I leave in just 57 days now (15 hours and 45 minutes to be exact- Yes I have a countdown app on my iphone)! You would think I've been waiting since the time I received my mission call, but I feel that I have been waiting much longer than that. I feel that I have really been waiting for this special experience since before I was born. In Preach My Gospel (which is the manual that missionaries use to prepare to teach the gospel), the very first section in the very first lesson is titled God Is Our Loving Heavenly Father. My testimony that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father is a strong one. I believe that if we do not have a testimony of this one thing we cannot have a testimony of anything else in the gospel, because everything in the gospel is evidence of that love. It's no surprise that it's the very first thing you teach someone who is learning about the restored gospel. We are here on this beautiful earth because He loves us. It is because our Heavenly Father loves us that we have modern day prophets and apostles to lead us on the path of righteousness. It is because He loves us that we know, through the plan of salvation, the answers to the questions: Why am I here? Where did I come from? And where am I going? It is because Heavenly Father loves us that He sent His Son to live and die for us and to make it possible to return back to the presence of God. It is because He loves us that we can live with our families forever. It is because Heavenly Father loves us that He appeared to the boy Joseph Smith who had prayed to know the truth. And it is because He loves us that He "said, pointing to the other- This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!"
I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father. We lived with Him for eternities before coming to this earth, where we have the opportunity to learn, grow and become like Him through the Atonement of Jesus Christ who is our Savior and Redeemer. I recently read a book written by Brad Wilcox called The Continuous Atonement. In his book, He enlightens us about what Jesus Christ being both a Savior and Redeemer really means. I am so grateful I read this book because it made me think about the Atonement in a way I hadn't before. My testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ has been strengthened and I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. There was a chapter in it titled "The Lone Branch." He tells of a story about a boy who fell off a high cliff and the only thing that kept him alive was a lone branch that caught him as he fell. He likens this story to us and the state that we would be in without Christ's Atonement. Like the boy that fell, living on the earth would be a straight fall to our death (both physically and spiritually). We would die physically because as human beings, that's just what happens; and we would die spiritually because that is also our nature as human beings- We are all subject to sin, and we all do sin. But again, because God loves us, He provided a sure way for us to be saved from both death and sin-- That is Jesus Christ. He is the lone branch, the only thing that can save us- In this way, He is our Savior. But He did not only save us. He made it possible to fulfill our potential as sons and daughters of God. And in this way, He is our Redeemer.
As before mentioned, I feel that I have been waiting to embark on this mission much longer than a few months. I know I lived with my Heavenly Father before I was born and that He loves me, and I know that He sent me here to this earth at this particular time. I know that He has a plan for me and that my serving as a full-time missionary at this specific time in my life in Brazil is a part of that plan. There are many souls to be saved in Sao Paulo, Brazil and I pray that the Lord will help me as I strive to be an instrument in His Hands in saving them.