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Monday, August 18 2014:  One month ago today we arrived home from our mission.  It has been such a busy month, with relatives here and a fun weekend with all our kids in Logan that we have hardly had time to settle into our cabin in McCall.  We finally gave our homecoming talks in sacrament meeting just yesterday.  It was a good meeting and although we are glad to have that behind us our talks went well and we had some nice compliments concerning the missionary experiences we shared.  After sacrament meeting we come back to the cabin and served lunch to our children, grandchildren, friends and relatives who came to hear us speak.  There was not enough time remaining for all the stories I wanted to share so after lunch we sat around and answered questions and told more stories.  Win has already received a calling in the ward as the 1st counselor in the Primary Presidency and was hired today as a new first grade school teacher at the elementary school here in McCall.  She is so excited and has her own classroom to set up and organize.  We feel very blessed.  The parents of some of the missionaries in Bekescsaba have been kind enough to forward the weekly emails from their missionary to us so we can stay up to date on the progress of investigators and what is going on in the branch.  We also heard that the portable baptismal font finally arrived and hopefully will be installed soon.  What a great blessing that will be for the branch.  Each day we get a little more acclimated to being home and continually realize how fortunate we are and how much stuff we have that really isn’t necessary.  Our children were watched over while we away, our home remained secure and safe and our friends say the time went by quickly.  Some days it seems like we were only gone a short time and yet it will always be a  significant part of our lives and we will never be the same for it.  We miss the Elders and Sisters, the members, the investigators, our friends and our YSA group in Szeged.  We love them.  We think about and pray for them all.  Maybe someday we will return, we shall see.   In the MTC it was said, “you will always be somebody’s missionary, even if it’s yourself.” How true that statement is.  I loved my mission and am so grateful for the fulfillment of a life long desire to serve and a promise from my patriarchal blessing.  A special thanks to Win for her willingness to stand along side and serve so faithfully.  We know the Gospel of Jesus Chris is true and that it has been restored in these latter days.  May we all strive to follow the example of our Savior and endure to the end.

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Thursday, July 24 2014:  Happy Pioneer Day!  Last night we had the opportunity to give a report of our mission to the Weiser Idaho Stake High Council.  We left McCall about 5:00 PM and drove to Weiser along Highway 95.  It was a beautiful drive and we talked all along the way about the countryside and how dry it is here compared to Hungary.  We got there just before our 7:00 appointment.  A couple of the High Council members joined the meeting by Skype.  The Stake President was still out of town on vacation.  Win and I each shared some of our feelings, experiences and testimony.  There were a few questions after we finished and then we went around the room and shook everyone’s hand.  It was another tender and emotional few minutes for us as they each said, “Welcome home!”.  We got back to McCall about 10:00 PM and watched a couple of episodes of Duck Dynasty before going to bed.  It’s so good to be home but Win feels like she is a traitor for leaving.  Our property is overgrown with weeds and I overdid it yesterday by trying to weed-eat too much at one time.  The air here is so fresh and clean with the scent of pine that you just want to sit out all day and take it all in but too much to do right now to sit around for very long.  We aren’t even unpacked yet.  We got some very nice emails from the Elders and Sisters back in Bekescsaba telling about the first Sunday there without us and the transfers that have taken place.   Just before we left for our mission in January 2013, Reese and Lacey made a video that included pictures of all our family put to the song “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons.  We watched it over and over in the MTC and cried each time.  Below is a picture of a sign our kids made that greeted us as we walked in the door of our cabin in McCall.  It says “We Waited” and includes a cutout of each of our children and grand children’s hands.    We are so thankful for our family and for their support and prayers in our behalf.  The blessings that come from serving a mission were witnessed many times while we were away and we will always be grateful for the hand of the Lord in helping us all in so many ways.

