Well friends, aren't you pleased that this is the last time you have to suffer through one of these crazy emails? It has been quite the week, er, two weeks? Last Thursday(Sept.7th), I spent the day in the mission office being interviewed by Presidente and totally roasting the APs in UNO and Briscola🃏Then we had a dinner all together followed by the neatest testimony meeting of my life. AND THEN my worlds collided as my parents showed up! Just picture the end scene in Tangled when Rapunzel reunites with her parents, and that's basically how it went down🔅🌌
Then, the adventure of driving and touring and translating and eating occurred. We hit: Como/Bellagio 🏞(beautiful lakes where Star Wars scenes were filmed), Verona💌, Venice🛶🎭, Savona🏝, Firenze⚜️, Lucca/Pisa (insert leaning tower emoji here?¿), Siena🌻, Cinque Terre🌊, Rome🏟🏛, Torino🌆, Aosta 🏔where they filmed avengers 2), Collegno and Milano🏙 So we are beat but happy!
Another thing that has happened during these last two weeks is a ton of reflection. Going back to my old cities + seeing all my people... this last year and a half of my life has been full of SO MUCH STUFF! So much crazy, beautiful, hilarious, miraculous, amazing stuff! And yet it seems like just yesterday that this indescribable adventure started.
I remember the flight into Milano April 2016. We were pretty stressed due to late and missed flights, and the casual fact that we were about to enter a foreign country and be completely thrown out of our comfort zones. Needless to say, it was a pretty stressful day. However, I also remember the exact moment during that flight when we began to pass over Italy. The view took my breath away as we passed over the alps, the vineyards, the city clusters, the castles and duomos. I felt such a spiritual confirmation that this was where I needed to be, and that everything was going to be ok.
Well friends, I'm looking out at the exact same scene right now as I type this. This time, however, it's different. I've been up in those alps, and passed through the vineyards. I've lived and taught in those city clusters, and entered many of the castles and duomos. But my feelings this time around are even stronger, because I've met the people in each of these places, and they mean more to me than any of the amazing food and scenery this country has to offer.
It's been amazing to see all of bella Italia with my parents, but the highlight by far has been seeing the people one last time. I'm blown away by the changes that have taken place in their lives. It also reaffirmed to me why we do this whole mission thing. My great grandfather always said that he didn't want to see any empty chairs in heaven- he wanted to see aaaaaallllll of his family there. I think I finally started to understand that this week, because lemme tell you something. I've served in 6 areas with a ton of different people, and believe me when I say that in every place I visited, I easily acknowledged which people were missing. When you love people, you can feel their "mancanza", the fact that they are missing from you. And I realized I don't want to have to do that same feeling in the afterlife. And that's why we do this mission thing- we've gotta look out for each other.
It doesn't just help others though- if anything, serving a mission has blessed me more than anyone else. In Les Mis towards the end (after basically everyone has died🙄), we find the often-quoted line "To love another person is to see the face of God". I feel that that is the best way to sum up my mission. I'm beyond grateful that I was given the privilege to meet and serve the Italian people. I feel so blessed when I reflect on the missionaries I've served with, and the areas I've been in. Through the love I've felt for them, my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had doubled. Why? Because being given the opportunity to love more of God's children has strengthened my relationship with Him, and with His son Jesus Christ.
I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the one true church on the earth today. I know that it was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith, and that we continue to be led by living prophets today. I know that just as the prophets serve as guides for us today, that we also have a guide through the Book of Mormon and the Bible. I know with 100% certainty that these books of scripture are the word of God. I know that He loves us- that He's not just some mythical being or spirit, but truly a loving father. He's given us so much in this life, but His greatest gift is that of His son, Jesus Christ. Through Him, we can do anything. I've seen the power of His Atonement work in my life and in the lives of the people here.
As heartbreaking as it is for me to leave this country and this people who I love so much, and as hard as it is to know I'm losing the name tag in a matter of hours, I can't be sad. I echo the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
This mission had been the best experience of & for my life, but my time is up, and they don't need me in this capacity anymore. But that's ok. One of my mission buds said "It hurts to know it's over, but it's not fair for me to feel sad. God gave me this experience, and I'm so grateful for it. It was more than what I could've imagined- it's more than I deserve! But now it's time for it to end, and now I'm expected to use what I've learned and what I've gained for the next phase of life". So it's not "The End", and my story isn't finished.
It is changed though. Kinda like in the Hobbit when Gandalf tells Bilbo that if he does manage to come back alive, he'll never be the same. My life will never be the same thanks to this time serving the Lord. And that leaves me feeling pretty stoked on life.
See you real soon😘
Sorella Kaylee Smedley
1&2 Mission home pickup 3-5 Lake Como 6-11 Verona & Venice 12- Savona 13&14- Lucca & Pisa 15&16 Dinner with Bishop Ferrini’s fam 17-Siena
18-Uffizi Museum in Firenze 19&20- Firenze ward 21-23 Cinque Terre 24-28 Rome/Vatican City 29-32 Firenze 33&34 Aosta 35-39 Collegno 40-42 Milan
43&44 Muggio 45- Goodbye Italy 46- Home!