson to drive to Oakland (which is in Pittsburgh). It was so crazy to be back at the mission home knowing I would be there within the next 48 hours (less now...time is sure ticking...). The fireside was packed with the Spirit, as they always are. It was again bittersweet realizing that would be my last fireside as a missionary. For the closing song we sang "As Sisters in Zion/We'll Bring the World His Truth". I held it together pretty well, but as soon as we sat down for the closing prayer, the tears started flowing. Then Sister Snow (from Pitt 3rd) ran up to the front and gave me a huge hug. (It was basically like getting a hug from you, mom....I'll get one of those in a few days ) The Spirit was there and I just felt overcome with it and feelings of love and appreciation for all the people I have met on my mission. (Speaking of people I love, I also saw Sister Eichenmiller and Bishop Snow...it was just so good and so needed.)
I couldn't even begin to describe the feelings I have in my heart right now. It is such a mix of sadness, joy, mourning, excitement, anxiety...the list could go on. It is a tug-of-war of not wanting this part of my life to end, and being excited and hopeful for the next chapter God has in store for me. I wouldn't wish this roller coaster of emotions on anyone! And yet a new set of missionaries survives it every 6 weeks. Incredible.
I thought that serving a mission would, in a very small way, give back to my Heavenly Father and Savior for what They have given me and done for me. But in reality, the blessings they have poured out in my behalf are unparalleled. I will forever be in Their debt. My mission has changed me in so many ways, in ways I couldn't even put into words. I am a different and better person for serving a mission. I am closer to my Heavenly Father and Savior than I ever have been before. My feet have been planted on gospel sod, and I am committed to Him. And though I may not be able to wear this physical name tag forever, His name is written, is engraved on my heart forever.
Something I've been thinking about a lot is the following verses I grew up hearing from the 18th section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
I never realized that the one soul brought unto Christ could mean myself. I always assumed it was talking about bringing someone else to Christ. But through my mission, I have brought *my* soul to Christ. I can confidently say I am truly converted to Him and His gospel. That I have come unto Christ as I have studied His words and tried to be like Him. He has become even more real and tangible to me. His Spirit and His love and His Atonement have become more tangible to me. And I will never be the same. Along the way, I have been able to help others come closer to Christ which has been a beautiful sight to see.
"Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come..." (D&C 31:3)
My 18-month mission here in Pennsylvania is coming to an end, but my life's mission is just beginning. And the best part is that I now have a solid foundation built on my Savior and a skill set that will help me throughout the rest of my life.
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7)
The best is yet to come. And as I've been told a few different times these past few months: "Your best days are ahead of you, not behind you." Holding on to the hope that comes from that.
I know that this Church is true. I know this gospel is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know it with every fiber of my being. I know the Book of Mormon is the very word of God. That book has changed my life, it has been a saving grace on my mission. I know that I am a daughter of God. I know that His plan is perfect, even for me, as His imperfect daughter. I know that His plan is bigger and better than anything I could ever plan for myself. I know that Jesus Christ lives. He is my Rock, my Redeemer, and my Best Friend. I love Him with all that I am. And I will spend the rest of my life striving to help others come closer to Him and come to know Him.
Well, I guess that's about it, folks. Next time I talk to you will be in person have an amazing few days and I'll see you on Wednesday!!! Never forget that a missionary that served here in the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission will LOVE YOU FOREVER!!!!!!
"Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever." (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland)
LET'S GO SAVE THE WORLD.
See yinz soon,
Sister Bartlett xoxo
With the Flaus Family - Good times!
We got to hold baby kittens - so sweet!
With George - So proud of him, he has come a long way!
With Sister Wiehler - she threw me a surprisegoing away party! She's Amazing!!
With Sister Guest who drove all the way from Sunbury to Canonsburgto see me one last time and say Goodbye! She's Incredible!!
Lunch on the Elders Porch :)
With Sister Belnap!