|Our Release Letters from our Mission|
We started the last week of our mission with our last Sunday, attending the meetings in our International Ward. I was able to finish the 11th week of our Portuguese My Foundations group, which would be completed the next week, after our departure. Fond farewells were shared with different ward members and we then returned to our apartment. We were able to make a farewell visit to the Mendes family later that day. We had not seen them in Church for several weeks and wanted to give our good byes to them. We had a wonderful visit with Sister Mendes and her son Wilson. We pray that they can overcome the challenges that they encounter in their lives. Serving them as home teachers has been a big part of our mission.
The next three days were spent continuing our transition with Elder and Sister Carroll, including video visits with many of our Self-Reliance missionary couples. We participated in the first two together and then we joined in the others just long enough to give our farewells. We spent much of our time at our apartment cleaning the apartment and packing our bags. We also spent the time to finish the tasks that needed our attention.
|Giving our farewell with Elder and Sister Bradshaw, in Hungary|
On Monday evening we were invited to dinner with Elder and Sister Rich. They have been dear friends with us throughout most of our mission. The meal was authentic U.S. roast beef from the American Commissary acquired from their son who lives in Germany with the military. The time with the Riches was even better than the meal. We love them. It was a wonderful evening after a very busy day.
|Elder and Sister Rich serve as Area Auditors, the meal was authentic U.S. roast beef|
Tuesday morning we mailed our last package home, including most of the items we had received in Paris a few weeks earlier. Everything else had to fit into our suitcases.
|Last package sent home through DHL|
Later that day we had a final farewell luncheon with the Self-Reliance team. That was followed with a meeting with with Tom King, E/S Carroll and Jennifer, our administrative assistant. We had outlined the several tasks that were in process and shared our thoughts to the entire team.
|Elder and Sister Carroll, Jennifer Laird, Tom King, E/S Rueckert|
He read Doctrine and Covenants 31 with us which was given to Thomas Marsh. In verse 2 it said that he had many afflictions because of his family. He likened this revelation to us. In verse 6 it said, "Behold, very I say uno you, go from them only for a little time, and declare my word, and I will prepare a place for them." He emphasized that the Lord will prepare a place for "them", our family.
Elder De Feo thanked us for the Lord Jesus Christ, for our service on our mission. He again emphasized that we had only seen a part of the blessings. He promised us that we would see blessings in our family when we return. He said that we would recognize some of these blessings immediately, others would happen over time. He said that we believe in vicarious blessings in the Church and that our family would certainly be blessed because of our service. We should trust that these blessings will happen with our family.
Finally he said that we had seen the hand of the Lord so that we could testify to others, especially to our family. He encouraged us to share this testimony often in many settings. He then offered a prayer on our behalf, blessing us with safety, blessing our family, etc.
Elder De Feo has so much trust in and testimony of the Savior. It is amazing. He knows and testifies and we feel it from him!
As we left the interview, we also had a great good-bye from Elder Paul V. Johnson, our Area President.
We left this interview in awe, overwhelmed with gratitude for the Spirit that we had felt and for the blessings that were promised to us. We just stood in the hallway, holding each other in gratitude and appreciation.
We took some time to go to an empty office and wrote down as much as we could remember of what was said and what we had felt. The Spirit was so strong at this time, words cannot express.
That night we finished cleaning the apartment and fueled and cleaned the car. Sister Rueckert gave me a haircut. With our preparations basically complete, we were able to enjoy our last day in Germany without stress.
Sister Rueckert got her hair cut on Wednesday morning and I finished recording the expenses and receipts of the past few weeks. Finally, we went to our farewell luncheon with the senior missionaries and our Book of Mormon class.
|Sister Rueckert sharing her testimony with the senior missionaries|
|Sister Keyser sharing her last testimony. She would be going home the following week.|
|Reviewing our Farewell booklet from fellow senior missionaries|
We spent the remainder of the afternoon completing other tasks that were still outstanding for our missions. We were able to finish our last day serving until the end, which is what we really wanted. That evening I took extra clothing that we were leaving behind to the Red Cross deposit.
|Kleiderspende is German for Clothing donations, with our bag of clothing|
|German Red Cross contained for clothing donations|
That evening we had time to enjoy a meal with E/S Carroll as we showed them last things about the apartment, how to use the appliances, etc. We then spent some time in a last Zoom conference with our friends Cristian and Marianne. We had an old laptop delivered to them so that we could continue our communications with them as we left Germany. It took over an hour of working with them, we were not able to get a Skype account to connect. From there we went to using Zoom and finally had success. We are glad that we had time to complete this important contact before leaving Germany.
|Marianne and Cristian Zooming with us on our last night in Germany|
|The completion of unit 20 of Rosetta Stone German lessons|
|69% fluent and 73 continuous days of Duo Lingo success|
|With the Frankfurt skyline behind us|
|Our living room as we left it.|
|In front of the airport, before checking into our flight to return to the U.S.|
|Sister Jenkins with E/S Rueckert in the airport|
Our flight was to JFK in New York where we connected to another flight to Salt Lake City. Our second leg was delayed which caused extra wait in New York, but we finally arrived in Salt Lake City a little after 8:30 pm on Thursday, November 16, 2017. As we arrived we found our wonderful family members waiting for us, next to Sister Jenkins family who was waiting for her.
|Family awaiting in the SLC Airport, 7 of our children with their families and Tom's mother|
|This sign was a fitting summary of our homecoming|
|Photo taken by our 4 year old grandson, Kaleb, that evening in our home|
|Bells Concert at the Tabernacle|
|Elder and Sister Rueckert in front of the Salt Lake Temple|
Saturday morning we were able to participate in the graduation from Nursing School of one of our daughters. This daughter, KariLyn, lost her husband two years ago as we were starting our mission. Now, two years later, she is a registered nurse, ready to better care for family in a self-reliant way. One of the great family successes of our mission.
|With Sister Rueckert, daughter KariLyn and Aunt LuAnn who is also a nurse|
|KariLyn with her four children and her Aunt who "pinned" her|
|Betsy and Walter with their daughter Tony addressing the celebration|
We have seen the hand of the Lord throughout this mission and as Elder De Feo expressed so well, we have the responsibility of testifying to others. We testify that He lives, that He is all powerful and all loving. If we will but open the door, he will come into all of our lives and provide us all of the blessings that we need and want, well beyond our expectations.
We will be eternally grateful to all who have participated in this journey with us. You have all been instruments in blessing our lives. Thank you!