Monday, September 21, 2015

Until We Meet Again‏

One last time... Malo e lelei and alooooo-ha!


This week has been so hard, and wonderful at the same time. Saying goodbye to the members, the investigators, the ward, the missionaries, all of whom I have come to love so dearly. Leaving them behind is so scary for me at this moment. Then, on the other hand, starting my life up again, going to college, seeing my friends and family, building stronger bonds with my loved ones, watching films and listening to music. I am excited for all of these things!

Saying goodbye to the members has been top priority this week, and updating the area book. Sister Mitchell is being transferred, and Elders will be coming into the Palehua area. We teach a lot of single sisters, so naturally we are worried. We know the Lord knows the plan, though! Just have to have faith. 

Yesterday in church, it was ward conference. Our bishop spoke, Emilene (our recent convert) bore her testimony, and then SURPRISE Bishop Aken called me up to bear my testimony one last time. It was on the spot, but I felt the Spirit in me. I didn't cry! 

In Hawaii, there's a tradition. Whenever a family, member or missionary is leaving the ward, they sing a beautiful Hawaiian song called "Aloha 'Oe". They had me come up to the stand, the entire congregation stood, and sung to me these words:

Ha'aheo ka ua i naa pali
Ke nihi aʻela i ka nahele
E uhai ana paha i ka liko
Pua 'ahihi lehua o uka

Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A hoʻi aʻe au
Until we meet again

I may have teared up, but I didn't cry either! Weird, huh?

Our time is so limited on this Earth. My time has been so limited on my mission, in Hawaii, but it has influenced me more than anything in my life. The culture, the Aloha spirit, the members and missionaries. Everyone and everything has taught me something about myself and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now more than ever, I am 100% sure this is the TRUE gospel. That this is Christ's church upon the Earth. 

I may have only had 1 year to wear the official badge, but I forever will have my name tag engraved in my heart. I want to continue my spiritual journey, this is not the end. I have been sent here to Hawaii for many reasons, but something my mission president taught me is that our number 1 investigator on our mission is ourselves. I have been truly converted. It didn't happen when I was baptized, it has happened the past 2 years in the church. Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been the biggest blessing, and has saved my life in more ways than one. I am grateful for those who have supported me during my trials, and have supported me in all things. I hope I have made you proud. More than anything though, I hope I have made my Heavenly Father proud.

I love my Savior. I have learned more about Him than I could have ever imagined I would know. He truly died for our sins, so that we could have that opportunity to have eternal life. Christ has paid the price for our salvation. We must come unto Him, though, and partake of His salvation. His hand is forever outstretched to us. It is our choice whether we grab His hand, though! 

I have learned so much my 12 months here in Hawaii, but mostly I've learned about the LOVE that our Heavenly Father has for each of us. He places us exactly where we need to be, with the people we need. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and will provide blessings for us to have the best life possible. We, in turn, must choose to follow Him and His son, Jesus Christ, to achieve all the blessings we are promised.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's true church upon the Earth. God called his servant, Joseph Smith, to restore the priesthood authority that was taken so long ago. I know that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ, in the sacred grove, and that he was called to restore the everlasting gospel. The Book of Mormon, along with the Old and New Testament, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price contain the everlasting gospel. All are the word of God, and we are so blessed in this day and age to have all of them. I know that He loves us, and wants us to come to Him for anything and everything. We are never to unworthy to feel His love. 

I love my Father in Heaven, my older brother Jesus Christ, and all of you who have been with me every step of the way. I am so excited to see all of you again, and to be able to show you all in person how much I love my Savior. Bless you all, for the time you've put into writing emails, letters, cards, and sometimes even packages! I have appreciated every single word you've sent. Know that I love you, and that when I come home I want to continue to serve. If anyone needs ANYTHING, I hope you don't hesitate to call me.

The gospel is true, the book is blue, and Jesus is the Christ. (:

Until we meet again, toko's!

~Sister Alexis Michelle Noriega

Monday, September 14, 2015

The A.L.O.HA Mission

Aloha everyone! (:

First off, I'd like to express my gratitude for the outpouring of love and support this week. I don't feel as scared or anxious to come home as I previously did. I have so many thoughts and emotions running through me right now, I honestly don't know what to email home about. I want to take some time to reflect on my mission.

I am grateful to be in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission, the A.L.O.HA Mission!

Atonement of Jesus Christ is my message.

Love of God and others is my motivation.

Obedience to the commandments and mission rules is my strength.

