Thursday, July 11, 2013

Muchismas Gracias!


  This is it. Yep, the final post. I know that its been awhile. My computer crashed in the last six weeks of our service, but I have finally found a way to get one last posting done. Steve, Zach, and I are once again living in our home in South Jordan, Utah.  Although we are happy to be here, we realize that nothing will ever again be exactly the same for us as it was when we left. We have been changed and shaped by our mission experience.
   As I heard the landing gear descend at the end of our final flight home, my excitement grew (yes- even butterflies in my stomach!) and my thoughts centered around the overwhelming gratitude that I felt (and still feel) about my mission experience. I recall these wise words from King Benjamin:

“...O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!” 
 (Mosiah 2:19)
Therefore, I have decided that my final post will be an expression of gratitude to my Father in Heaven for some of the people who have made this journey an incredible experience.

I am eternally grateful for my family:

   It was more than fun to be reunited with our children, grandchildren, and other family members who met us at the airport. Then, just a few days later, our children threw us an amazing welcome home 4th of July party. The welcome home bash included a huge water slide, water balloons, a piñata, BBQ, and a totally amazing (and very illegal!) fireworks show right in front of our own home.  It appears that our family is happy to have us home and we are grateful for their three years of support, their non-complaining attitudes, their prayers and love and their own personal sacrifices when we were called to leave them. I am grateful for each of my five children and spouses and their desires to do right. I am grateful for my grandchildren and their expressions of love. Siblings and extended family have all made a difference in my life, and in the lives of my children, and I am thankful for them.  I am grateful for the patience of elderly parents.  They may be getting older, but they are also getting better. I express appreciation for all the joy that my family brings into my life!

I am grateful for missionaries:

   Everyday, I thank my Heavenly Father for the opportunity we had to serve in the Texas McAllen Mission! I am grateful for the memories- not only of the good times, but also of the times when fulfilling the calling was a hard thing for me to do. I am thankful for my own personal growth and the growth that we saw in each missionary who served with us.  I thank Heavenly Father for each and every missionary we had the blessing to get to know, help, work with, and train. I am grateful for missionaries who arise each day by 6:30 a.m. and go about accomplishing the Lord's work through planning and preparing themselves to serve. I give thanks when I see them exercise FAITH and OBEDIENCE in their lives. I am grateful for their desires to have the Holy Ghost be a part of their companionship all day long. I am grateful for missionaries who never ever, never ever give up. I give thanks for each baptism we witnessed (and we saw a lot!), and for those we couldn't witness.  I am thankful for missionaries who learn to teach people according to their needs.  I am especially thankful that I was privileged to know two valiant and true missionaries that gave their earthly lives in the cause of missionary work. I am grateful for the binding and motivating power of love.
   I am grateful for missionaries who struggle to speak Spanish, but keep on trying. I am grateful for missionaries who find it easy to embrace the Spanish language and then use their talents to further God's work on the earth.  I am grateful for native Spanish-speaking missionaries who hang in there until they are able to teach the Gospel fluently in English. I am especially grateful to have experienced the  "Tex-Mex" language. 
   I am grateful for my testimony of the truthfulness of what the missionaries teach- the Plan of Salvation, the Restoration, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how to pray, how to recognize the Holy Ghost, how reading the Book of Mormon with real intent changes lives, and how to obey and live the commandments.    I am grateful that missionaries know and teach that Heavenly Father wants ALL His children to return to live in His presence and that the only path to eternal life with Heavenly Father begins with faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. I am grateful that they have experiences that help them walk by faith and not by sight. I thank missionaries for learning and teaching what the word "Atonement" really means. I give thanks to missionaries who begin each day saying,
 "Today is a great day to be a Texas McAllen missionary!"  
    I am grateful for missionaries with parents who support and encourage their missionary, while they also support, love, trust, and encourage us. We have felt their prayers, read their letters and appreciated their expressions of support. There were so many that I found it difficult to acknowledge each and every letter, gift, e-mail, etc. I hope that the parents of the missionaries who we served with were also aware of our gratitude for their willingness to put their precious child into God's hands under our care.

