Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Farewell

Welcome to my new mission blog. This is where you will be able to read (hopefully) weekly updates from me as I serve for the next two years in the Chiclayo, Peru mission. This will be the only post actually made by me. From here on out my family will be updating this blog and posting my e-mails and maybe some pictures I'll be sending home to keep everyone updated on what I'm doing.

For the next three weeks I am going to be in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. For anyone who's interested, this is my address while I'll be there:

Elder Victor Paul Hemsley
MTC Mailbox # 211
PER-CHI 1115
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793

I will get a new address when I actually get to Peru, and my family will post that for everyone when it happens. I'd love to hear from you while I'm gone!!

I gave my farewell talk at my home ward today and a few people told me they wanted it, so I decided to use this first post to post the talk I gave in church today. It's not word-for-word exactly what I said, but it is essentially the same. Please forgive me for being terrible at English, maybe that's why I was called to speak a different language. Here you go!

My Farewell

Being a missionary is something I’ve always known I was going to do. Ever since I was very young, although it seemed so far away that it would never really happen, I knew that someday I was going to serve a mission. Growing up in this ward I got to see many people I knew leave to serve missions. When I was a child, the missionaries seemed like adults to me, and it seemed that it would be a very, very, very long time before I would ever reach the age to serve a mission. Missionaries really stood out to me back then, and they still do. They’re so easy to pick out with their suits and name tags. In my eyes the missionaries knew everything. They’re the ones who are out there for two years teaching people the gospel, so why wouldn’t they know everything? We would have them over for dinner and give us little lessons and I figured they were gospel geniuses. I couldn’t exactly see myself ever being in their shoes, because once again, I wasn’t going to have to worry about being a missionary for at least another million years.
Growing up in the church we are taught about missionary work from a very young age. As far back as I can remember I’ve always been learning about doing missionary work and preparing to serve a mission, so it’s something that gets engrained in our minds that we’re most likely going to be doing someday. All the nursery, primary, Sunday school, and priesthood leaders I’ve had here have all helped point me in the right direction and prepared me to get to the point where I turned in my mission papers. The examples and encouragement of my family and friends brought me to the point where I really wanted to be a missionary. Even though I never wanted to go to them, the service projects I’ve been a part of in this ward have made me so thankful for this amazing church that is always so willing to go out and help others. Service projects basically used to be my worst nightmare, but lately I’ve been craving opportunities to help other people. I just can’t wait to go to Peru and help make somebody’s life just a little bit better. What could be more important than that? There’s nothing quite like the feeling of willingly going out of your way to help brighten someone else’s day.
            While as a child I felt like a mission was too far off to worry about, as I grew older, I realized the missionaries weren’t so old, and that in a few years time I would be old enough to go on a mission too. I didn’t always love the idea of serving a mission. As I got a little older and the fact that I was going to be a missionary in the next few years became very real to me, I questioned whether or not I really wanted to do it. I didn’t like the idea of leaving home for two years, of leaving my family and friends for two years, of leaving my music or video games for two years. Since nobody is required to go on a mission, the idea of not going started to seem like a good idea to me, though I still figured I would probably go anyway just because everyone would expect me to. I don’t remember exactly when this feeling went away, and when I finally started getting excited about it. But even since getting my mission call I’ve had times when I wished I wasn’t going. Leaving life as I know it for two years is scary, but in the end I always realize how important this work is, and how incredible this experience is going to be for me.

Last summer my cousin Mitchell left to serve a mission in Moscow Russia. I’ve always lived far away from Mitchell, so I didn’t get to see him super often, but he was my closest friend to ever leave on a mission at that point. Mitchell is somebody I look up to very much, and watching him make the decision to serve really got me thinking about how I was going to be doing the same thing soon after. Reading his letters home gets me so excited to go out and get the work done.
When I was at school this past year I lived in apartment with five other guys. Every one of my roommates was a returned missionary. I got to talk with them about their mission experiences, and all the great times they had, and it got me so excited that I would soon have the same opportunity that they had. They would tell me that they were jealous that I still had the chance to go serve, because they wished they could still be on their missions too. Talking to my roommates got me more excited about missionary work that I’d ever been before.
            One of the biggest factors in preparing me to become a missionary has been the gift of the Priesthood. The Priesthood is a central part of our church, and has had a huge influence on my decision and desire to serve a full time mission. On, it says:

“The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God. Through the priesthood God created and governs the heavens and the earth. Through this power He redeems and exalts His children, bringing to pass "the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth.”

