Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Last Letter

I look back on these two years, my heart having grown twice its size, and my eyes having seen the profound depths of Heaven and Hell. My mind turns and tumbles like a washing machine, yet my emotions spread out along the ridges of a Cape Verdian wash tub. They wait for that visceral force that will senselessly push up and down those agonizing ridges. 6 days left on the field, and I think to myself "Wasn't it just yesterday that I just got here?" 

I think back to that evening of May of 2011 remembering that the setting sun was especially golden. It made the rocks, the fields, and the waters of the coast of Santiago shine in such a way that was breathtaking and unforgettable. I was, then, a new missionary that was just barely starting to lose his green. I was still a clueless teacher and a stubborn servant. Yet, there I was standing in the turquoise clear waters of the lagoon just a few minutes north of the church. The mercy of the Lord was upon us in its fullness. I looked over into the eyes of my best friend after having just baptized him and I said "Now we can be together forever in the kingdom of God".

How is it found in his loving kindness that the Lord permitted someone like me to have such an experience? What I have just written was a short description of my first convert baptism as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Somehow, it was found in his great wisdom and convenience that I came here for a short time to work for the salvation of souls. This privilege has left a profound mark on my heart and soul that can now never be removed. Before coming here, I did not think that one's heart could swell this big. I did not think that the soul could be filled with so much compassion, so much charity that one could completely lose himself and forget his own existence in the service that he embarked. But that is the effect that the mission tends to have on those who try their best to serve in all righteousness. It is the cure to all selfishness, the secret to true happiness, and the key for an exceptional, loving relationship with our Father in Heaven.

The past two years have been nothing short of a miracle. They have taught me the ways that a true man takes. A true man looks for God in everything he does. A true man seeks to become humble, meek, and submissive. Any other way is complete senselessness. These past two years have taught me the greatness and endless power of our living God, and they have taught me my own boundaries. I am weak and inadequate in my own state. Nevertheless, Heavenly Father grants me his strength, his love, and his incomparable power as I turn to him and ask for his help in all things.

"I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13)
"I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from Hell. I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment seat" (2 Nephi 33:6-7)

Through my feet, the Lord has walked thousands of miles finding his lost sheep. Through my hands, the Lord has touched the lives of those who I never met before, yet they are now my brothers and sisters in Christ. Through my heart, the Lord has taught scripture in its fullness of power and meaning to me and to them, and through my heart has persuaded many to accept the sacred promises with Heavenly Father that now enable them to prepare to return to his loving arms.
I already miss the hustle and bustle of Avenida Lisboa, in Fazenda in the center of the city of Praia. I miss the warmth, love and laughter of the people of Fogo (The promise land, I call it) I miss the silence, isolation and indescribable beauty of Brava. This country is unparalleled to me, and it has a place in my heart that possible no other event in the course of my lifetime will be able to find. I will lock these memories away until the day that I can fall to my knees in tears and gratitude to my creator, my God. I will remember every moment of these two years until the time comes to see these people again beyond the veil in their fullness of glory and joy.
How I wish like never before that I could turn back time. I would give anything to be back on the streets of Sao Filipe with Elder Weiss. I would love to take one more boat ride to Brava with Elder Abularach. I miss all the nights walking home in Mindelo with Elder Fernandes after having helped Andirson and his family drew one step closer to baptism. They are one of the first families that I am going to look for beyond the veil. I long for just one more division with Elder Reeser, probably the best friend I made out here outside the companions that I served with.

But now it's all over. I hold in my hand the boarding pass to TACV Flight VR690, the flight that will take me away from here. Never again on this Earth will I be able to preach the Gospel of our Lord like this. It is time that the most intense, humbling, educative and spiritual chapter of my life comes to a close, and though almost all may be taken away from me when I step on that airplane, it is once again in his knowledge and infinite wisdom and love that I take home with me this one thing.

It is with every particle of my heart and faith and knowledge that I bear testimony of the one true living God who knows all things. He loves us with a perfect and endless love. He has forgotten none of his children, and he honors all his promises. He has called prophets, leaders, and missionaries to find his children, teach them and lead them to know of their Father in Heaven. I testify that I am a child of God and that it is because of this one true statement that my eyes have seen the fullness of his love, his mercy, his patience and the suffering of his children who disobey him. This is the one true living church that contains the once lost precious truths of our Lord and Savior. Christ lives. Joseph Smith was His chosen prophet in these last days to restore the Gospel. I love my Savior, his church, and this magnificent work.

"Shall we not go on in so great a cause"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Gianluca Cuestas
Cape Verde Praia Mission

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