We don’t know how to feel: unbelievable joy reuniting with our family at home or indescribable sorrow at leaving our mission family? Bits of both feelings battle within our hearts.
|Poem in our window sill|
Just a few days ago we finished the deep cleaning of our apartment in preparation for the next missionary couple and the missionaries and members helped us by graciously taking a bunch of items so we wouldn’t have to pack as much. Many gave us thoughtful gifts that will be constant reminders of the relationships forged over the last few months that will last forever. We’re grateful for the pure love of Christ that reminds us we are all brothers and sisters and able to help each other along this mortal path.
|Elder Striplin inherited the hat|
Monday afternoon we planned to tour a few sites on Babeldaub, but a heavy downpour helped us change to a couple of hours of games with our beloved missionaries. Following the games, Sister Carter and the sisters went to the doctor for a follow-up visit while Elder Carter opened up the college classroom for the young single adult family home evening. Sister Carter arrived in time for the scripture by Tommy and Luke’s wonderful lesson about patience followed by a wild game about the Doctrine and Covenants and an emotional rendition of “God Be With You” by our thoughtful single adults and Elders Striplin and Bush.
|Elder Striplin, Tommy, Elder Bush|
|Object lesson with Teruo|
|"God Be With You 'til We Meet Again"|
|Woven wall hanging|
|Elder Striplin accompanying on the ukelele|
|Tommy & Elder Bush|
|Teruo, our next Palauan missionary|
We made it back to our apartment to meet Sister Purcell, Sister Talakai, Elder Striplin, and Elder Bush for our traditional missionary send-off. They treated us to ice cream sundaes and listened to our thoughts about missionary service on Palau. We were so sad Elder Murdoch and Elder Malais were not at our gathering since they were stuck in Guam as a result of typhoon-inspired cancelled flights. Branch members stopped by to share their love and gifts before we started answering new questions Elder Carter had prepared that gave a snapshot of our mission experience.
|Elder Striplin & Elder Bush|
|Elder Striplin's new tie|
|Elder Carter & a gift|
|Sister Carter & a gift|
|Sister Carter and the much-wanted blouse|
|Sister Carter & Elder Striplin's gift|
|Elder Carter with his Palauan license plate|
|Elder Bush & Elder Striplin guarding the luggage|
|Sister Purcell & Sister Talakai|
|With our sons Elder Bush & Elder Striplin|
|With our daughters Sister Talakai & Sister Purcell|
Elder Striplin and Elder Bush graciously loaded our super heavy luggage into the back of their truck during another rainstorm. Our emotions matched the weather, especially when we walked toward the Palau airport terminal and saw many of our members there to wish us well and share their love with gifts, hugs, and thoughtful words. They and our missionaries insisted on staying until we entered the security area, which is saying a lot since the flight left at 2:15 A.M. How we love them!
|Keep the music playing|
|Quite a group|
|Gifts from Rodney|
|Good looking guys|
|Love this group!|
We stepped off the flight just a few minutes after 5:00 A.M. Guam time to see two of the sweetest missionaries ever—Elder Murdoch and Elder Malais! They sacrificed a chunk of sleep to see us for only a moment before we returned to the States and they returned to Palau. Saying goodbye to these two ripped a little more of our hearts straight out of our chests!
|Elder Malais & Elder Murdoch|
|We love our elders!!|
Without a night’s sleep and a car, we didn’t do much on Tuesday in Guam except mourn our departure from Palau and try to not think about all those wonderful people we left behind. Fortunately, the other senior missionaries on Guam had planned a potluck dinner at the mission home as well as a quick meeting with President and Sister Zarbock. Following a generous dinner of real red meat (steak), lasagna, broccoli salad, pasta salad, fresh fruit, homemade rolls, lemon cake, and ice cream, President Zarbock asked us to share our testimonies then shared a few words about the joys of missionary service and how our service will bless the lives of our families, particularly our grandchildren.
|Elder & Sister Hurst|
|Elder & Sister Martin|
|Elder & Sister Reed, Sister & Elder Guercio|
|Sister & President Zarbock|
|Elder & Sister Thomas, Sister & Elder Reed|
|Sister Carter & Sister Zarbock|
|Hursts & Carters|
|Elder Carter picking up his suit at the mission home|
Elder and Sister Hurst chauffeured us to our hotel room where we suffered through packing our suitcases again and missing our Palau families. Fortunately, Fredivic Nicerio, our good friend and CES administrator, interrupted our melancholy to visit and give us a beautifully carved Liahona to remind us of our service in the seminary and institute programs.
|Elder Carter & Freddie Nicerio|
|Freddie Nicerio & Sister Carter|
Bishop Nicerio met us again early Wednesday morning to deliver us to the airport and visit with us until we made our way to the gate. He has a difficult job, but he happily and ably leads all CES missionaries and seminary/institute teachers to teach as the Savior taught.
We arrived in Tokyo and met several other returning young missionaries who had served in various missions in the Philippines. How grateful we are for this army of young people who willingly set aside personal pursuits to serve the Lord by teaching the Restoration to His children! We all shared similar bittersweet feelings about going home. We landed in Portland, and most of those young missionaries traveled on to Salt Lake while we stayed a couple of extra hours to visit with a daughter there.
|Elder & Sister Carter & Jessica|
|The sweetest greeters ever!|
Though our bodies are still adjusting to the 15 hour time difference, we have loved every minute with our family as we’ve celebrated being together again and meeting two grandchildren born while we were away. We’ve flown across the world from missionary life to family life. At times, we see a familiar face or hear a snippet of conversation and are immediately transported to Palau. At those moments we mourn the end of our mission, but then we see the faces of our precious family or hear the laughter of our grandchildren and delight in our sweet reunion.
|A missionary like Grandma|
|Ezra loves the airport|
|Grandma and Isaac|
We rejoice in our testimonies of Jesus Christ and feel it a privilege to serve the Master. May the blessings of the restored gospel touch and encourage each of us to be better and serve more diligently.