Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Return Part 1

This will be part 1 of a 3 part series (most likely) in which I talk about my experience returning home from my mission! This blog post will basically be a "weekly email" for my last couple days after I sent home my last email. The next part will most likely cover my plane rides and my arrival home, with the last part covering what it has been like as a recently returned missionary and all the ups and downs that come along with that. Enjoy! 
Btw... I haven't proofread this or anything.... I just threw it down and posted it. So, forgive me for any mistakes or lack of creativity.

Well, here I am again, one last time (I guess part 1/3 of "last time). I have been thinking recently about, well…… life….. and thought that I would write one last blog post about coming home and what life has been like as a fresh as could be RM. I hope that you will enjoy this as much as my previous 105 weeks worth of emails. If you thought that all of them suckers were long, then get comfy because I highly doubt that I will even be able to finish up this unit tonight. We shall see. Also, I feel as if I have lost some of my missionary flair so my entertainment as far as some things go may be lacking. I am trying to pump “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” into my ears on repeat to get that special spirit back. But, for some reason the tears ain’t flowing like they did back in the day driving around with Elder Brighton Lund (shoutout to Elder Lund). Still love this song. “Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wondering heart to thee.” Ugh. Yes. Preach it MoTab. Aaaannnndddd just restarted it for round 2. Anyway, I’ll move on.

I will start with where I left off from my last email in the mission field. I think I emailed Monday morningish so we can pick up there. Emails were a wreck. I walked into the library and a sister that came home with me was already balling. I knew I was in for a rough one. I survived, but not without a few tears along with my final words as a full-time missionary. It was really hard to put into words all that I wanted to. As you are preparing to go home you are filled with so many different feelings and emotions and it’s impossible to put it into expressed terms. But I did the best I could despite my inability to say what I wanted to share. Anyway, moving on. Oh yes, my last p-day sports will be next up on the docket. HO-LY cow. So frustrating. I couldn’t hit a dang shot. No joke, it was probably the most frustrating activity that I have participated in for a long time. What a way to head out, huh? But then, right at my moment of despair, I went off like LeBron in the 2016 NBA Finals. I hit 3 threes and a few other sick shots on consecutive trips down the floor. My team went from worst to first just like that. I went nuts, my team went nuts, and pretty much the entire gym felt like an NBA arena for a bit. I got the party started and kept it going with some serious celebration antics. Pretty sure I had Sister Muir in tears at one point laughing so hard (shoutout to Sister Muir). I just couldn’t contain myself from letting all of my frustration go in the form of celebration (does that make sense?). So all in all, still left pretty frustrated, but the frustration was relieved after going off like an All-NBA 1st teamer for a few short minutes. Nobody cares about the rest of p-day.

Tuesday was crazy as well. Last full day as a missionary. My wonderful mission son, Elder Cardon (shoutout to Elder Cardon), who is serving as an assistant to the president, called me Monday night at about 9:00 and asked if I could help with transfers the next morning by driving some missionaries down to a town two hours away and then drive back. SURE DUDE, whatever you need me to do. In all honesty I was happy to do it, however it did make my day quite a bit more exhausting. (After listening to a variety of MoTab songs I now have “Amazing Grace” by BYU Noteworthy pumping far too loud into my ears… I am surely feeling the Holy Spirit now… good times, huh, Elder Lund?) (Shoutout to Elder Brighton Lund, again) (not sure if I am using these parentheses in the proper phonetic way, but whatevs) Before I began my drive down to Snyder I had to say goodbye to my last companion, Elder Hawes. I love Elder Hawes so so so much. Its hard to put a “favorite companion” title on any one companion, but he can be in the group of companions that all get that title. He was such good companion as a departing missionary. He was supportive of my end of mission sorrows without even purposely doing so, kept me laughing and enjoying life, and was just a great great friend to have over the course of my last couple months. He received the assignment to be taken away from his labors out in the streets and sit in the office for me. That’s it. The Lord needed him to be with me so he pulled him in with me. Also, I had the privilege to teach and mentor an increasingly motivated missionary at a critical time of his mission and had the privilege of seeing that young man grow and develop into a great missionary. He makes me proud. So that was a sucky goodbye (shoutout to Elder Hawes). Anyway, my drive down to Snyder and back was nice despite the added craziness. I had a wonderful opportunity to drive down some good young men and was able to converse with them about their new areas (old areas of mine) and about life. On the way home I had the opportunity to drive with just Elder Olmos with me. Elder Olmos is such a remarkable young man. He hasn’t been out in the field for too long yet I felt like he had been out for a year and a half. We were able to talk about some of the challenges in our missionary assignments and a lot about being good companions and how to help missionaries in our stewardship. Throughout the trip I couldn’t help but think about the fact that I was going to no longer have such precious times like these with my fellow servants. There is something special about the relationships you build as a missionary, both with your fellow missionaries and with the “normal” people you serve. Your relationships are built up from a foundation of righteousness and a common focus of love and service. There is nothing like it. And I recognized that my couple hours with this incredible young man were going to be my last one on one time I would have with a full-time missionary. God bless him and his current and future endeavors in the service of the Lord.

