I can't believe that two months have gone by since we left the NLVW Mission and I am now finishing this blog. Where has the time gone? I was tempted on many occasions to just not finish it, but I so want to remember what happened to the very last day of our mission, because every week that we were there for those final months we grew to love it more and more. We knew it would be so hard to say goodbye!
Our last week so SO busy! We had so much to do to prepare the office for our departure and we had to do extra things to help the Ahlanders in their transition into the mission. We wanted to leave no stone unturned in leaving the office with all the work up to date and organized. And we knew that we would have a busy week to pack up and clean the condo! Here's the recap on our final week:
On Sunday, July 7, we had our last dinner and teaching opportunity with Jamie and Wendy. David, Juliann, Clarissa, and Michael Boyer had all come into town and Wendy really wanted to see Clarissa, so they were invited to the dinner also. Elder Vieira and Elder Mavromatis were there to teach the lesson afterwards. It went well, although I worry about Jamie progressing. Wendy seems eager to move ahead, and Jamie seems to believe everything but has a hard time attending church and quitting smoking. How I wish they would have more faith and respond to the teachings more! We had a wonderful time with them.
We said goodbye to Elder Vieira, our dear friend. We knew we wouldn't see him again unless we travel to Portugal or he travels here. How we have loved him!
On Monday, July 8, it was our last day at the mission office. We knew it would be so sad! But we had so many things to get done that the day just flew by. The best part was having so many missionaries come to the office to say goodbye! Elder Woodard came and brought us this HOMEMADE peach pie--probably the best pie I have ever eaten in my life! Yes, he made the whole thing from scratch. We just couldn't believe it! What an excellent missionary he has been.
We said goodbye to Elder Carlson, an assistant that we had grown so close to--so sad!
And to Elder Torgersen, a brand new and excellent assistant--so sad!
And to Elder Hammond, an amazing assistant, who also went home a few weeks after us. We will miss these assistants so much!
Elder Crapo, Elder Reel, Elder West, (definitely one of our favorites) and Elder Stewart also came in to say goodbye. We will always remember them!
Elder Giullian came in to say goodbye. We had seen all of these elders grow so much during the year that we were there. It was so sad to think about leaving them!
Elder Peacock sent us this sweet card just before we left. We will never forget Elder Peacock!
Brad Stirling also came in. We met Brad at DI and he just latched on to us for some reason. He came to visit 2-3 times a week the last month that we were there. He was quite double jointed and loved to show the missionaries his body contortions. What a sweet man he was.
Our wonderful friends, the Larkins, came to the office and brought us beautiful table runners for holidays. They are so amazing and thoughtful! We love them so much!
Sister Dyer, who worked at Family Services next door to our office had become a dear friend and I would really miss her.
And I hated saying goodbye to these wonderful senior missionaries who were also my dear friends at the Employment Center, which was next to Family Services. What incredible sisters they are! I will always love Sis. Houseman, Sis. Clark, Sis. Macdonald, and Sis. Splain.
President and Sister Ahlander came in to say goodbye and to give us this darling gift basket. We couldn't believe their thoughtfulness! They were so kind and appreciative of us and our work and showed their appreciation all the time, and how I wished we could have served longer with them! They were amazing people and we knew the mission would be in GREAT hands with them.
My final minutes at "my" desk. I had worked so many long hours here on the computer, answered a lot of phone calls, talked to a lot of missionaries and dedicated all that I did to the Lord. It had been my home for a year!
This is the picture of me at my desk that was put on the mission blog, describing my role as mission secretary.
This is the picture of Glen that was on the mission blog, describing his duties.
The couple that would now take our place, the Sudweeks. The Hunts would be here in a week to take the place of the Sudweeks.
The Sudweeks walk us out to the car to help us load up and to say goodbye. It's hard to describe the emotions we had! We worked full blast until about 5:30 that night trying to get everything done.
Even though this pose was in jest as we said our final goodbyes, Elder Sudweeks was especially nervous about us leaving, but Glen assured him that he could call Glen at any time for help. He continued to call Glen nearly every day for a month, and then every few days for weeks after that.
When we arrived at our condo, David, Juliann, Clarissa, and Michael came over and had dinner and then we went swimming for the last time at our wonderful pool. And then we had to finish packing in earnest to leave the next day! On Tuesday morning, we got up early to clean the condo and was shocked at how much more there was to do. We wanted to leave the place perfectly clean, but we also wanted to leave in time to meet our family at Elk Ridge, near Zion's and Bryce National Parks. We worked as hard and fast as we possibly could, and we packed the truck in about 110 degree heat. Then Danny and Heidi and their family surprised us by arriving there also! They went to the pool to swim for some rest from their long drive from California.
We finally finished cleaning and doing the final loading of the truck and and car and found that we didn't have enough room to take everything home. Michael graciously took several things back to his home so we could get them later. We took the garbage in the car to the dumpster and drove away from the condo that had been our home for the past year. It was so sad, and yet we were so excited to see our family again and spend time with them! But oh, we were so exhausted!
When we were about 20 miles outside of Las Vegas in 115 degree heat, our car started making funny noises! Our faithful car had lasted through thousands of miles put on it during our stay in Las Vegas and now suddenly it was giving us trouble! Glen pulled over to check out what was wrong, and lo and behold, Danny saw us on the side of the road as he drove by in his van and stopped to help us. Glen discovered that the splash guard was coming off of the car, so he took it off, and we continued on our journey, hours later than we had planned because of the extra time spent cleaning and the car problem.
We went to a beautiful and spacious cabin at Elkridge and it was so fun to see everyone that we had missed so much and had been so homesick for! Here we are decorating bags for the kids to put their treasures in.
Aren't they the cutest grandkids ever? They had grown up so much!
We took them to Mammoth Cave, a lava tube not far from our cabin. It was dark inside and muddy, and we ventured off to see if we could make it to the end.
Brandon, Brigham, Turin, Scott and I were so excited that we were the first ones to make it through! Then others went through as well. Check out how muddy we got!
We went to Bryce Canyon to spend the day and what a sight this park is! So beautiful! We had to stop at the entrance sign for a picture of our beautiful family. Pictured from left, Scott, Lily, Brigham (up above), Blake, Heidi, Adam, Kira, Lisa, Tyler, Danny, David, Juliann, Clarissa, Siena, Brockton, Michelle, Jade, me, Lindsey, Brandon, Glen, and Turin up above. They are so wonderful!
Scott, Tyler, Turin, Brandon, Brigham, Siena, Lily and Lindsey look at the spectacular formations--but the clouds were forming, and it wasn't long before the rain came down in buckets and we had to run for cover! We were soaked! Luckily, a returned senior missionary who was in one of the lodges let us stay there until the rain passed enough that we could go out again and catch the shuttle back to our cars. What an adventure!
We let all the grandkids ride horses, and then we took an awesome walk to Crystal Falls, an underground stream that came down from Navajo Lake. It was amazing! We had a wonderful trip in a beautiful area.
We didn't know how to feel as we drove up Tanglewood Drive and turned onto Twin Peaks Drive. What a fabulous surprise to see such a huge and awesome "Welcome Home" banner that Paola had made for us! So so sweet and really meant a lot.
And now we will begin our new lives as returned missionaries, having served the Lord in the Nevada Las Vegas West Mission with all of our hearts, mights, minds and strengths. It was a privilege and honor to serve and an amazing experience for us. "Behold, they have labored exceedingly, and have brought forth much fruit; and how great shall be their reward!" Alma 29:15