The Priesthood is split into two parts; the Aaronic, or preparatory priesthood, and the Melchizedek Priesthood, the greater priesthood. When I was twelve years old, I graduated from primary, and received the Aaronic Priesthood. I became a deacon in what was a very small deacon’s quorum at the time. The switch from primary to priesthood put me in a position where every Sunday I now got to spend part of the day with other priesthood holders, including boys who were at the age when they were starting to serve missions. I looked up to the priests who were preparing and leaving to serve missions. The older I got, the closer the boys who left on their missions were to me. Now the missionaries who were leaving from our ward were boys who I actually knew; boys like me who I had seen every week, who I had gone to mutual with and done service projects with. The idea that I was soon going to be old enough to serve a mission started to feel very real to me.    
Receiving the Priesthood was one of the biggest steps I took in preparing to become a missionary, because it has provided me with so many valuable experiences that have helped strengthen my faith, and to become a better person than I was before. For the first time, I now had responsibility in the church. As a deacon, I got to pass the sacrament every week. As a teacher I got to prepare the sacrament, and as a priest I got to bless the sacrament, which was always my favorite. One of the more amazing experiences that I’ve had with the priesthood was when I became a priest in November 2007. One month before then, my brother Sam turned eight years old, and he was ready to be baptized. My family decided to wait an extra month for me to become a priest so that I could have the opportunity to baptize my brother. That was the first time I had ever used the priesthood for anything other than the sacrament, and it was a very special experience. When I was at school this past fall I got the opportunity to help my roommate give a girl a blessing by anointing the oil on her head. I was nervous, but I was so thankful for the experience to use the God’s priesthood power to help bless the life of someone else.
I’ve seen miracles happen through the priesthood. Years ago my parents were getting ready to go on a vacation to Australia… without us. The night before they were supposed to leave, something happened to my dad’s back, and he was in so much agony that he couldn’t even get up off the floor. I’ve never seen him in so much pain. There was no way in a million years that he was going to be able to travel to Australia like that. He couldn’t even move.
He decided he wanted to get a priesthood blessing. I was young and it was long enough ago that I can’t remember, but we had some brethren from our ward come over to give him the blessing. By the next morning my dad’s back had healed and he was all set to travel to the other side of the world. Experiences like these scattered throughout my life have built my faith and strengthened my testimony of the gospel little by little over time.
Of all the things that helped shape my decision to become a missionary, the single greatest thing by far has been the Holy Ghost. In our church we believe that our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings. Anybody is able to feel the Spirit, but when we are baptized we are given the gift of having the Holy Ghost as a constant companion so long as we are living righteously. Having been a member of this church my whole life, I heard experiences from members all the time who had felt the Spirit or were influenced by the Holy Ghost. For most of my life growing up I wasn’t sure if I had never felt the Holy Ghost, or if I just never knew how to recognize it. Even after I was baptized I still felt the same way. I assumed I would recognize it someday, but I couldn’t truthfully say that I had ever felt its presence.
In 2005, when I was thirteen years old, I had the first experience that I can remember where I really felt the Spirit. It was at my sister Jacqueline’s baptism. I remember sitting there in the front of the room, and I felt the Spirit so strongly it was overwhelming. To this day I don’t know if that was really the first time I ever felt the Spirit in my life, or if it was only the first time I had actually recognized it, but that feeling overcame me so strong that night, and I knew what it was.
I know some people feel the Spirit differently than others do. For me, when I feel it, it’s the best feeling in the entire world. For me it’s the most amazing calming and comforting feeling of all time. Since my sister’s baptism I have been able to recognize the Spirit frequently throughout my life. I feel it the strongest when I bear my testimony to others, which sadly I don’t do very often, but I will share it with all of you in a few minutes. When I bear my testimony, and I feel the Spirit it is the most amazing confirmation that the things I am saying, or at least am trying to say are true. Bearing my testimony has been one of the strongest testimony builders for me in my life, if not the absolute strongest, because when I do it it’s almost like I can literally hear the Holy Ghost telling me that the things I am saying are true, and that is an incredible feeling. Being able to recognize the spirit is probably the best blessing in my life. It took me thirteen years before I finally felt the spirit for the first time, but ever since it has been a reoccurring event that I crave, because when I feel the spirit so strongly, I never want it to end.            
The church website says this about the Holy Ghost:

