Sunday, April 6, 2014

Missions, Reunions, Potluck, and Eternal Friends

Missions, Reunions, Potluck, and Eternal Friends

Our mission in the Caribbean Area Welfare Office was one of the choicest experiences of our entire lives. We were able to travel the Caribbean, training Church leaders and doing humanitarian projects. Who wouldn’t want to do something like this?

While the travel and training were incredible elements of our mission, the real value was developing relationships—relationships with Church leaders and members, community leaders and community members, young missionaries from both the United States and countries of the world, and especially our senior missionary friends who have become eternal friends.

We loved to get together. And that hasn’t changed since we have been home. There is something magical about being with people you know and love.

We had that experience on Saturday, April 5, 2014, right before the Priesthood Session of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We met in the Rodney and Marcia Ford’s home in Bountiful, Utah, one large enough to accommodate 12 couples or 24 people.  

We began gathering around 4:00 p.m., just after the last session of General Conference. Soon, we were giving abrazos (hugs) and commenting how wonderful it was to see everyone. With smiles on our faces and our hearts full, we welcomed Los Mahon and Los Schmitz, both recently home from their missions.

Everyone brought something to eat. Los Ford served delicious roasted pork, with marvelous little potatoes, and sautéed mushrooms. So with the plentiful potluck dishes, we sat down to fine china, around two tables. The chatter and the clatter of voices, food, plates, and utensils echoed throughout the home.

Soon, though, Hermana Ford called out that it was time for the brethren to be off to the Priesthood Session. 

While we were gone, the Hermanas talked and talked and talked and prepared the dessert for a sweet homecoming. We barreled through the desserts like we were starving—cheesecake topped with a strawberry goo, German chocolate cake, carrot cake, and an assortment of other postres.

What’s a gathering without pictures. We took group pictures and couple pictures. Others took candid pictures of people talking, people handling guns (1863 version, perfectly safe, no load), and people just catching up on life.

In attendance: 

President and Sister Bair came from Washington. They served as Santo Domingo President and Matron for three years; so, their mission spanned all of our missions.

Los Snow were there. They served as Area Auditors and traveled the Caribbean, too, doing audits and training local leaders about Church finances. Their office was just across the partition from us in the Area Office. Frequently, chocolate kiss bombs came flying over to buoy us up. They also served in the Quisqueya Branch one of the small branches in the East Mission.

Los Ford, our hosts, served as the Santo Domingo West Mission couple. Their job was literally to keep the mission running, making sure the young elders and sisters had safe housing, organizing and transferring missionaries safely, working the finances of the mission, and doing a host of other activities. They were always busy. 

 Los Rees, ranchers from Morgan, Utah, served as the Caribbean Area Music Specialists. Ironically and according to them, they didn’t possess lots of musical skills, including not being able to play the piano well before the mission. Elder Rees said he took piano lessons when he was a kid, but the teacher basically kicked him out and told his mother to never bring him back. He literally re-learned how to play the piano, and they taught dozens and dozens of Dominicans how to play the piano and lead music.

Los Low had come from Canada, not necessarily just to attend our reunion but also attend his 50-year Tahitian reunion. They also served there as a couple. He served as one of the attorneys for the Caribbean Area Office while she worked in the temple and taught piano lessons.

Los Despain served as temple workers and in a small ward. Brother Despain plays the guitar and ventured to have one made; Sister Despain plays the piano. They were a huge boost in their ward, teaching in the Young Women’s program and lending support to the leaders.

Los Leavitt served as temple workers. If that wasn’t enough, he was called to be the Branch President in Los Llanos, a very small branch in the East mission. They traveled every Sunday and  most of their days off during the week to Los Llanos on some of the most horrible roads in the Dominican Republic. Plus, later in the mission, he was called to be part of the Santo Domingo Temple Presidency.

Los Schmitz had also recently returned. They were the ones who took the Ford’s place in the West Mission Office.

Los Brown came late. They are a wonderful couple who served in the West Mission Presidency and lived out in the middle of the mission and drove thousands and thousands of miles while visiting missionaries, leaders, and others and attending meetings.

Los Eickbush came strolling in, laden with dozens of loaves of his famous banana bread. How we all missed that. Often at Family Home Evenings or any time he was baking, we all received a fresh loaf of banana bread. Bananas (guineos) were plentiful, and he took advantage. They served as the East Mission Office couple and did everything los Ford and los Schmitz did and served in the Branch Presidency in Los Llanos. They were always busy.

Los Mahon had just returned from the mission and are acclimating to the climate and, as Hermana Mahon said, “Wearing pants” as she never wore a pair of pants while she was in the DR. They served as Church Education missionaries in the Dominican Republic and in the Missionary Training Center Presidency.

And, of course, Joanne and I were humbled to be in the presence of these great people. We served as Caribbean Area Welfare Specialists and in the Missionary Training Center Presidency.

It is amazing how close you become with people you meet and associate with for less than 18 months when serving a mission. I noticed the same camaraderie my parents experienced when they wintered in Quartzsite, Arizona. People come together under the most interesting experiences and continue being friends forever. And that’s how we feel about our friends who served simultaneously in the Caribbean Area Office and the Dominican Republic.

 Muchísimas gracias a Ustedes!