By spreading the gospel to others I can give them the HA, the breath of life, even eternal life.

How true this mission motto is. On my mission, I've learned a lot. How to serve, how to turn outward rather than inward, to study, work diligently and use time wisely. Most of all, though, I have learned the love our Savior has for each of us. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is my message, and will forever continue to be my message. I finished the Book of Mormon for the 4th time this week, and never has my testimony been so strong. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus Christ is God's only begotten Son, who was sent here to die for us. To take upon Himself the sins of the world so that we could return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father again. Through faith in Him, we are able to repent of our wrongdoings, and move forward in our lives. No unclean thing can dwell with God, and because Christ overcame all trials and tribulations, we can repent sincerely and be forgiven. I love my Savior and Redeemer (:

My love for God and my fellow man has also increased over these last 11 1/2 months. It truly has motivated me through my mission. Through the hard times and challenging times, I remember the love my Father in Heaven has for me, and I am instantly pumped to serve. 

Obedience is a large part of all these things, though. Keeping all of God's commandments in exactness is a blessing in itself to me. The mission rules though, that is something I had to learn. To truly pray about. They are rules set by the apostles, and some by our mission president, for our protection and benefit. Have a had a 100% perfect obedient mission? Honestly, no. But I have seen the blessings from keeping them, and learned from others the consequences of breaking them. Men called of God have set these rules for us, and I know that keeping them all has blessed and furthered the missionary work here.

I love being a missionary. Putting on my name tag everyday, with my name right next to Jesus Christ's name. What an honor it is, to be a set-apart servant of the Lord. As I go into my final week, I intend to work the hardest I've ever worked in my life. To make every moment count.

I love the gospel. I love my companion, Sister Mitchell, and all she has done for me. I love the Palehua ward, where I've been for 6 months now and seen the gospel and more specifically the Atonement change the lives of the members here. This Sunday is my final Sunday, and I already know when they sing "Aloha 'Oe" to me this Sunday.... well. The tears will be drippin'. 

I love you all. I will be writing this Monday for the last time as Sister Noriega... AHH so bittersweet. I know that the Lord needs me home for a bigger purpose than I can see. I pray I will continue to keep the Spirit close to me in all that I do, and will continue to be a faithful servant, even after I take off the black badge. I love you all, mahalo nui loa!

~Sister Nori

Hiking this morning

Another view from our hike this morning

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Not Mine, but Thine.‏

Malo e lelei and alooooo-ha! (:

This week. How can I begin to describe this week? It has been the absolute hardest week of my mission to date. 

On Wednesday, I had a very weird feeling about my body. I felt like something was off, but I didn't really want to acknowledge it out of fear. I am blessed with Sister Mitchell, though, she semi-forced me into calling our mission nurse. It was time for me to get my blood work done, and Mitchell knew that. So I caved, called, and my appointment was set for Thursday morning. 
Driving to Honolulu that morning, there was something in me that knew that something was wrong. I couldn't pinpoint it, but there was no part of me that wanted to go to this doctors appointment. I do my usual blood work, vitals, wait for a room to be open, and eventually I met with the doctor to go over my blood work. I don't want to go into details, but I will say that the results weren't positive.
The doctor told me that I've done everything that I can, but that my blood sugars aren't under control whatsoever. That my health is declining while I am out here, especially with the Polynesian diet we eat daily. The doctor told me I could stay out, but just shoot more insulin. Something was telling me that wouldn't be enough.

As I left the doctors office, I realized very slowly that I had a choice to make. 

I called my mission president a few hours later, after talking with Sister Mitchell. I told him that I think that I need to go home, and take care of myself. President Warner told me that if his daughter called him and told him what was happening with me, that he'd tell her to come home right away. After much fasting and praying, I have made the decision to come home. 

I thought I cried a lot in my life, but never have I truly felt so heart broken. I do NOT want to come home. I want to finish my mission, and come home in April. Yes, that is what I want and planned on doing. That isn't what the Lord had in store for me, though. It's funny, I keep praying, almost hoping the answer will change. That maybe the Lord will provide a way for me to magically be healed, and to be able to serve my final 6 months. Something I've learned through my own experiences and watching the lives of others unfold, though, is that the Lord has a far better plan for us than we can begin to imagine. 