He “witnesses of the Father and the Son” (2 Nephi 31:18) and reveals and teaches “the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). We can receive a sure testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ only by the power of the Holy Ghost. His communication to our spirit carries far more certainty than any communication we can receive through our natural senses.”

In my life, that last part has certainly be true. The Holy Ghost is has been the single biggest confirmation of my beliefs in my life, because when the Holy Ghost communicates to me, it is such a sure confirmation of what is true that there is no way I could ever possibly deny it. 

I want to serve a mission because I want to help other people have the same amazing experiences that I’ve had. I want to help people feel how amazing it is to have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. I want to help people find the most incredible sense of comfort by learning that their Heavenly Father loves them, and He wants the best for them, and He listens to and answers their prayers. I’ve had countless experiences where I’ve been nervous or unsure about something where I’ve said a prayer about in my head, and it’s one of the most comforting feelings in the world to know that I can always ask my Heavenly Father for help whenever I need it, and that he wants to help me. I want to help people discover that they can be with the people they love after death, that they will someday see loved ones who have passed away again, and that they can live with their families for eternity. Knowing these things has helped me get through the hardest experiences of my life. Two years ago one of my younger cousins suddenly passed away. It was the worst experience of my entire life. Nothing has ever come close to being so difficult for me. But during this experience it was the best thing in the world to know that I will be able to see him again someday. It didn’t make it easy, but it made it so much easier, and I felt so blessed to have that knowledge.
The Gospel has blessed my life in so many ways, and I just can’t wait to share it with people because I want everyone to be able to experience all the same amazing blessings I’ve had in my life.  
I want everyone here to know that I believe what I am going out to teach the people in Peru is true with all of my heart. Not because my parents told me it was true, not because my Sunday school teachers said it was true, not because anybody here has said anything, but because the Holy Ghost has borne personal witness to me that these things are true, and that is something I can never deny. These beliefs are so dear to my heart that I would give up my life for them. I’ve never felt so strongly about anything before in my life. I believe that this is Christ’s true church, restored to the Earth through the prophet Joseph Smith in 1830. I believe that Joseph Smith really saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, and that he translated ancient scripture that we now know as the Book of Mormon. I believe that our president of the church, Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet of God, like the prophets of old in the Bible. I believe miracles still happen, and that God still listens to and answers our prayers. I believe Jesus Christ is our savior, and that he gave up his life for us so that we can live together forever with God. I believe these things because I have felt that they’re true, and I can’t accurately put how amazing that feeling is to words.       
   I want to thank all of you for pushing me in the right direction over the years. To all my friends, family, and church leaders. I’m here right now because of you guys, and I’m so incredibly thankful for that. All of your support has been amazing, and I’ve felt your love so strongly as I’ve been getting ready to leave. I love each and every one of you. Thank you so much for getting me here so that I can go out and do the Lord’s work.

So there you have it. Thank you all so much for the amazing amount of love and support you've been sending my way over these past few months. Thank you for all the prayers. I've never felt such strong support for a decision I've made before. I'd love to hear from any of you while I'm gone! I can never get enough mail. Though please forgive me if it takes forever for me to respond. Missionaries are busy people! I can't wait for my next chance to see you all again when I get back. I love you all! Until next time.

- Elder Hemsley

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