I Am Home! *Ü*

December 20, 2010

Last Monday, my last week on the mission, we dug a grave to prepare for my mission "death". All morning on Tuesday we prepared for the Rio Claro branch Actividad Navideña (Christmas Activity). We had to plan everything ourselves. Not only did we have to make all the preparations for the activity, but I also had to prepare to go home. I had a lot to do, and not much time to do it. That night the Actividad Navideña turned out pretty good. Around 50-60 people attended. There were a lot of members, less active members, and even some investigators.

Oli was finally able to come, and of course Mainor, Julie, and Tiffani came with her. Julie brought a friend again. Awesome. There was also another non-member family that came. They are a couple with a young baby. I spoke with them a lot and they are very friendly and it seemed like they enjoyed themselves. Someone else that surprisingly showed up was Jose. Jose is the guy who digs the graves at the cementary, and he helped us a little when we were digging the day before. While we worked with him we started talking a little about the gospel. After awhile hno. Isidro took over sharing with him, which is perfect, and we let the members present share with him more than us, so they could be missionaries. Anyway at the end of the work we said goodbye and we left Jose at the cementary because he lives there. But as we were walking away, I felt that I should invite him to the activity, so I turned around and invited him, and he seemed happy and said he would come. Even so I was very surprised when he showed up by himself to the activity, all cleaned and dressed up. I was very happy to see him there, and I think he had a good time as well.

For the activity we basically had a Christmas dinner and some activities. The members all helped in bringing food and preparing it (especially Hna. Merly), and it was pretty good food. The main other thing going on was "Compartir Lo Nuestro", which is that everyone brought things that they owned, that were in good condition and that they didn’t need anymore. Then everyone could see what they brought and if they wanted it they could take it home with them. We did it in an orderly way, by everyone taking a number out of a hat (well it was actually a plastic bag, but you get it), and getting in a line in order of the numbers, and picking one thing they wanted. We did that for a while until we just let everyone go grab what they wanted. I brought all the clothes, toys, etc, that I wasn’t going to take home with me, which was mostly everything, so I brought a lot of stuff. I think everyone in the branch got at least one of my ties. It'll be sweet to walk around church when I come back to visit and just check out everyone’s tie, then flip it over and see my name on the back, because it was originally mine. Oh yeah. So I got rid of most of my stuff at this activity, but I left my shoes for my comp, and I left one of my suitcases for a guy from Golfito that is going on his mission soon.

Also as part of the activity there, were some shows prepared. Actually there were 3, and 2 of them were by my comp and I. The first thing we did was a musical number. He played the guitar and I sang "El Niño tambor" ("The Little Drummer Boy"). It turned out good, people liked it a lot. We also did a funny skit with a midget Santa, "Enanito Tobarza". My comp was the face, and made Tobarza's legs and feet with his arms and hands. I was Tobarza's arms and hid the rest of me away. It’s complicated to explain. I don’t know if you understand what I am describing but you’ll see a video eventually. Basically we made a show with a mini Santa dancing to different types of music. It turned out really funny, and everyone loved it.*Ü* Our shows were good, even though we had only practiced that same morning, and didn’t have much time to prepare. The activity was really stressful, because I had to direct the whole thing and sometimes there wasn’t much order. During the Compartir lo Nuestro part, I’d be speaking into the microphone and no one would be listening so I'd make jokes about it, and the few listening would laugh. I had the microphone in my hands always so I made random comments throughout the activity. In the end it was a great activity. I said goodbye to people and took pictures with them, because the next day we were going to pto. Jimenez so I wouldn’t see them again.

The next morning we took the bus to Pto. Jimenez. We met hno. Martin at the entrance of Nieque. He drove us to Jesus’ house. They fixed the road to his house a little bit, so at the beginning it wasn't as bumpy as usual. We taught Jesus and Belizario about the priesthood. Then at the end we asked Belizario if he had been praying like we had invited him to do. He told us that he had, and that he felt good. I invited him to be baptized on the 4th of January and he accepted. It was the last baptismal date I set, in the mission at least. After saying goodbye to Jesus and Belizario one last time, Martin drove us out to the main road, where we said goodbye to him, and then we met Pte. Conejo and his son Aldair who were waiting for us in their buseta. Pte. Conejo took us back to his house where he fed us lunch, and he told us more stories from his mission or from his world travels. His wife and daughter Megan weren’t there, but we had seen them the night before, because they went to the activity in Rio Claro. After lunch Presidente took us to see Miguel, Alain, Erline and Roxana, and Juan Luis. At each house he told them that I had come to say goodbye, and then he would talk the whole time. Pte. Conejo is so awesome. In the night he left us at Ronald and Lilibeth's house, and we said goodbye to him. Ronald and Lilibeth gave us dinner like always, and Lili's famous Chocolate Milk smoothie. Yum! It was sad saying goodbye to them. They gave me a piece of gold, which is from Rio Tigre there in Pto. Jimenez. They should be married and baptized in this month.

On Thursday morning we took the 5:30 a.m. bus back to Rio Claro. We finished packing, I said goodbye to zona sur as we took the 12:00 p.m. bus to San Jose. We arrived in San Jose like at 7:30 p.m. The fast paced, crowded, and congested San Jose (especially during Christmas) is a sharp contrast from the tranquilo, jungly zona sur I finished the mission in. It made me feel a little bit of what going home would be like (just a tiny tiny bit.) At 8:30 that night I had my final interview with President Galvez.

