February 17, 2014
The longer we serve with the missionaries, the harder it is to let them go home. When talented missionaries return home, it leaves a void and we hope and pray that other missionaries are prepared to step up and take their place. Gratefully, they always do.
This group of missionaries have truly been stalwarts. We will miss them. They leave the mission field with strong testimonies and a desire to continue to serve wherever they are.
(The missionaries all have their own mission terminology, i.e., "I was born in . . ., My mother is . . ., My dad is . . ., I died in . . . . One of the terms they use is "dying testimony" which is their final testimony in zone conference prior to their departure. I personally really dislike the term "dying testimony". It sounds awful and I don't want their testimony to die and neither do they. My legacy in this mission will probably be that I discontinued the term "dying testimony". I've told them they can use final mission testimony or growing testimony or continuing testimony or almost anything but dying testimony.)
It is a tradition that the missionaries spend their final night at the villa. We have a testimony meeting and then a dinner. Following dinner, they each have their final interview with President Waddoups and then pretend to get some sleep before leaving for home the next morning. Most of them are excited to go home and see their families, but they are also extremely sad to leave the "best two years of my life" behind them.
We got a limited edition of the Book of Mormon and brought it with us to Italy. Each of the missionaries sign their name on their favorite scripture. It will be our souvenir of our mission.
Mornings come early when some of the missionaries have to be out the door and on their way to the airport by 5:00 am.