In 24 hours I will be boarding a plane back to the motherland. To try to describe the emotions and feelings that I have been through this week would probably be a waste of time and only understood by those who have also served a mission. It’s beautiful and tragic and exciting yet miserable all at the same time.

Yesterday was incredible. Josh, Asiya, Mark, and the entire Castellija family all came to church and I was on cloud nine. I’m so excited for the miracles that have happened and are yet to happen here in St. Helens and I’m lucky to have been able to be a part of it.

As my mission is ending I have done so much reflecting on where I was eighteen months ago. Some days I’m super excited to take on the future as the new me and other days I’m terrified feeling like I haven’t changed at all. So this morning I decided to make a list of everything I’ve learned in eighteen months to remind myself that who I am is not who I was and for that I consider my mission a success.

1. I love people so much more now. As a missionary you are constantly talking to people you have seemingly nothing in common with, find common ground, try to love them as the savior would if he were there, and withhold your judgments and just serve and love and do it all over again. I have found myself in homes I would never have been in, loving people whose paths I never would have crossed and who I may have even worse never noticed. And they have changed me and loved me freely in return.

2. I love the Book of Mormon. I never would have said that before. And I love the prophet Joseph Smith because he loved the savior Jesus Christ no matter how ridiculed he would be, or how many times he was called a fraud. He was called to a mission and he completed it and is still mocked and hated to this day for restoring truth. I’ve been a recipient of that truth and words can explain my gratitude.

3. I know my Savior personally and now have a closeness with him I never thought possible. I’ve spend countless nights out here mad at him, mad at myself for being mad at him, holding nothing back, telling him every fear, doubt, and concern that I’ve had. And he’s listened to my bratty self. He never gave up on me. He showed me I was capable of doing this work no matter how behind or inadequate I felt I was.

4. This life is literally the blink of an eye and yet we waste so much time holding grudges, talking about shallow things that don’t matter, putting God on the back burner and living for ourselves and little else. I never want to be too busy again to pursue he who grants me daily breath. I never want to go anywhere or do anything that I can’t see God in.

5. This is the hardest to admit but it’s completely honest. I’m not ashamed anymore, I’m not ashamed to be a Mormon. I’m not ashamed to be seen anywhere with my name tag on and be ridiculed for something so personal to me. I love it. I love being seen as a representative of Jesus Christ. With or without the name tag I decided long ago that I am on a course committed to following the Savior and he is so merciful.

6.  There is absolutely nothing I could have sacrificed that would outweigh or could have been worth me not coming on this mission. I can’t put it into words. It hasn’t been easy or glamorous. It’s been hard work that has literally required all of my willpower, all of my heart, and all of my selfish desires. It strips you of your pride and makes you re prioritize everything you currently value and it aligns your will with heavenly fathers. That is priceless.

This list could go on for pages but know that in the most sincere way I can express through this very last email I will be sending that I love each and every one of you that have carried me through this journey. I never ever prayed to know if I should come on a mission I just jumped in and started swimming and many many times you have been my lifelines. I would have been fine without this mission but I would be lacking everything I know and love now and I will never look at the world the same or the atonement of Jesus Christ the same. I love my mission so much. I love this work. I am forever changed.

I love you all so much. Thanks for believing in me, loving me, laughing and cringing with me, supporting me, encouraging me, and letting me be 100 percent myself. I am determined to be excited about the future no matter what and I’m grateful to be surrounded by people that make it so beautiful.

Forever and always my favorite scripture since I heard it as a non-member in a chapel in Las Vegas…and has proved true over and over again:

 “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” D&C 84:88

Sister Audrey Denison