Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bittersweet Goodbyes

Its really here. I'm getting set apart tonight by Stake President Hafoka. The time went by so fast that I can't even believe that I will be sleeping in my bed for the last time tonight, this year and won't be back until next year in August. I hate goodbyes. I really do. Just as much as I hate packing. But I know this is something I need to do. As long as I remember my purpose as a missionary and keep a good attitude along the way. I need to trust in the Lord and be his BESTEST friend ever NOW and FOREVER. Here's my farewell talk which I gave a couple weeks ago in case you wondered what I spoke about. Enjoy!:

My brothers and sisters, Aloha.

Its so nice to be welcomed back to my own homeward which I haven’t been to for nearly a full year. I have been going to the Sunset Beach YSA branch while I was in school at BYU-Hawaii. But to introduce myself, my name is Marisa Santeco. I am the daughter of Iggy and Didi Santeco. I have one older sister, Marvelyn and two younger brothers, Gabriel and Jesse. I am called to serve the Bolivia Cochabamba Mission, reporting to the Colombia Missionary Training Center on February 26th, and I am to preach the gospel in the Spanish language.

Bishop Kotobalavu asked me to share my desire and preparations to serve in hopes of inspiring the youth of this ward to serve also. Yet I feel that perhaps my message may inspire you all both young and wise to serve and to take part of the work.

To begin, I want to share with you of how I gained the desire to serve a mission. Serving a full-time mission was never a part of my plan in life. But from many different events in my life, it has led me to where I am today. Just like anyone, I’ve faced many trials. In short terms of what I was going through, things just weren’t going the way I wanted it to or hoped that it would in life. But I remember feeling so down on myself, feeling that God was testing me with more than I could handle all at once. Like He was trying to see how I would deal with my struggles and just trust His will no matter what. With all these problems constantly running in my mind, I kept asking myself, “Why me? Aren’t I living my life right? What did I ever do to deserve this?”

I remember one day after work, I wanted to go to the temple by myself. So I did. I wanted to find some peace. I sat at the very top by the water fountain.  I had my patriarchal blessing with me in my hands. I remember praying to God asking, "what now? What do I do?" While I was focusing on my own problems, I always remembered my mom telling me that it is by serving others; we become selfless and somehow forget our own problems. We can lose ourselves in the act of service. So I thought, “Okay, maybe I need to do more service projects because I haven’t done those since I was a youth”.  But then I kept reading my blessing over and over again. Said a little prayer. Then you know how you read your blessing and tend to just focus on the parts you want to know about? Such as what your future companion would be like or if you will have kids? I usually would skip to those parts and quickly skim the rest. But this time I read it thoroughly and from doing so I realized that three fourths of my blessing was all about missionary work and participating in the gathering of the House of Israel who have been scattered to the four corners of the Earth.

So after that, I walked down from the temple to wait for my dad to pick me up and take me home. But on my way down there were two sister missionaries walking towards me. I keep walking down and for some reason I just knew that that they were going to ask me if I was planning to serve a mission. Then when I got closer to them, they stopped me and then they asked me.. if I wanted to serve a mission. Now I didn’t say no and I didn’t say yes. I said maybe.

That night I prayed to God asking specific questions. In young women’s they taught us to prepare ourselves for general conference so that we would be able to listen with an open mind and heart. They taught us to write down questions that we hoped that general conference would answer for us.  That night I prayed, asking God if it was His will for me to serve a full time mission. Or what type of service would do just the job to bless my family and I. The next day was the October 2012 general conference and that was the day when President Thomas S. Monson announced the age change. When I heard the words come from his mouth that the opportunity to serve a mission was right before me, closer than expected, I could feel the spirit telling me that this is something that God needs me to do. Thereon I considered it more, but didn’t rush to a final decision. It wasn’t until I started my papers and really started to study the Gospel and His doctrine when I realized that His work is so real. That it is everyone’s responsibility to do His work. Which, one-way to do it was to serve a mission. It was because of the spirit and the love of God, which has brought me to desire to do so. I feel that it is His will for me to serve a mission and to teach the people in Bolivia in hopes of bringing them unto Christ. In John 15:16, it reads, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it unto you”. I know that He has chosen me and given me the responsibility to do His work and this I know because he has answered this to me in my prayers.

