Crazy week this week. Like I mentioned, I got transferred on Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were spent saying goodbyes to people in Knoxville and packing and cleaning. Wednesday was transfer meeting. We had a crazy mess in the morning when the member who was supposed to pick us up and take us to transfers completely forgot and we had to scramble at the last minute to find a ride. But it all worked out! One awesome member happened to be home and available and he came and got us with some of our stuff, and we had the zone leaders come and pick up the rest before he got there.
Elder Castleberry gave his departing testimony at transfer meeting, as did Elder Livingston and the others who were going home this transfer. It's a little weird that two of my past four companions are home now. It makes a mission seem awfully short. But it was great to hear their testimonies, and I'm sure they are living it up at home right now. :) It lined up really well that they got to go home for Christmas.
Knox West became a Sisters area, like I figured. They should do great, that area is awesome right now as far as having a lot of work, and the members in Knox 1st are awesome and very missionary-minded. And I got transferred to Bristol, TN/VA! It's a small town right on the Tennessee / Virginia border (not quite as small as Rockwood though). It's a good area with good members and there's a lot of potential people for us to work with right now. We just have to find them. :) I'm glad I learned a lot from Elder Castleberry about finding during this last transfer. Prayers for help finding people who have been prepared to receive the restored gospel would be greatly appreciated!
My new companion's name is Elder Hoff. He's pretty cool and we've been getting along pretty well so far. He's a good teacher, and teaching is something I've been wanting to improve on, so this should be a good learning experience for me. Also, he plays guitar. He was pretty excited when he saw my guitar at transfers because he doesn't have one and he's been wanting to play.
Something I've been thinking about today - and throughout this week - is how much God loves each one of us. I was pondering on my mission so far, and I realized that the experiences and areas and companions I have had have been exactly what I have needed. It's been so perfectly what I've needed to grow and develop in the ways He knows I need to. And I couldn't always see that in the moment, but looking back this week, I was able to see it at least a little. It gave me hope for the future and helped me move forward into this transfer with faith and trust in God. It hasn't been easy, but it's been wonderful and totally worth it. I now know even more that God really does know each one of us intimately, and He loves us more than we can comprehend. He knows exactly what we need, and He gives us the experiences that will help us grow and progress and become everything He knows we can be. All He asks is that we move through the experiences leaning on His arm, trusting Him and going where He leads us. He loves us and He won't lead us astray.
I hope you are all excited for Christmas this week! I know I am! Christmas is an opportunity to remember, and be grateful for, and give our time to the things that matter most. Most of all it is an opportunity to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The greatest evidence of God's love for each of us and all of us is the gift of His only Begotten Son. Because Christ lived - and lives - we have a Savior. With His help we can overcome the effects of our sins and bad choices, and we can have His guidance and strength to help us climb the mountains in our lives - and become better in the process. I promise you that as you turn to Him through study and prayer, following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, making the changes you need to make, and striving to stay close to Him and follow Him throughout your life, He will lead you through experiences tailor-made for your growth and benefit to heights you never even imagined you would reach. Please take time this Christmas season to ponder the significance and meaning of the birth of the Savior in your life. Why is He important to you? If you don't know, or even if you do, please take the time to figure it out. Pray and ask Heavenly Father! He'll help you discover why. He'll help you see His hand in your life, and He'll help you to take it today, and tomorrow. The joy and peace and comfort and growth He has to offer is beyond comparison. I know this for myself now and I'm learning it more and more every day. I hope you will all take the time to find Him and come to know Him better this Christmas season. I testify that His hand is in your life and that you can come to see it and appreciate it and follow it! He loves you! I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. :)
I love you all! Make yourselves a wonderful Christmas!! And remember to share #ASaviorisBorn! Let's all share with others why His birth is important to each of us.
Elder Alex Swindler
1) Sierra, Elder Castleberry, Destiny, and me before the baptism
2) Same group, plus Roger and Mayetta (the girls' grandparents)
3) Elder Castleberry studying Lehi's Dream
4-6) Goodbye to the McKellars
7-8) Goodbye to Austin
9-10) The Websters
11) The Smiths
The video: So there's this Thai coconut soup at Pete's restaurant in Knoxville that is AMAZING. Elder Castleberry couldn't help himself. ;)
13) The Harris's
14) The Reyes's
16) The waitress photobombed Elder Castleberry's picture with Pete :)