Saturday, January 7, 2017

FInal Blog Post

I know that everyone is happy that I am home but in reality I think that my mission coming to an end hasn’t just been hard for me, it’s been hard on the whole family…so low and behold Mom requested that I write one last blog post. We all just don’t want it to be over!!! It has been an interesting couple of weeks since I have been home. Just today I went and ate lunch with one of my former companion’s mom and she asked me what has been one of the hardest things about coming home. I told her what has been difficult for me is that my mission seems like a dream and at times I wonder if it even happened. And that scares me!! I am trying to remember all that I can and all that I learned and keep the person who I have become over the past 18 months and not let it fade away. But with that said, every night for the past 19 days as I have knelt down in prayer, I have been filled with so much gratitude as I thank my Father in Heaven for the opportunity He blessed me with to go to Zambia and Malawi to teach His children about the precious gift of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. I have a feeling that a day will never go by for the rest of my life where I won’t think about my mission!
So coming home was an adventure! I left my area Thursday morning at 11….we were supposed to leave at 7 but….Africa time!!! Then President and Sister Kupu took us and the other missionaries who were going home out to dinner. Sister Thueson and I talked nonstop the entire dinner and evening updating each other about our areas since we had both served in Ndola and Kalambo. I love that girl so much!! The next day we went to one of the malls in Lusaka and set up a table to contact as many people as we could and get the name of the church out there. We had a ton of rejections!!!! Sister Thueson and I concluded that since we really didn’t have much experience with doors getting slammed in our face, we needed to experience it on our last day proselyting. We had a farewell meeting that afternoon with our mission president where we were each given a turn to report on our mission and President Kupu gave us simple yet profound counsel to help us be successful in our future lives. All four of us missionaries cried as we recounted what we had experienced and what lessons we had learned and as we finally started to realize it was all over. We bore our final official testimonies as missionaries and the Spirit reminded me how grateful I was for my call to serve. We also were able to have our final interview with President Kupu….And this is exactly how mine went… ”Sister Bingham do you obey the Word of Wisdom?” “Yes.” “Do you live the Law of Chastity?” “Yes.” “Ok thank you for your service.” I don’t even think I got a handshake in there….Hahaha it makes for a funny story but it actually was a huge lesson for me and something that I constantly was learning as I taught the people of Zambia and Malawi. The gospel is SIMPLE. Being happy is SIMPLE. Obedience is SIMPLE. Anyways we went to the airport that night and dropped off Sister Owusu-Afriyie which was really sad cause I don’t know if I will ever get to see her again. We were companions in the MTC and I am so proud of her for finishing so strong! She was a great example for me even though we never really served around each and what I learned the most from her is how to genuinely love those around me. The next morning, we went to the airport to catch our flight and said our final goodbyes to President and Sister Kupu. That was difficult….they have played a huge part in my life. They saw my potential and helped me do all I could to achieve it! Most importantly they helped me to know my leader, the Savior Jesus Christ.
We flew to Johannesburg and sat next to a guy from New York. We tried to share the gospel with him and we quickly found out that he doesn’t even believe in God….uhhhh….I don’t know if I ever taught anyone who didn’t believe in God. So that was unfamiliar to me and made me just want to get off the plane and back to Zambia even more! We had a long layover in South Africa but ended up meeting two members in the airport!!!! We were so pumped!!!! One of them even bought us dinner!!! Only our dream to finally fun into a member in Africa. We got to the gate to catch our flight to Atlanta and found a huge group of college students doing all these strange yoga stretches and poses. You can only imagine how much this made me not want to return to America even more!! That 17 hour flight was brutal. But we somehow made it through sleeping in the most awkward positions possible! Thank goodness I don’t have to make that flight for awhile! We got on our flight to Salt Lake and that’s when the nerves really started to kick in. I sat next to a really sweet old lady who was flying to visit her daughter. She kept telling me how proud she was of me for serving a mission! She was another tender mercy sent to me to help me feel at peace about coming home yet it was all sort of surreal to me. It still hadn’t sunk it that it was over and that I would never be a full time young missionary again (cause you best believe I will be a senior couple missionary). Sister Thueson at this point was getting excited and nervous to see her family and we were both freaking out as we walked off the plane. We were trying to find out which direction I needed to go to catch my last flight to Boise and SURPRISE!!!! There was my uncle, aunt, and cousins!!!! That was so so so awesome to see them and to catch up before they made their way to Argentina. Another tender mercy! After saying goodbye to them I walked on to my last plane ride. I tried making conversation with an older lady but she didn’t want to talk. Then I was feeling extremely nervous, in fact I was so anxious that I walked right past my seat to the end of the plane. So I had to turn around and everyone was staring at me. I sat down in my seat and EVERYONE around me was on their phones. For 18 months I have been pretty much the only white person in any group of people but I felt more out of place and alone sitting on that plane ride than my entire mission. That’s when I think I finally realized I was going home and all I wanted to do was to go back to Ndola. Even though that was the shortest flight of the trip, it felt the longest!! We finally landed and I started the longest walk of my life to the baggage claim where I knew my family would all be. I took a few deep breaths before turning that last corner and saw everybody standing there! It was the strongest wave of emotion I have ever felt as I saw the people who mean the most to me. To finally see your family again after 18 months has got to be the best feeling in the world! I had felt time and time again true joy on my mission and this was the perfect ending to the happiest year and a half of my life. It was everything I had dreamed about coming home except that I thought I would cry more……long story short it was amazing and I love my family SOOOOO much. Wanna know the best part of all….Dad had made me a milkshake and it was almost 0 degrees outside!!!!!!

Alright so that was my trip home and it feels like it all happened years ago. Being home has been difficult for many reasons and sometimes I feel as if I just close my eyes real tight and open them again I will be back in Zambia or Malawi. If it were that easy, I’d do it in a heart beat. But at the same time, I should not wish for more than what the Lord blessed me with. I had a terrific mission!!! I experienced amazing miracles!!! I have built incredible friendships!! And most importantly, I have found and developed a deeper and more meaningful testimony of the Savior and His gospel. I have been asked a million and two questions about the past 18 months but no matter how much I try I will never be able to adequately explain to anyone what it was like. I am so grateful that my Father in Heaven knows. And that’s what I hope each of you who has been so great and read my emails to know is that He is aware of you. He has a plan for you. He will help you. He knows the desires of your heart. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. And He LOVES YOU! Elder Oaks said, “The Final Judgement is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts-what we have done. It is an acknowledgement of the final effect of our acts and thoughts-what we have become.” This perfectly sums up how I feel at the conclusion of my mission. What will it matter the number of lessons taught or baptisms we were apart of? I am humbled that despite my weaknesses and mistakes, the Lord called me to be a representative of Him and in the process of serving as such for 18 months, He modeled and refined me into someone just a little bit more like Him. And that is what He wants for each of us!!!

Well, I have been so touched the past few weeks to realize how many people have read my emails and how they somehow influenced many people in many different ways. I can’t take any credit for that but want to express my admiration for each of you who listened to the Spirit while reading which helped you to grow closer to the Savior. I am grateful for each of you and don’t think I ever can thank you enough for your love, support, and prayers throughout my mission. We have a great work to do and if we continue to reach out and strengthen each other this marvelous work and a wonder will continue to roll forth! NDIMAKUKONDA KWAMBILI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!