So what have I done to prepare? As mentioned slightly before, its important you take advantage of what you learn in the youth program. I learned a simple thing to do for general conference and it has blessed my life. To ask questions, to pray about it, and to be willing to receive revelation. As I reflect back on my life as a youth, I know that the things I’ve learned in Sunday school or seminary didn’t make perfect sense to me at that time, but now it’s beginning to. It requires obedience and trust in the Lord that we will gain the proper knowledge for us to return to our Heavenly Father.

Another thing I’ve done was to learn to love others as God does. A quote from Elder Neil Anderson's general conference talk really stuck to me for a long time until this very day. It reads, "If you’re not a full-time missionary with a missionary badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to paint one on your heart—not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”We are all sons and daughter of God and it is true that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. Keeping that perspective has always helped me to learn to forgive others including myself. When love is present, you find yourself in a state of humility of wanting to help others with their trials even when you are already struggling with your own.  

I was reading an article by one of the members from Imagine Dragons, an American alternative rock band. Dan Reynolds, the front man of the band is also a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He is a returned missionary. In this article he expresses his appreciation for serving a mission. It reads, “It was such a growing experience for me, and it humbled me and made me realize that the world’s a lot bigger than where you’re raised. There are people dealing with so many more problems than you, and it makes all your problems seem really small. So you just forget all about yourself”. This sums up of what I love about service. Forgetting yourself. Just as President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “Forget yourself and go to work”.

Third is to read the Book of Mormon cover to cover. From that you can gain a testimony of its truthfulness and Joseph Smith’s restoration of the gospel. I was able to read the Book of Mormon completely for the second time within 53 days. If you read 10 pages a day, you can finish it in about 2 months. Reading it will increase your gospel knowledge. Read it keeping in mind that you will be teaching it to others.

Fourth, gain a relationship with God. This can be done by praying always. Keeping Him in your thoughts throughout the day. I came a point in my life that I know that
I can’t do anything without God and His Son Jesus Christ. They have become my best friends who will never forget you or hurt you, but simply love you no matter what.

Lastly, the biggest thing is to do nothing that will keep you from entering the temple. When I was a little girl, I made a promise to myself and God that I would never make a choice that leaves me waiting outside the House of God. Now that I am able to go inside as I stay true to my covenants and remain worthy to enter, I know that the temple is where we can receive revelation and to be in the presence of our Heavenly Father. The temple is one of the greatest blessings we have here on earth. When you are feeling sad or lost in the world, go to the temple and receive the blessings He wants to give you. Our Father in Heaven wants to bless us because He loves us. I will never forget how I feel when I go inside. You feel nothing but peace and so much love. I testify that He can heal you in there for He has healed my troubled heart. He has strengthened me in so many ways and I am ever so grateful.

In closing, I just want to express my love to my family. My family means the world to me and I will miss them so much. But I know this is something I need to do. I have wonderful parents who aren’t perfect, but have raised me well to value the gospel in our lives. I wouldn’t be who I am without my mom and dad. They have done so much for me and my brothers and sister. I love you guys so much.

I testify that He lives. We have a living prophet, Thomas S. Monson here on earth with us to guide us in these latter days. I know that Joseph Smith restored the gospel. That he saw God the father and the son in a vision. I know that this church is true and has the fullness of the gospel that we need to return to our Father in Heaven. Book of Mormon…Temple..Bolivia is where I need to be.(Testimony).

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

My lovely friends...
brothers and sisters….I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve our Lord for the next 18 months and the rest of my life here on earth. There is so much work to do and I am excited to be a part of it. Please write me if you can. I would love to hear from you and to receive words of encouragement. Its gonna be tough, but so worth it. I love you all very much!

La iglesia es verdadera. Yo se que el Libro de Mormon es verdadero tambiƩn. Yo se que Jose Smith fue un profeta de Dios. Yo se que el templo es la casa de Dios. En el nombre de Jesucristo, Amen. (lo siento if my Spanish is bad hahaha, it'll get better)

Siempre y until then,
Hermana Santeco

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