As my time winds down here in the Washington DC South mission I've been reflecting on what has happened over the past two years. Following the inspired pattern of one of my previous companions, I wanted to write just a thing or two about each of my companions for my final email. Since, in reality, they have been the ones by my side these past two years through the grit and grime. But don't get me wrong, each and everyone of you on this email, whether you were my companion or not, has had a personal impact on me over my mission. I'm thankful for all of you and your examples to me.
So let me take you back a whole two years and tell you the story from where it begins...
My first companion on my mission was Elder McInerny in Falls Church. I don't think I could have had a better trainer. He taught me so many great things, from how to work with members to being a personable missionary. He knew exactly how to answer all my "greenie" questions and was able to teach me how to be an effective instrument in the Lords hands. I'll never forget the impact that one experience with Elder McInerny had on me. We had an apartment complex that we were trying to Tract out and we pulled up and it was pouring rain. I remember we parked the car. Turn off the engine. We both just sat there for a second probably thinking in our minds, "are we actually going to do this right now?" After a second or two Elder McInerny said, "well, let's get to it" and we were off knocking away in the rain. I'm grateful that my trainer taught me how to be a hard working missionary.
After I was done being trained, I had to opportunity to train Elder Havens. After the transfer meeting our first day together, I remember driving back to our area and just having this overwhelming feeling that I had no idea what the heck I was doing. Thank goodness Elder Havens was patient enough with me and we were both able to learn on the fly. He probably gained a lot of patience that transfer having to deal with me as a trainer. I'll always be thankful Elder Havens was willing to work with me.
My second area was in Shirlington with Elder Hudson. It was tough to leave Falls Church but Elder Hudson made me feel right at home. We were like brothers for the transfer we were together. We would have disagreements and argue and even sometimes wrestle but we would be back to normal. Elder Hudson and I spent that whole transfer finding new investigators. It finally paid off a year later when one of the investigators we found and taught, got baptized. I'll always be grateful for my time with Elder Hudson.
My next stop was in Wakefield with Elder Merrill. I was blessed to spend two transfers with my buddy. One lesson I learned from him is to just be funny and work hard. He knew exactly when to switch to funny mode and then when I was time to switch to serious. He always kept me laughing and entertained. Elder Merrill also taught me, without words, what it means to he humble. His complete trust in the Lord was contagious and it helped us with the success of our area.
Elder Burleson is a one-in-a-million missionary. He is one of the most dedicated missionaries I was blessed to serve with. From my first day with him, to my last, we were working as hard as we could while being as obedient as we could. Not only did we work super hard but we had so much fun. He was the best street ball teammate on the courts in Manassas. (He caught a sick lob when we were playing two on two with some homies. Don't worry, I didn't forget(; ) During my time with him, he helped me see the blessings that come from obedience. He pushed me to be the best missionary I can be and for that I am thankful.
During my 2 transfers with Elder Burleson, we had Elder Flowers join us in a trio for one of the transfers. Elder Flowers brought a sense of humor to our companionship. He never failed to bring a smile to my face. He came in and picked up right where Elder Burleson and I were and ran with us. He was always willing to rise to the occasions handed to him. He helped our area tremendously. I'll always remember my buddy Elder Flowers.
After the trio, Elder Holdaway came down to Manassas to be my companion. I learned so many things during our time together. One of which was companionship unity. I can remember so many times when I would get jammed in a lesson and he would be there right behind me to pick up where I was stuck. He was one of most genuine, skilled missionaries I got to serve with. He also knew how to push me to become better. We were able to set goals that would push us and we would both be untied in our desires to accomplish them. We even broke some mission records during that time because of our goals. No three months on my mission have gone by faster than those three with Elder Holdaway. To this day, I think about those days cruising down the streets with "Scooter" and I can't help but smile.
I was blessed to stay in Manassas for 5 transfers. My last companion there was Elder Winn. Elder Winn was an excellent missionary. He knew how to teach effectively and listen to the spirit. He was great at answering questions that our investigators had. It was cool to see his ideas that he brought over from the Richmond mission come to play in helping our teaching pool. He taught me a valuable lesson on being completely present in our lessons. Always be listening and praying about what to say next.
I left Manassas and traveled to Whitewash/Open Train in Quantico with Elder Arritt. Never once did I feel like I was the trainer in our companionship. Elder Arritt came into the mission well prepared to be a missionary. He knew he had goals and things he wanted to accomplish out here and he was determined to succeed. Our first transfer together he set the goal to improve his teaching ability and by the time we were done, he was an awesome teacher! We spent one transfer in the Quantico Ward then we both whitewashed the Fair Oaks Ward right after. I couldn't think of anyone else I'd want to whitewash back-to-back transfers with. Little did Elder Arritt know that he was training me.
My second companion in Fair Oaks was Elder Williams. There aren't enough good things I could say about my man, O. He is one of the most loving individuals I've ever met. Maybe it's because he's poly? Or maybe it's because he just absolutely cares about people and their well being. We didn't have a car in our area so we mostly walked around due to the cold weather and snow. Elder Williams would ask me, "so, how long of a walk is it?" And I'd say, "ah, not long. Probably 45 minutes to an hour." He wouldn't complain, we would get out there and just pound the pavement. He was always willing to get the job done and not take the easy way out. I really look up to my guy, Elder Williams aka Feki.
For my last 2 transfers, I got moved to the Arlington 2nd ward. To be with Elder Nielsen. Let me tell you how awesome the A2 Ward was. We got so much support from the leadership of our ward and the ward members-- they fed us like crazy! Elder Nielsen and the prior missionaries built a solid relationship with the members which allowed us to flourish. I feel as if my time in A2 with Elder Nielsen really prepared me for the trial of returning home. Thanks for all the help and the two transfers, Elder Nielsen.
Each of my companions has helped shape me into the person I am today. Times may have been tough, we may have argued and fought or we may have been the best of friends, but I'm thankful and eternally indebted to each of you. Your examples and personalities have been a blessing in my life.
To the people of Virginia, I will deeply miss you. I am grateful for your love and support. You have helped me through the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. You will all have a special place in my heart.
To my friends and family back home, I'll see you or shortly thereafter!
"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he LIVES!" (D&C 76:22)
I know that my Redeemer lives. I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that our sins can and will be forgiven on conditions of our repentance. I wish you could all see the change that had happened over these two years. To me, it's night and day. I truly have accessed the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that no matter who we are or what we have done, God is willing to turn our weaknesses into strengths. I have a testimony of the calling of the Prophet, Joseph Smith. I will take my testimony of him to the grave with me. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. The Heaven are not closed. He is still speaking to us today. This things I've come to know by the influencing power of the Holy Spirit. The testifier of truth.
I LOVE being a Full-time Missionary. I wouldn't trade this last two years for the world. Because honestly, to me, they are absolutely priceless. The work of salvation is the most important and life-sustaining work we can ever be involved in. The beautiful thing is, as much as I have loved being a missionary, I know that the best is yet to be. These things I leave with you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.
Please add me to your weekly email lists. I want to hear from you. Or if you just want to hit me up, that's fine too. I love you all!
Elder Tanner Leishman