Friday, June 3, 2016

Week 104: The Next Chapter

As a fitting conclusion to my full-time mission, I decided to wrap up the last week to finish up the full story, as well as share some of my remarks and feelings about the whole thing.

Me, My Suitcase, and a Red Chair

So to start off with, on Monday I had everything packed, so we went over to the bishop's house for breakfast. It was very bittersweet to say goodbye to everyone there since I loved that family and the ward itself. After a quick round of fishing, we went over to the home of the 2nd Counselor in the bishopric. He lived almost to Hohenwald, TN so it was a bit of a trip. He showed us around his property including the treehouse he had built with his kids. It was a really cool looking home with a lot of cool things on the property. After that we drove up to Spring Hill and had fun with the elders there. It was sad to see all of them for the last time. In the evening we went for a bit to the going away party for Hermana Hill since she was getting transferred. Prior to that we tracked for a bit so that I could do that for one last time in the mission. After that we went to a party at a member's home where all kinds of people showed up and I shared my last spiritual thought which was 2nd Nephi 5:27 which talks about living after the manner of happiness and how the gospel allows us to live eternally happily if we allow it. After that we went to go say goodbye to Zoe which was kind of sad.

Pulling into the Nashville Stake Center

Tuesday we drove to Nolensville where the Nashville stake center was. I said goodbye to a lot of members and missionaries. After that I went inside the building with all the other missionaries who would also be going home (which included myself, Elder Hagen, Elder Nielsen, Elder Hamling, Elder Frei, Elder Brown, Sister Kline, and Sister Woods).  We had a meeting with President Riches who is the 1st Counselor in the Mission Presidency. He taught us that when we put our most important priorities first (like scripture study, prayer, church attendance, education, marriage, etc.) everything else flows in perfectly. He demonstrated that with a jar of rocks and sand. The rocks represented priorities and the sand was everything else. When you put the rocks on top of the sand, you run out of room really quick. However when you put the rocks first, the sand can fill in the gaps.

Playing the piano one last time as a missionary

 President Andersen's bearing his testimony

After that we went to the temple as a group. It was way spiritual. Following that we had dinner at the mission home and then we went down to the basement for a testimony meeting. I played piano one last time for the group. We then took turns bearing our testimonies in the mission home. After that President offered a long kneeling prayer which was way spiritual. After watching a slideshow containing mission memories from all in the room, we proceeded to spend the rest of the night till 2am playing ping pong, catchphrase, and other games.

 Ping Pong with Elder Frei

Keeping score

Playing other games

On Wednesday morning I went to bed around 2:30 a.m. but was up by about 3:30. We were showered, dressed, and out the door by 5:30ish. We got to the airport around 6:15ish and got all our bags packed and loaded to go. And then we said our final goodbyes to President and Sister Andersen as well as the assistants. Elder Hamling was getting picked up by his parents at the mission home so he stayed and didn't go through security. While we were going through security I ended up getting separated from everyone because two objects in my bag lined up to look like something fishy. But eventually I got through and onto my gate. Elder Frei and Elder Hagen were the only missionaries coming with me to Atlanta. Before we left the gate I ran and bought a Nashville keychain with my mission card making it the last purchase on my mission.

Last goodbye with President and Sister Andersen

At the airport with Elder Frei and Elder Hagen

After landing in Atlanta, I was super surprised to see my Dad there. He flew to Atlanta to see me, so that was so awesome. We helped Elder Hagen and Elder Frei find the right terminal so that they could head off. We then parted ways on the train and I was officially a lone missionary. Felt weird. My Dad and I grabbed lunch at Fridays in the airport followed by heading to the plane for the final flight home. On the flight home it just felt strange to be all by myself for the first time without some other guy in a white shirt and tie there. As we flew into Dulles Airport,  I looked across the aisle to the window and saw the Washington Monument and Capitol Building off in the distance, and I thought "Welcome Home."  It was a great feeling. And as I walked through the security gates to see my family at the wrong exit, it was awesome.

Hugging mom

The welcome committee at Dulles Airport

After everything and all the airport stuff and coming home, I went out with the missionaries in Herndon Ward, Elder Valdez and Elder Jones. So yeah even after I got off the plane, I was still proselyting. We mostly were tracting into Hispanics which was always fun since none of us spoke Spanish. After that we all had dinner and went off to the stake center to see the stake president. My stake president read a letter he had received from my mission president stating how much he had appreciated my service. He then stated how proud he was of my service, and then had me bear my final testimony of my missionary service. Followed by releasing me as a full-time missionary of the church. I removed the tags and put one tag on my scriptures and the other on the fridge at home. We then went home and I went right to sleep since I was incredibly exhausted by that point.

With the stake president

As a whole, I loved my mission a lot. I loved almost everyone I met there and enjoyed almost every experience I had. I learned loads from it and I would do it again. As I've been contemplating the mission as a whole this past week, I've been noticing more and more how different I have become. I enjoy going to the temple, I don't do the same habits I did before the mission, I say different things, and I have a general love for everyone. I know I owe it all to Heavenly Father and of course the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I have an incredibly strong testimony of these things.

One of the other things I wanted to touch on in this email is an opinion that I served for other reasons than the one I have stated in the past. An honest fact is that I would not have made it if I had served for any reason other than doing it for my Savior and for what I knew I could become if I did serve. This was proven by some friends of mine who served for other reasons and did not make it. You cannot serve for Christ if you have an underlying meaning. I truly believe that my mission has made me become something so much better than what I was. In my homecoming talk which I will post after this, I said that there are always changes in our lives, but it is up to us whether they are good or bad changes. I truly believe my mission has changed me for the better. Especially when I look at a lot of kids my age nowadays.

I am excited for a new chapter in my life. I said to one of my friends yesterday that it feels like I'm in a TV show but I missed two seasons of it. So now I need to get caught up. And I will get caught up, but I also hope to continue to explore more stuff as well too. We will see what the next two years hold for me.

Thanks to my Savior for His loving arms that continue to help me and the people I have taught daily. Thanks to everyone who prayed for me, sent me mail, an email, or even the simplest thanks while I was on my mission. I also have to appreciate the members in the Smith Springs, Hendersonville, Eldorado, Spring Hill, McMinnville, and Columbia areas. I love you all and hope to see you again soon. Thanks to my family for your care and support as well as being there when I needed you the most.

On to the next chapter,

Andrew Peery

Greeting Tiger

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