Can you believe it? This is it. The last weekly letter. The last P-day.
Our apartment is in shambles right now as I am trying to get everything packed. We have been out and about printing pictures and fixing my boots and watches. All around me I see people, sights, moments that I am realizing that I won't see again... Some that I will miss dearly, others not quite so much. Today as we did repairs on my watches, the repairman told me how much it cost, then said that if he could kiss me, it would be free. Even though I clearly understood, I responded with an innocent, "Sorry, I'm from America, I didn't understand that" then enjoyed when the lady from the next booth over chewed him out for creeping on innocent American Girls... I probably won't miss the creepy Ukrainian guys that follow me everywhere, but I think I will miss the "innocent American" card that I could always play :)
This week was full of so many crazy emotions, happy, sad, surprised... Everything!
The Elders and the members planned and threw a surprise going away party for me. Friday, we usually have our missionary meeting with the Ward Mission Leader, Brat Roman. On Friday, we arrived at the meeting a little late (now I know why...) and Roman was standing by the door. He told us that he had something that he needed to show us and led us into the Sacrament Hall. When I walked in, I heard, "Surprise!" and the lights turned on and there was balloons, and posters, and flowers, and all of my favorite people here from Brovary. I did not even know what to do or to think. I was in shock. They had made a slideshow of pictures from my whole mission and we all watched that, and then everyone shared their favorite memories of me... I don't know that I have ever blushed more in my life! Everyone had presents for me and I don't think I have ever felt more loved in my life. But the surprises didn't end there! When it was time for treats, the Elders told me that they had made gluten free brownies! I asked them how they had done that, and they told me that about 2 weeks ago, they had been in the office and saw that Sister Leavitt's Dad had left Brownies for me (thanks!). They took them home with them, but didn't give them to me and instead kept them as a surprise until the party. Sneaky elders! Combine that with the fact that they pulled off a surprise party...sneaky elders. They're the best haha.
This week we spent a lot of time saying goodbye to the members, to my investigators and to my friends. It's hard to say goodbye! But I know that at some point, I will see all of them again! Also, Mom and Dad, I gave pretty much everyone an open invitation to come to our house...so I hope that is ok for you! :) Ukrainians have a special tradition of saying what they desire for you when you leave, so I don't even think that I can count the number of times where someone has wished me "A handsome husband, many children, and good health". It's so cute. Also, they all say to pass on to my parents that they raised a fantastic daughter :)
One cool moment is when I called up a family that I hadn't seen in months, nonmembers. I invited them to the church to say goodbye and when they came, they told me how much they appreciated that I introduced them to the church, and took home with them all the recent Liahona magazines and everything else that they could see!
This week, I studied and thought a lot about what I have done on my mission, who I have become, how I have changed. I thought about success and what it means to be a successful missionary. In Preach My Gospel, it says that, "You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you". I realized that I have so often felt the Spirit working through me on my mission. Although my mission has been much different than I ever could have imagined, it has been wonderful, and I wouldn't change my experiences and what I have learned for anything else in the world. My mission was perfect for me. I'm so glad that I served a mission and choose to serve a mission! Yesterday, I was blessed with a special tender mercy to let me know that the Lord is pleased with my work. Right before Sacrament meeting started, I was asked to share my testimony in the meeting and say goodbye. I said a quick prayer and asked that I could share what the Lord would have me say and that the people would understand what I said and what I meant. When I got up to bear my testimony, I felt the Spirit so strongly, and I felt so confident. The words and thoughts that I wanted to say came easily to my head. While I was speaking, I felt what I needed to say and how to say it in Russian. When I finished, I realized that it wasn't me that was suddenly so great at Russian and such an eloquent speaker, but that it was the Lord speaking through me. After the meeting, one Sister from the ward came up and said, "Sister Ford, your testimony was exactly what I needed to hear today. You helped me feel comfort. When you spoke, you spoke perfectly, your Russian had no mistakes. You said exactly what we needed to hear. The Lord spoke through you to us." What a tender mercy to be an instrument in the hands of God to help the people here! I LOVE being an instrument of God and allowing the Spirit to work through me to help others!
I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY! Although my nametag will come off soon, my missionary work never has to end! I can keep sharing the gospel for my whole life, not because I have to, but because I want to! I know that this Gospel is true! It will bless the lives of anyone that lives by it! I know that God lives, that he answers prayers, that He loves each and every one of us! I know that His Son, Jesus Christ is our Savior. His Atonement is a real power and will help us in times of need. It gives us strength when we can't do any more! This Gospel was restored through Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ! This gospel is true, I know it! I LOVE IT! I love my Savior and no matter what comes next or ever, I will follow Him!
I love you all! I can't wait to see you soon! I can't wait to see my family at the airport!
See you in about 55 hours (I think?!?!?)!
Sister Kati Ford