Once I returned to Lubbock I had crazy this and crazy that for a bit, but you don’t care enough about it to read about it. Eventually we made our way to the mission home for games, dinner, and a secret activity that I do not know how much I will be able to say about, just for the sake of secrecy. From the get-go it was just surreal to be in the mission home as a departing missionary. I don’t really know how to describe the setting that evening. There was a very exciting reverence and peace despite the fun and laughs that occupied our ears throughout our time there. There was just something special about being in the mission home with all of the wonderful elders and sisters that you have served with for 2 years/18 months. You had 15 young people in one room that were filled with the special spiritual light that had taken so so long to develop. I felt like we were a spiritual family sitting their together. Oh how I dearly love my fellow servants in the Texas Lubbock Mission. Oh how I love them. At one point after eating President and Sister Heap gathered us all together and sat at the head of the room for our “secret activity” that has truly been kept a secret. To protect the secret, I won’t say too much, however I will say that it was some of the most powerful couple hours of my mission. President and Sister Heap counseled us on a number of things, and the whole time you could just sense the powerful love that they had developed for each and every single one of us. The love that I felt was so emotionally draining and the counsel that they gave us was engrained into my mind because of the immense love that it was shared with. Everything they said was accompanied by their love (obviously, I know, I already said that) but also a powerful spirit. The Holy Ghost was no doubt working on overdrive to help me receive yet another witness that what I had been taught as a full-time missionary was going to change my life. I have to credit President and Sister Heap for teaching me much of what I learned. They were truly sent to me by God. I will never be able to repay them for the impact that they have left on my life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. President Heap will sit as a Savior on Mount Zion for me and many other people that have been honored to be under his priesthood stewardship. I could not even imagine anyone ever coming close to fulfilling their calling as MY mission president better than he did. He and Sister Heap are the most amazing examples of disciples of Christ that I have met, and I will forever remember them for their love and care. God bless you, President and Sister Heap!

Tuesday night was my last night in Lubbock. It was pretty crazy. I didn’t think I was going to be able to sleep. But luckily I slept alright. I think I was able to sleep because my entire being needed to shut down for a bit to recover from the twisting and stretching that had been done to it over the previous day. It felt like I was awake for most of the night, but I remember dreaming a lot throughout the night and all of a sudden Elder Moschetti came out to wake us up (shoutout to Elder Moschetti). So I don’t really know what happened that night. It’s still a little confusing. I had heard a number of mentions about your last prayer as a missionary in the previous years, however you have to experience it to really know what its like. I had to wait a little bit to let everything settle down and get quiet and for the lights to get shut off before I kneeled down at the couch to let ‘er rip. I’m not even going to try to describe what it was like. There were a lot of tears, and a lot of deep emotional pouring out and thanks given.

