Oh my goodness, oh my goodness! Some pretty unexpected news was received last Saturday night... But first, the week! So last Monday we had an activity as a zone and we had a grand old time! I mostly played 4-square. It is a lot more competitive than I remember it from my childhood! We went to eat dinner with the Picuasi family for dinner and afterwards, they gave us some jackets from Ecuador! I got one with llamas all over it! Haha it is the best jacket I've ever owned. Tuesday morning, Elder Garner went to a meeting for all the missionaries currently in their first transfer. Usually the trainer accompanies them, but the assistants told me not to worry about it! He said the meeting went well though. Haha a pretty funny thing happened later that night! We had set up a dinner with an investigator, but with no man in the house, we had planned to bring our ward mission leader with us. We called the investigator at 6:10 to confirm for 6:30 and she said we were still fine to come over. So we naturally then called and confirmed with our ward mission leader. But 5 minutes later she called us back and cancelled. So, we called our ward mission leader and cancelled. He then called us back and told us that "the mother of the missionaries (his wife)" was demanding that we came over to eat dinner with them! So we did. And it was delicious! Tortas Cubanas! We then visited a recent convert and he told us his sister had recently come to America from El Salvador, but was caught by immigration in Texas. We knelt and said a prayer with him that all would go well. And by the next day, it was all figured out! Prayers work! The following day, we had district meeting! My last one here in Raleigh and my last one being a district leader! I talked about how hope is found in the gospel and proceeded to explain how literally hope is found in "tHe gOsPEl". Pretty neat! We had an incredible dinner that night. Probably my most favorite of the entire mission so far. We had all of the elders in our ward together and there were two families combing skills to cook a feast. We had buckets, and I mean buckets, of meat, plates after plates of rice and beans, and about 40 cheese filled empanadas. And as if that wasn't enough, they made us homemade cheesecake! Not just one, but 4 of them! Wow, we were so sick afterwards. Elder Niko threw up pretty bad and the rest of us weren't too far from him.. I think I gained about 5 pounds from that meal. But it was worth it! We finished the night by visited a family we felt prompted to stop by and found the dad home! We had yet to actually sit down with him and share our message, but finally got the chance. After sharing the message of the Restoration with him, he turned to his children and testified to the truthfulness of our words. He made each of his children promise they would read the Book of Mormon every single day. It was a spiritually-thrilling lesson. The following day we went on exchanges with the other missionaries in our district and had some neat experiences. We stopped by a different recent convert we had felt strongly to visit and read a chapter out of the Book of Mormon with her. As we testified at the close of the lesson, she began to cry. The Spirit filled our mouths with words as we witnessed the Lord console this woman through our visit. We then went to visit a former investigator we felt led to, but were surprised to find the house completely abandoned. But we followed the advice of President James and knocked 10 doors around the neighborhood. We found a new investigator!! It was a great exchange. The next morning I woke up with a bunch of bumps on my head because somewhere during the night I had attempted multiple times to sit up. And being on the bottom bunk does not make that an enjoyable experience in the slightest.. But! I had an incredible personal study so it made up for it! I have had a question about the gospel for the past few weeks and had yet to find an answer! It occurred to me that day that I had not prayed and asked the Lord. As I did so, knowledge flooded my heart and mind and my understanding grew as did my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That afternoon we got the special opportunity to help the mission office pick up some new cars!! They drove us down to the Chevy dealership and we each got to drive back a brand new 2017 Malibu!! It was an incredible ride. So I guess that means my driving privileges aren't getting taken away! It actually seems that they trust my driving a great deal! We had dinner that night with the Madrid family and I did a tie trade with him for a beautiful red polka dot tie. We then tried going to a lesson we had again set up with a member, but the investigator wasn't home! So we knocked doors with the member and though none of them opened, we had a great time. Saturday was one of the busiest days of my mission! We have been in a mad-dash to finish the 12-week training program by tomorrow. We had done a few hours of it Saturday morning, but had to go to the mission home so that both Elder Garner and Elder Summers could have interviews with President James. We ate lunch there with the assistants as provided by Sister James and then came back home afterwards. We had a baptism later that night for a family I used to teach and had to quickly get ready for it, including me hemming Elder Niko's baptism pants. We then headed to the church and as we pulled into the parking lot, we received a phone call. It was President James. He asked Elder Summers if he could hand the phone to me and nervous for what was coming, I slowly put it to my ear. President told me that he was calling me to be a zone leader. Down in Wilmington. I was completely taken by surprise. Out of the 7 zones in the mission, there are only 2 zones that have Spanish-speaking zone leaders. Wilmington is not one of them! It is an English-speaking area. There has never before been a Spanish zone leader there.. So I will be the first. President told me that I might find a few Hispanics down there and that if I can find enough success, we can possibly start a Spanish group or a branch. He told me that "we need to keep the Wilmington zone the best zone of the mission." He said "it will take your leadership to do that." I thanked him for the chance and ended the phone call. I felt like the wind had just been knocked out of me. We went into the church and got the baptism ready. It was a great service! I played the piano for it and as well was part of the musical number. When our Bishop's wife stood up and gave the talk on baptism in her Spain-Spanish, it brought me to tears. I was very grateful to have been sitting in the back row because I was sobbing uncontrollably. The reality of it hit me that a big part of my mission, a big part of my heart, was getting taken away from me. I have come to love the Spanish language more than I would have ever thought possible. But with faith, I continue forward! I know that the Lord knows what I can do and what I need to do to help me grow. Yesterday morning, we received all of the transfer news from the assistants and have been letting people know who is leaving. I was able to confirm the two that were baptized members of the church in Sacrament Meeting and it was a touching experience. I got many pictures with many of the members of the ward and then went home to do more 12-week. We had dinner with the Bishop and his family and had an incredible Spanish meal. Straight from Spain! We took pictures afterwards and they put some Spain-music onto my USB. We finished off the week by visiting Josie and her family one last time. We took a picture together and said our goodbyes. I told her that I wanted her to have something. I then reached to my chest and took off my name tag. Her eyes widened and immediately filled with tears. She began weeping as she told me that she will keep it with her for the rest of her life. I thanked her, also through tear-filled eyes, for all of the experiences I have had with her and her family. She gave me the biggest hug and we left. I walked away from that house feeling as though I had truly left a piece of my heart with that family. I have watched them go through it all. I remember the day I found them to the day I had the sacred privilege of standing in the waters of baptism with them. Among the blessings, miracles, and experiences we have as missionaries, I believe there is one thing we all must do from time to time that takes the most courage. One thing that truly tests your level of faith, your ability to hope, and your strength to endure. And that is the inevitable and inescapable process of saying goodbye. Yet it is in the midst of these moments that we can stand tall next to Nephi and say that though "[we] do not know the meaning of all things, [we] know that [God] loveth his children."
Saying goodbye to a place he calls home,