Thursday, October 29, 2015

79 - The First and the Last

You know you don't have very much time left as a missionary when you log onto the missionary site and it says on there "You must be assigned to a proselyting area in order to report key indicators." How then are we supposed to report our three baptisms darn it! Oh well. I guess the zone leaders will take care of it.

That morning we got, surprise surprise! A transfer call! It was kind of bummer news though. Elders are coming into the area. The Elders are Elder Ashby, who is a wonderful and experienced missionary, and he's training a new missionary. It'll be good and the Lord knows what's best... but we are super sad that there's not going to be any sisters. No sisters in Williston at all... But they want to put sisters back in they say. Maybe in the spring.

Monday I was also pretty miserably sick with a nasty cold. I was very cranky at some points of the day and in the evening we just ended up staying inside and sleeping basically. I'm just glad I got sick BEFORE going home, and not during the traveling process.

However, despite sickness, I did suck it up and go play bowling with our district like we had planned as a last hurrah.

Also, don't play bowling with lady claws, because this will happen to you.

Sister Lewis broke her nail good! haha.

Packing packing and packing. It's a project. Especially when neither of you are feeling super well. But we got through it, packing in spurts Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning. We were going to prepare the area with tons of sticky notes with random tips as well, but we were just too exhausted and booked up with packing.

Our relief society president is a saint and she took us out to lunch and got us each a going away present. She gave each of us this same ornament to remind us of the magic of her taking us up to Grenora in her red truck of a sleigh to bring the magic to the sisters in Grenora. How nice is that! And she told us that if we brought her boxes that were addressed, that she could send home anything that we needed if our stuff was too much for our suitcases to pass the weight limit test at the airport! She is so awesome!

It was Wednesday now and we were both feeling much better than the day before. We finished up packing and we brought four boxes to our relief society president for her to send home for us. It was time for the in person goodbyes. I was hoping not to put on my coat for the rest of my mission, but this last day it was in the 30s. So on our jackets went.

We said bye to a sweet old less active lady that we hadn't seen in awhile. And we then walked two doors down to say bye to Vaasa. He was SO happy for us. Holy cow, we've never seen the man smile so much. Him and his Russian self being so Russian.

"Mission is good. But normal life better. Normal life you need to go and get good education. And find good man who take-en care of you. Because American, is no good. American vomen is too much power. European vomen, zay understand-ez zis. Find man who love-ez you and take-ez care of vomen. Have good life and excited for you for marriage. Sank you for everysing."

He was just over the moon a the thought of us settling down and having a family with a good man! So funny. What a good old man you are Vaasa.

Then we drove out to Lukenbill to say bye to the Brown family, because they are just so awesome. We will miss them.

Then we stopped by Elias and Mr. Kiwi's house to see if they were home. Mr. Kiwi was and Elias would be in a minute. So we gave each other a hard time until Elias got there and he came with his friend Cab. I call him that because this friend would often provide transportation for him.

It was almost five and we had a tradition to fulfill tonight. At the end of your mission it is customary among missionaries to burn a skirt or dress if you're a sister, or a suit coat if you are an elder. Not every missionary does this tradition, but it's a fun one if you choose to do it. We had eaten dinner with the Awesome family the night before. (This was the "All-So Awesome" family. The Awesome's I've always previously talked about are the "Crazy Awesome" family. Brother All-So Awesome and Brother Crazy Awesome are biological brothers.)

As we told them about this tradition, they immediately, being the red neck fun kinda people they are, offered to help us light em up, with gasoline and everything! Heck yeah!

So we were at Elias and Mr. Kiwi's house when we heard that we were good to come over. They were very confused as to what was going on and it was just so funny and one would try to explain and the other would be like 'stop trying to explain, you don't know what you're talking about' and it was just hilarious. We were just like, "Just follow us. Come on!" And we drove on over there, trusting that the All-to-Awesome's wouldn't mind three Africans tagging along to watch the fun!

Before we get fully into the skirt burning though, I need to tell a story.

Once upon a time, I found a skirt. It was in my mom's closet and I needed clothes to take on my mission, but I didn't have very many skirts. She had three skirts just right there that were like magic! They were all the same cut, simple, cute, and the colors were a tan, a black, and a gray. She allowed me to take them on my mission and they have been my staple skirts, but the tan one was my favorite because it fit just perfect because for some reason in was a size bigger. I loved it so much.

Then one day. I endeavored to fix my watch's thing that holds down the loose strap... with super glue... and a big drop got on my skirt... After trying a few times to get it out with just water and soap, I was dumb and tried to get it out with fingernail polish remover and it distorted the coloring in the skirt. I ruined it! SAD FACE!

So. I Decided it would be given a proper burial.


And there it is. It's life with me began with the mission and ended with it too. Farewell skirt. Time to burn another skirt!

Sister Lewis's burned for a long time! Because it was cotton. And eventually it got a little less cool and she put it on the block.

Anyone for marshmallows?

So that was super fun and fulfilling.

Then we saw Kristen and the cute kitten that got so much bigger! Holy cow! We were instructed though to come back and get a present for us later that night.

In the mean time we went to dinner with the members that are like our grandma and grandpa of Williston. The lady that we helped by filling her pill containers last week and the man who baptized Elias. She was doin alright enough with her fractured pelvis to still go out to eat using her walker. It was SO humid in that Chinese buffet! It looked like it was raining outside, but no, it was just all the condensation on the windows. Sister Lewis, being a Louisiana girl, was in heaven.

After our last dinner as a missionary in Williston (it gets more and more real that you're going home with every 'last this' and 'last that'), we called Jaffar to see if he was alive. This was his last chance! He had NOT been responding to us, the stinker, and he hadn't even signed his baptismal record yet because he ducked out of church early for whatever reason! And surprise. He didn't pick up.