I am grateful for my husband:

    My patriarchal blessing promised me that I would become the wife of a worthy bearer of the Holy Priesthood and that I would be his equal. I married the best! I hope that I may live worthy to be his equal. I love him- he is a diligent and wise servant of God. I am eternally grateful that we have had this experience together. I am far from being perfect and I am thankful that Steve is willing to overlook my shortcomings and help me with my imperfections. Together, we have learned that there is no greater force on the the earth than that of Christ-like love. I am grateful for his integrity and willingness to live up to the commitments that he has made. I am thankful for the powerful example he gives to missionaries and others, especially our children. I am grateful for his leadership, his talents, his abilities, his whit, and his sense of humor. 

I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ:

   It is because of Christ that I could go on when the going got tough. I have learned to lean on Him throughout my life, but I have leaned on Him more than ever before as we have presided over a mission. I am thankful for the knowledge that I have that He still lives. I am grateful that I can feel and know of His love. That love brings peace to my soul. I am grateful for His non-judgmental example as He lovingly led and served others while on the earth. I am grateful that He is kind and patient. I am grateful that He cares about even the one lost sheep. I am thankful for the knowledge that I have that He is the head of His restored church on the earth today. I give thanks for His sacrifice that makes it possible for us to overcome the pains and imperfections of our earthly existence and live again with God. I am thankful that I can know Him and that He is always there for me. Thankfully, I am never alone.

And so our amazing three year journey has come to an end- according to the calendar, but not in my heart. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to stretch and grow, and to find talents that I didn't know that I had. I am blessed to feel the love of my family, of so many missionaries, and of my Heavenly Father. I AM THANKFUL!

“Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.”  
(D&C 59:7)

Gracias a todos! 

Epilogue:  Steve and Sandy will speak on August 25th at 9:00 a.m. at the church located at 11173 S. Copper Point Way in South Jordan, UT.  They look forward to the return of their daughter Nicole from serving her mission in Cebu, Philippines on July 17th (a date has not yet been set when Nicole and Zach will report about their missionary experiences). Nicole, along with Zach, and sister Rachel will all be attending BYU in the fall. Josh and Brittney Trayner (and kids) have purchased a home nearby in South Jordan, and Nate and Megan Trayner (and kids) are beginning their post medical school/internship lives in a new home in Dallas, Texas. The entire family is currently planning a reunion in Florida sometime during the month of August- the first time parents and all siblings will all be together in over three and a half years.

Here are pictures from the last months in the mission:

Our Last Mission Leadership Council:

Visits to missionaries:

Arriving Missionaries:

Transfer Day:

Transfer Van!

Outgoing Missionaries:

 June Zone Conferences:

Laredo Zone

Sinton Zone

Corpus Christi Zone

Harlingen Zone

Brownsville Zone
McAllen Zone

Edinburg Zone

Hidalgo Zone

Mission Zone
Our last zone conferences included trainings from President and Sister Trayner, the Assistants, and the Zone Leaders. We also role-played, played a spanish game (The Road to Abundancia), and played "Who Wants to Be a Scriptionaire?". Here are many pictures from the five zone conferences:

Doing the Haka Dance in honor of the Trayners

Setting up for "Who Wants to Be a Scriptionaire?"

Elder and Sister Rios- hard at work inspecting the cars during the conferences

Lunch time- everyone's favorite time!

Tied for the lead...

And the contestants are...

Running the show

"Don't worry, I can carry it- ALLof it!"

Hermana power!

All the winners, please stand

The Winning District!!!!

Assorted Pictures:

The Rio Grande River flooding in Laredo


Zach with two of his companions

Thanks to Sister and Elder Rios, who served with us for two years!

Specialized Training for new missionaries and their trainers:

Welcoming the Maluendas:

Handing over the phone at the airport

The Assistants let President and Sister Maluenda know the missionaries are hard at work and are ready for the change
The Transition

...Adios amigos...

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