Good week... We had a good day at Church--the Elder's Quorum President, I guess, went contacting outside a mall on Saturday and invited someone to church. That guy came, and stayed the full three hours and also attended the ward Christmas party. He seemed so nice and happy to be there. Unfortunately he is only here on vacation, but we're hoping to meet with him after Christmas and send a referral to the Philippines. That was a cool little miracle.
Also, the Relief Society President brought a friend to the ward Christmas party, and we were all able to take her on a tour of the church (highlights included the chapel and the baptismal font). She seemed a little nervous when we first met her but by the end she felt much more comfortable and opened up a lot more. She said she would meet us again after the holidays, so we're excited about that! Our ward members are so amazing for inviting their friends and acquaintances to church!
A highlight this week was attending my last Zone Conference. The highlight was definitely not that it was my last, but because it was so great. I love Zone Conferences. In our mission, because it's so spread out over a large area, we rarely get to see missionaries who are not serving nearby (I think it might be different in the US). But at Zone Conferences, which are combined with several Zones together, we can gather together as missionaries and rejoice. It sounds cheesy but it is so filling for me to see missionaries I've known and served with throughout my mission, and see that they are still "my brethren in the Lord." That they have been serving faithfully, and have overcome trials, and have grown stronger in faith and character and confidence. There is one Elder who was in the MTC with me, who I almost don't recognize because of how much he has let the mission change him (in a good way). It's really cool and a joyful experience.
I also love Zone Conferences because of the strong Spirit that is always there. This time it was a Christmas Zone Conference, which was really nice. We watched the First Presidency Christmas devotional (amazing) and sang so many Christmas hymns and heard talks about Christmas and how relevant Christmas is to missionary work. We had, also, a testimony meeting at the end where they requested especially for the missionaries who are going home soon to bear their "last" testimony. The Spirit was seriously so strong.
I shared my testimony; I think the entire thing was driven by this line from O Holy Night: "Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother." I have taught many people who are truly in chains, truly in bondage of many kinds -- bondage of sin, unbelief, idolatry, poverty, addiction, hatred, abuse, undesirable family situations, difficult economic situations... there are many kinds of bondage. And these weren't just random people I met. These were people that I taught and loved and desired salvation for. It has taken a toll on my heart, to see someone I love suffering and be totally unable to do anything except bear my testimony of the Savior and try to help them keep the commandments. I cannot heal them. I cannot take away their burden. Sometimes I could hardly bear their burdens.
But there is One who can. This bondage is exactly why God sent His Holy Son into the world. The significance of Christmas is not so much the fact that Christ was born, but that His birth meant that He would someday sacrifice Himself for us. Because He did that, He can heal. He can lighten burdens, and ultimately bring us to overcome every trial. Chains will He break, for the slave is our brother and in His name, all oppression will cease. Because of our Savior, our bondage does not need to last forever. Indeed, most of it is definitely temporary, and through obedience to the commandments, all of it can be ultimately removed. We will be changed. We will be freed.
I am so grateful for the Christmas season because of how close we can feel to the Savior, if He is the center of our Christmas. Truly, He taught us to love one another. He's the reason we give gifts. He's the reason we gather with our families at Christmastime, and through Him, someday we will be able to gather together with our families, never to part again.
I am humbled and grateful to be His missionary.