So we said goodbye real fast to our ward mission leader and his wife, and then! Jaffar called us back! YOU'RE ALIVE! So we went over to see him!

We went and slapped him for being dead. Not really, but we let him know that we were concerned about him. His work, his construction work, had him working in Minot lots those ten days on, and so he was getting home super late and yeah. But now are his four days off. So we set up a return appointment for the elders and had him sign his baptismal record, and gave him his picture, which he really appreciated.

Then, even though it was super late, we went over to see Kristen as she instructed, and she gave Sister Lewis some scotcheroos, something that Sister Lewis can actually eat that she loves, and...

She gave us both crosses that were carved IN Jerusalem! So neat! And she and her daughter that is a member and comes out with us all the time, and her son all signed the back. How nice is that!!

We got back at almost 10:30. Oops. So we basically went straight to bed.

"But many that are first shall be last; and the last first," (Mark 10:31).

We woke up at 6:30 on Thursday as per usual. But this was not a usual day. It was for both of us our last full day as a set apart missionary.

We were scrambling to get some final notes written for the elders and get numbers jotted down for us and to get our suitcases in the car. We had just over an hour to do this and I feel bad, but we kind of left the apartment a bit of a mess for the elders... Don't worry though. We wrote an apologetic sticky note as well.

At 8 o'clock, we were off! Just us and our bags, going straight for the four-hours-away place called Bismarck! Man, there's so many ways in which I've ended my mission the same way I began it. I started in Bismarck, and I never thought this would happen, but I'm flying out of Bismarck as well. Going home missionaries used to fly out of Rapid City, SD.

I also came into the mission with one day of snow on the ground and what a nice and symbolic thing to leave the same way. So cool.

We got to Bismarck a little before noon and waited for the transfer train to get there. Lunch was provided for all the missionaries that were there. It was weird, not recognizing more than half of the missionaries and talking to them saying how long we've been out and I would say, "I'm goin home." "Oh!..." Now I was that missionary that was goin home. Just crazy. And insane to think that it was in this very church that I first started, with this bags, seeing my trainer, Sister Easter, and taking a picture next to the temple for the first time, eighteen long months ago.

It was around 2 now and the transfer train was loaded up with everyone's suitcases that was being transferred. But my district leader, the punk, Elder Reynolds shook my hand and said, "Wait, you're dead now. Bye Hannah!"

And I was SO caught off guard- I screamed! AH! No! You're not supposed to call me by my first name! lol And he just ran away doing his little 'nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah!' laughing noise thing! Hahaha.

Now that all the missionaries who were goin home were gathered at the church and the transfer tvan was departing, it was time to go to the mission home with President and Sister Hess! I'd never been in the mission home before! Wow, so exciting.

We arrived, all eight of us. Elder Gruver, Elder Merritt, Elder Deeter, Sister Hawkes, Sister Paniagua, Sister Clegg, Sister Lewis, And Sister Sanderson. I didn't know the elders very well, but I know all the sisters.

All of us received a binder that has all the weekly reporting emails we sent to president, a contact list of all the missionaries that were out during the time we were out and their listed home addresses and stuff which is super nice, and some talks and official letters addressed to returned missionaries. Oh, and any mail that they held for us in this last week.

We were instructed to relax while President had final one on one interviews with people.

While president was doing interviews, those of us who were musically inclined gathered around the piano and sang hymns. My voice was still not recovered fully from being sick, but I made do, and it was really fun.

We then ate an early dinner, with lots of ham! It was very good.

While dinner was being cleaned up I had my interview. It was crazy being in presidents office and seeing the transfer board that we weren't on anymore. In my interview, I expressed to president that one of the things I had learned most on my mission is how to rely on the spirit. I commended me for that and assured me that I would use that ability the rest of my life.

And after dinner we went to the temple! Which was really cool for Sister Lewis, because this was her only time that she's gotten to go to the temple on her mission, because seriously she has served everywhere else BUT around the temple! Super cool for her to finally go. This what my fourth time going.

You can actually see the temple from the mission home's back porch view! You have to know what you're looking for, but you can see the spire just to the left of the big blue water tower.

When we came back we had dessert, cheesecake!

Then we all went downstairs and played a game with tennis balls which was just fun and also served as an object lesson. It was the game where you passed the tennis balls in a certain order, but you had five or six balls going and it was easy to get distracted. If your get distracted, you'll mess up either the sending or the receiving. Moral of the story: keep focused on what really matters.

Then President and Sister Hess gave us a 'Mom and Dad' talk. They exhorted us to keep clean. They talked about dating, about keeping good habits, about centering things on Jesus Christ, all that good stuff. And the coolest thing was that President Hess explained that it's a promise that when you are released as a missionary it is a promise that you are absolutely clean and pure. That's powerful.

President Hess then had us go around and share scriptures that defined our mission experiences. We had some really good ones. One of the elders shared the story in 1 Samuel 17:41-47 and talked about there were many goliaths on his mission and that there will be after returning home as well, but that if you are fighting together with the Lord that you don't need to fear. The other two elders shared scriptures from the famous prayer of Nephi in 2 Nephi 4, and I shared 1 Corinthians 12:9-10 and I shared my "RAPID" acronym that I talked about earlier in my blog. (Reproaches, Afflictions, Persecutions, Infirmities, Distresses.) But my favorite was Sister Clegg's:

"Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God," (Helaman 3:35).

That really just sums up what a mission does for you. Brilliant use of this scripture.

We then went to bed. I thought I would take a picture of Hamlet one last time. We ended up going to bed about midnight because the devotional went passed eleven. We all went to sleep, sleep which was preceded with a prayer of gratitude and a request of blessed travels for the monumental journey in the morning.

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