I will be flying home the night of September 23, and arriving home sometime the morning of the 24th. I have about 2 weeks left, and I plan on making them count. I have such a love and testimony of this gospel. 3 years ago, I was a different person. A person who had nothing going for them, a person who had no hope for the future. I felt worthless. Then I found the gospel. The gospel brought hope, faith and love back into my life in a way I never had anticipated. I was baptized 2 years ago, as of September 7th. These 2 years in the church have been full of trials, but also of faith building experiences and moments filled with the Spirit. 

I am struggling right now, accepting that I am really coming home. Hawaii is a place like any other, with a beautiful aloha spirit you will never find anywhere else. I know I was meant to be here, but I guess I wasn't meant to be here for 18 months. The Lord did bless me with 1 year out in the mission field, and for that I will forever be grateful. I have never had to rely on the Lord as much as I am right now. Having faith in HIS plan and HIS timing. 
"Not mine, but Thine"

I love you all so much. I do feel like I've failed, in a way, but I know that is the adversary. I desperately wish I could stay, but there is something waiting for me at home. Something far greater than I can imagine. I will have an honorable medical release, and I need to accept the Lord's will. Thank you, for all the love and support. I still have a few weeks left, and I plan on working til I'm 'dead'. (: 

Until next time!

~Sister Nori

Friday, September 4, 2015

Perfect Love Casteth Out All Fears‏

Aloha everyone! 

This past week has been full of fun, disappointing, and down-right rainy moments! Quite a few of my emails today were concerned people asking if the hurricanes are affecting the Makakilo zone. To answer your questions, yes, they are! It's been pretty crazy. Sister Mitchell and I have gotten 100% soaked twice this week, and we've had to go home and change. Today, our mission president relayed a message through our zone leaders that we are to stay away from the coast lines today, due to the large waves. It's funny because we didn't find out about the 2 hurricanes that will be hitting tomorrow until sacrament meeting yesterday. Yep, that's missionary life for ya! I do know, though, that the Lord protects His missionaries. I already know we'll be fine! Mom, have faith, I promise you personally that we'll be okay and safe (:

On Tuesday, we had district meeting! As usual, it was a very spiritual time! That is when the rains really started. We had to drive the sisters to Honolulu, and we got stuck in that Hi-Hon traffic! 2 1/2 drive. It was great. Why, do you ask? Because I'm a horrible companion and slept the entire time... #oops. 

Wednesday, we were super busy! All of our appointments went really well. Remember me talking about Walking Wednesday? Yeah, we did that... and we got soaked. 100%. We were like "YES maybe people will pity us and listen to our message!". Yeah nobody answered their doors. It's okay though, we had fun! Thursday and Friday weren't very eventful, but had little miracles of course. Friday night we went and met with the Scott family. Only 2 out of the 7 kids were there, it was a great opportunity to talk to the oldest girl about baptism. Recently, as we know, the Dad passed away, and now her Uncle passed away both from Cancer. This Uncle was supposed to be the man to baptize them, since their Dad passed. The oldest Scott girl is feeling guilty, about not being baptized before they passed. That maybe her loved ones will be angry with her for being baptized NOT by those 2. We had a very spiritual discussion about eternal families. I was able to bear testimony that families CAN be together forever. She does believe that, but someone recently told her she wouldn't ever see her Dad again because they weren't all sealed in the temple. That made me ponder about God's plan for us.

Heavenly Father sent us here in families. Why? So we could learn. So we could grow up with a built-in support system that loves us and will teach us. Are any of our families perfect? NO. Life happens. The Adversary is very real in this world, and Satan is trying to tear families apart. That doesn't mean, though, that our Lord isn't understanding and merciful. The Lord loves us, and knows we love our families. I KNOW that even if I am not sealed to my family here, that I will see them again. That hope isn't lost, through the Atonement of Christ. I will be able to see my family again, and be able to be sealed to them. Life is rough, and our relationships with our families will never be perfect. But God loves us, and because of that love we have the Plan of Salvation. We have a way prepared for us to be together forever.

This week has been rough, I won't lie. BUT it was for my better. To learn to rely more on the Lord, and not on my own abilities. I must trust in the Lord, and HIS timing, not my own. To develop a perfect love, a perfect love that will not leave my with the feeling of fear, but of trust and faith. Humbleness is a very important attribute I've recently learned about, along with faith and hope. I love my savior, and I am grateful for His love. This week, I challenge all of you to serve your family. Whether it's a small or large act of love, serve them. Tell them and show them how much you love them. I can promise you as you do this you will feel our Heavenly Father's love and Christ's love for each of us, and you will find yourselves happier than before.

I love you all very much. Stay safe, stay cherry, and ofa atu (:

~Sister Nori