Wednesday morning started out as a disaster!!! I woke up and was the first one to hop into the shower, because I know that I have to go first because it takes me FOR-EVER to get ready, just ask one of my companions. Anyway, I was fixin’ to hop in the shower when I found that I didn’t pack my flippin’ razor in my night bag!!!!!!! So here I am, about to hop on plane to go home, aaaaannnnnnddddd I can’t shave. Using someone else’s razor was out of the question because that is like, terrible for your skin. So I was left razorless. I ran out to the family room area and expressed my dilemma to the boys. Nobody seemed to have the resources to help me. I was done. I wasn’t getting on a plane until I was clean shaven!!! And then…… Elder Evans (bless his heart… shoutout to Elder Evans) came strutting out of his bedroom for sure at least 87.4% still asleep and went into the bottom drawer (I had already checked the cupboard and such) and pulled out a bag of disposable razors with 1 blade…………… sooooooooooooo, do I just take the risky route and not shave, or do I take the risk of using a single bladed disposable razor???????? Well, I seemingly had no other choice, I was going to hitchhike down to the nearest Walgreens and buy me a new razor. Kidding. Totally kidding. I used the single blade razor. It took me about twice as long because I had to rinse the razor after ever ¼ inch of skin/whiskers, but I made it through. I bet nobody even noticed. Hah. Or, everybody noticed and didn’t say anything to me about my terrible shave job. Thanks for having my back, elders…. NOT!

Well, it was then time to head off to the airport for our final departure. Man, I was doing rather well. We got there, pulled all of our luggage out of the trailer (oh yeah… I had an issue with my luggage weight while weighing them at the mission office… luckily the other elder flying into Boise had plenty of extra weight for me to stash some stuff in his bags), and headed on inside. We eventually all got our tickets and bags checked, and were off to the security line. Random note, who thought that there would be a good amount of people at 6:30am in the Lubbock airport? Not me! I thought that place would be empty besides us. Anyway, the last wrenching goodbye then took place as we reached our last switchback in the security line. I didn’t want it to come. I wanted them to have a mess up with their security system that caused us to get stuck in line for a long time or something crazy like that. But surely I reached the switchback in the blink of an eye, and President and Sister Heap were right there in front of me. I was about to say goodbye to the two people who changed my life. I hugged President Heap, I had too much to say to him that nothing came out of my mouth. Just silence. He expressed his love for me (in more ways than just his words, you could feel it in his soul) and released his embrace. Then came the Sister Heap handshake. Love ya, Sister Heap. Btw, if you happen to read this, why don’t we get to hug you at the airport? I really wanted to hug you! That wasn’t the end though, I still had my boy Elder Cardon and one of my dear former companions, Elder Moschetti, left to hug. Elder Cardon hadn’t cried yet, I surprisingly hadn’t cried yet (somehow my tears were all blocked up for the Heaps), but as I made eye contact with Elder Cardon the twinkles came to both of our eyes. Elder Cardon was my companion for my 3rd and 4th transfers of my mission and he was fresh out of the MTC for those transfers, so we had some nice growing pains together. However, we went on a long hiatus from serving around each other for a long time until I worked in the office my last two months all while he was serving as an assistant to the president. So we hadn’t grown super close together because of such a long time apart, however there is a special sort of love that grows between a trainer and a trainee regardless of if you recognize it or not. Back to the story, we embraced, and once again my words were blocked, just tears this time. Elder Cardon finally got a, “Thanks for training me” out of his mouth amongst the tears, and I just told him I loved him. As we released our embrace I looked at him and told him that I was proud of him and who he has become. Love that man. He is one of my heroes. Then on to Elder Moschetti. I don’t think he was crying either… but he didn’t last. I was already crying so the tears just kept on coming. I think my time with Elder Moschetti was amongst the best 6 weeks of my mission. I learned a ton in those 6 weeks and I love that man for all that he did that taught me how to be a better missionary and companion. So, that was a kicker as well.

Well, we all made it through security and gathered together on the other side to give one last cheer to our beloved friends on the other side of the security business. Once we all got our stuff back together we all gathered in a group, and waited for the leading 1, 2, 3, and gave one last “HURRAH FOR ISRAEL!” shout (quietly-ish of course) and went on our way down to our gates with nothing left to do but to hop onto a couple of flights before arriving back at home.

I don’t know if I ever gave a shoutout to President and Sister Heap. SHOUTOUT TO PRESIDENT AND SISTER HEAP!!!

Elder Hawes and I

The party van of departing missionaries!
Traditional TLM start/end at the temple pic!
(photo cred: Sister Heap)
Fixin' to eat some grub
(photo cred: Sister Heap)
Eatin' some grub
(photo cred: Sister Heap)

Waiting at the airport

Just busted through security