Friday morning was my last changes meeting. It started with the final testimonies. Since 20 missionaries ended the mission with me, it took awhile. I was one of the last ones to give my testimony. After the final testimonies, came the changes. Elder Taylor took my place in Rio Claro, just as I had predicted. Elder Amador and Elder Dominguez are both training. Elder Perez went up to Zone Leader. The mission is super young right now. And there are a lot of new missionaries coming in. After changes we stayed for a couple hours taking pictures, writing in people journals, exchanging info, and saying goodbye. Then we took a buseta with our baggage to the Ap. house. My bags were already there because I had come the night before. Unfortunately the secretaries lost the keys to the house so we had to wait outside with all the luggage for an hour and a half. In the end we just left the secretaries watching our stuff while we went to visit some old areas. Elder Hanson didn’t have anywhere to go so he went with me to Tres Rios and Cartago.

In Tres Rios we visited Familia Vega, who are doing amazing. Paola and Byron who we taught and were baptized the week after I left, are doing great. Their parents and two brothers are active and well. There brother Stephen is actually preparing for a mission. It’s crazy that when we found them they were all inactive and two not even baptized and now the whole family is active members. They are very thankful and were happy to see me. Afterward we visited Ariel, who was also baptized a couple weeks after I left. He is doing good as well. It was great to see him.

We took the bus to Cartago. When we got off the bus I saw Eladio. We were actually going to go to his house but luckily we saw him in the street because we were really tight on time. Eladio and I waved each other down in the street. He and Arline are married now, and they are preparing to be sealed in July. We went to visit Jessica after that. She gave me a tie for Christmas. We stopped by the church to see hna. Marielos who was preparing for the Christmas activity they were going to have that night. Then hno. Silva drove us quickly to las ruinas where we quickly met Isa to say goodbye. Then we had to take a bus to San Jose again. We barely made it in time to Pte. Galvez's house for our Final Dinner, but we made it. To my surprise, waiting for me outside the house was Bryan, the Dueno from Cartago. It was good to see him, and say goodbye, and it was really cool of him to come and say goodbye. I felt kind off bad because he had been waiting for about 4 hours.

The dinner was really special. President and Hermana Galvez shared many stories with us and gave us a lot of tips. It was also great to be with everyone we had started the mission with. The missionaries in that group going home were Elder Hansen, Elder Smith, Elder Dwiggins, Elder Logan, Elder Lopez-Carrasco, Elder Fotheringham, Elder Brockbank, Elder Christensen, Elder Welton, Elder Davis, Elder Leiba, Elder Christy, Elder Sorensen, Elder Villanueva, Elder Cedeno, Elder King, Hermana Vallecillo, Hermana Hadley, Hermana Hunsaker.

After dinner we said our goodbyes to hna. Galvez and hna. Vallecillo, and elder Dwiggins (his parents picked him up after dinner). That night we weighed our luggage and spent almost all night trying to even out and make each bag under 50 lbs so it could go on the plane. Then went to sleep.

Next morning went to the airport. Called Karen and Xinia in airport and said goodbye. Called Brun and Jasmine but they didn’t answer. At 8:30 am we took a plane to Dallas. It was the first time in the US in two years. It was the first time in an Obama run USA. Didn’t feel the same. jajajaja. Then after having a four-hour layover, Hermana Hunsaker and I flew to Sky Harbor in Phoenix. I sat next to a man named Bret. He is a very large but nice man. His boss is a member and I was able to have a good conversation with him on the plane ride. I invited him to listen to the missionaries when he returned to his home in Texas.

When we arrived in Arizona, and the plane touched down, Hermana Hunsaker and I were super nervous. You first, no you first. jajajajaja. When we walked off the plane and no one was there we were a little surprised. We took a bathroom break and everything. We figured our families were waiting past security stuff, and sure enough they were. When we walked out they greeted us with hugs and tears. My Parents, Sisters, Grandma and Grandpa, Abuelito, friends were there to greet me. I didn’t know what to say or do. I was in shock being home. I still am. But I'm home. I think.

Yesterday morning, I was released by my Stake President. When he told me I was no longer a missionary, I started to cry. That day, at 1:00 p.m. I gave a homecoming talk in my old ward, I didn’t have much time to prepare it, but according to people, it turned out okay. It was really crazy seeing people from the ward that I hadn’t seen in so long. Also to see so many people I didn’t know. Some people that are no longer in The PV ward came just to see me speak. I got to church just before it started so I didn’t have time to talk to anyone before the meeting, but afterward I did. I actually didn’t go to the Sunday school class because people were talking to me. That night I went on divisions with Bryce and the Sister Missionaries. We talk a lady and put a baptismal goal for January. It was weird not speaking in Spanish, but even weirder not being the missionary. I still can’t believe its over.

I loved my mission. Although I wish I could go back and change some things, and although I would have liked to start with the knowledge I have know, I can't. Its over. But I was very blessed to be a missionary in Costa Rica. I worked hard, learned more than I thought possible, had unforgettable experiences, and I saw many miracles. It wasn’t easy, it was very hard, but it was worth it. I love the work, I love the people, and I love the Lord. This is his church. This is his gospel. I am forever indebted to him for the two amazing years he gave me to serve him. Now I offer those years up to him, and I hope that he is pleased. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.