Wildlife sightings:  6 deer

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Saturday, July 19 2014:  At 9:00 this morning we got on a Skype call to get released.  Our Stake President is out of town so we got to meet and talk with President Bergquist, second counselor in the Weiser ID Stake.  It was a tender experience.  We each reported parts of our mission and concluded with our testimonies.  He then released us and we removed our missionary tags.  That brought tears to our eyes again as we took them off.  We are to report to the High Council this coming week so we will travel to Weiser from McCall to do that.  Win and I then changed into casual clothes and headed off to do some shopping.  We first went and activated our cell phones.  At noon we meet all our kids for lunch at Mike Fowlers new corn dog stand.  We did some more running around in the afternoon and then all met back at Rhet and Erica’s for dinner about 5:00.  In the evening everyone gathered out back and we distributed a few gifts we had brought for everyone.  The final item shared was Win’s quiet book of Hungary.  She told the grand kids about each page and what they meant to her.  It has been a fun day but our body clocks are sure messed up.

Win's quiet book - story time

 

Friday, July 18 2014:  We got up at 2:30 AM and were ready to go when E/S B came to get us at the Mission Home at 3:45.  They were kind to help us get checked in and then we had to say goodby to them.  We boarded our flight to Frankfurt about 6:30.  We had a short layover there and them got on the eleven and a half hour flight to LA.  There is just nothing you can do to hurry things along so I watched four movies and tried not to think about the time.  We did have two good meals on the flight.  When we finally got to LA we had to go though immigration and then customs.  Luckily there were no concerns with the items we declared and we didn’t get searched.  After rechecking our five bags (we had to pay for one extra and an over weight one) we had a couple of hours before the 4:30 plane to Boise.  Win called Whitney using a pay phone and started crying again.  As we approached Boise it was exciting to see the valley and then to finally touch down in Idaho.  We got off the plane about 7:30 PM and headed down the concourse.  Below is a picture Wendy took just before we got to the waiting area doors.

Welcome home signs

As we walked hand in hand towards the main terminal, we could hear them yelling and then they ran towards us as we come though the glass doors exiting the concourse.  It was a truly joyful reunion with hugs and tears and kids everywhere.  We got to see our two new granddaughters, who couldn’t figure out who we were but let us hold them for a little bit.  My two brothers and sister were there to greet us also.  Everyone just hung there blocking the exit area for several minutes and the we got our bags and loaded in Win’s Jeep.  We stayed the night with Erica and the girls, Rhet was in Philadelphia running in a race.  About 10:30 we went to bed.  It was a long day but still amazing that this morning we were in Hungary and tonight we are home.  Below are just a couple of pictures I took in between hugs.

Thursday, July 17 2014:  At 9:30 our group of senior couples met at the Mission Office and we went on another underground public transportation outing to the Jewish Synagogue in Pest.  Win and I were not real excited to see another Synagogue, after the one we toured in Szeged, but this was definitely a worthwhile tourist stop.  It is the second largest Synagogue in the world, the largest is in New York City.  Our English speaking tour guide was very informative and gave us some historical facts about the Jews in Hungary.   The building can seat 3,000 and is quite unique because of the 2,000 Jews who are buried in the  garden courtyard.  The museum was particularly interesting and also sad because of all the reminders of the Holocaust.  Following the tour we walked to a wonderful sidewalk cafe and had a great lunch together.  President Smith kept saying to us, “this is your last time to do this”.  After lunch President Smith got a call on his cell phone for me and it was Sister B and S calling to tell us that H had set a baptism date.  How cool was that to get a call confirming another baptism, on last day here, for a very special young lady who we love.  It rained on us as we walked back along the beautiful shopping streets of Pest to the underground trains.  It was as if the clouds were also sad to see us go.  Back at the Mission Office we unloaded our car and turned the keys over to Elder and Sister S.  We almost envy the great experience that awaits them in Bekescsaba.  We rearranged a few thing in our suitcases and them put the four big bags in the back of the mission van.  We took the rest our our stuff up to the top floor of the mission home, which is like a dorm, where we will stay tonight.  At 4:30 we were individually interviewed by President Smith to renew our temple recommends.  Then we jointly had our parting interview with him.  It was a special experience for us both and I am proud to call him my mission president.  The office couple then joined us and President and Sister Smith for dinner at a nice restaurant.  We sat outside and enjoyed a perfect evening in Budapest.  When we got back to the mission office, Elder S and B, who previously served in Bekescsaba, were there to take photos and say goodbye.  We have had a great day but are now counting the hours until we get home.  In the morning the office couple, Elder and Sister B will take us to the airport at 3:45 AM to board the first leg of our flight home at 6:15.  Below are a few photos from our activities today.  I will post a couple more entries to this blog after we get home.  Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support and your kind comments.  We are coming home!

Wednesday, July 16 2014:  We actually slept pretty well last night and after a nice e buffet breakfast we wandered over to the Mission Office about 10:30.  I took care of closing out our office business and passed along some final information to Elder S who will take my place in Bekescsaba.  We all had lunch together at 12:30 and then our Senior Conference started at 2:00.  There was a new senior couple who had served here before who introduced themselves and then Win and I gave our parting comments to the group.  So, we both ended up getting all emotional again saying goodby to our dedicated senior friends.  Then we heard from a former missionary who was here on his honeymoon.  Sister Smith spoke next and then President Smith.  The concluding speaker was Elder L, an Area Seventy from Germany.  We had our usual breakout sessions which included some interesting information on coming changes.  At 6:00 we had dinner there in the building and at 7:00 we headed off to see a folk dancing show.  We didn’t get back to the hotel until 10:30.  Both of us are ready to just get on the plane and fly home but there is still more sights to see tomorrow.  Below are some pictures from the day and our evening out on the streets of beautiful Budapest.

Tuesday, July 15 2014:  From 6:30 to noon we cleaned and finished packing.  I loaded the car as each bag was ready and hung sheets and pillowcases outside to dry.  About 10:30 I took a box of clothes to the branch house that Win was leaving behind and then went to get bread rolls for the conference dinner tomorrow and then to Tesco for a new shower curtain and some paper towels.  At noon the Elders and Sisters came by to bid us farewell.  They hung around for almost an hour and didn’t want to leave.  We took one last picture of them and they gave us each some letters they had written.  We went outside to take the sheets off the line and had another cry with them as we hugged them goodby.  While Win finished a couple of things in the apartment I walked to McDonald’s  and brought back a couple of burgers and some fries.  It was not the best lunch but our fridge and cupboards were bare.  Win said goodby to P, our next door neighbor, and of course P cried.  Why not, everybody else has all weekend long.  We jammed the last couple of bags in the back of the car and made one last stop at the branch house to leave my backpack for R or his brother E.  Our last drive to Budapest was very pleasant.  A warm Summer day with high billowy clouds.  We passed miles and miles of corn and sunflower fields.  The sunflowers seemed to be waving goodby to us as we drove along.  Along the way, Win read out loud the letters the Elders and Sisters had written to us.  They were very kind and heartfelt.  The trip was the usual three and a half hours but the traffic was not too bad.  We parked the car in the lot below the Mission Office and took our carry on bags with us to the Belvedere Hotel.  At 7:00 we went for a short walk to a buffet dinner place we had eaten at before. Win enjoyed ‘pickled peppers’ and her last bowl of what she called ‘her favorite’ version Hungarian Gulyas (goulash).  Afterwards I got an ice cream from one of the many sidewalk vendors which appear all over when the warm weather comes to Hungary.  Below is the last photo of our Bekescsaba team of missionaries.  To the parents of these four, and all the other young missionaries we have served with, thank you for raising such fine young people who could be found worthy to come to this challenging but beautiful country.  You may not know but the goal of this mission is for each missionary to baptize two people per year.  That’s just four baptisms per companionship per year on average but the goal has not been met yet.  That is how tough it is here to convert people.  These missionaries have to be so patient and so dedicated to go forth each day and seek out those who will give them a chance to teach that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is once again on the Earth.  It has been our privilege to serve along side these outstanding young soldiers in this great cause.

Wildlife sightings:  2 rabbits, 8 storks.

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Until we meet again