To say we were buzzing with anticipation is an understatement. The constant peering down the terminal, children on tip-toe, and pulse rates rising, made for some serious cumulative energy.
Amanda and Sydney made Jim and Renae a bright pink sign. I can’t remember how they took to calling Jim, “Fred.” But it stuck. And not just at home – on the mission! Poor guy.
And then we saw them. For a brief flash of smile. Before the grandkids literally buried them in a group hug. So deep we couldn’t see their faces for about ten seconds.
When they surfaced, they were in tears.
I didn’t expect this reunion to be so tender. But it was. And their faces, so totally undone, undid me too.
There was so much emotion as we threw our arms around them. I have never seen Jim so tearful. In this picture he is looking at Eliza.
It was so beautiful as he pulled each grandchild close. Had I been a traveler in the same terminal, I’m not sure I could have looked away.
It was obvious to me when we were in New Zealand that they were doing a great work, changing lives, helping those in need. They willingly did everything asked of them, even when it meant new territory, new learning curves, and leaving their comfort zone.
But it was even more obvious as I watched the grandchildren interact with them Friday evening that their service has changed our family. My children admire them so much. We all do. Because they were willing to leave every known thing for the unknown. Willing to miss baptisms, birthdays, performances, and family trips, to share the message of a restored gospel. And that is what we believe.
We believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s church, in its original form, restored to the earth in our day. Complete with every piece, part, and principle Christ taught. We believe it is a vibrant, living church. One that can bless all lives.
A bold statement? Yes.
Do we respect other religions and the enormous good they do? Absolutely.
So the church’s message, is simple. “Come and see. Come and see if we can add to what you already have.”
I love Jim and Renae for consecrating all. For leaving home and family, and using their own financial means to make this mission happen. It was a sacrifice.
But as members of the LDS church, we covenant to give all we have for Christ’s gospel. And I am grateful my children have seen this first-hand in the lives of their grandparents.
I love this photo, of Spencer coming in from behind for a leg hug.
This is the moment Jim saw Dwight, his old missionary companion (who later became his brother-in-law). They served together in New Zealand in the 1960s.
Renae waving to her sister.
Gordon, happy to stand close to his Poppa Jim.
And as I was getting ready to shoot this group shot, Spencer reached up and planted a kiss right on Jim’s cheek. Unsolicited. He couldn’t resist.
I missed the moment and asked Spence to do it again. But he was too embarrassed.
Doug’s parents served with a bright light and true compassion. One Maori woman told Renae as they were leaving, “You two were different. From the first day we met you. You weren’t afraid of our brown skin.”
In the past this woman had watched missionaries hold back, seem reticent to jump in to a new culture, with new people, in a new part of the globe. But not Jim and Renae. They are kind to all people, love all people, and find a way into everyone’s heart.
How they love those islanders!
I wanted to finish all my NZ posts before Jim and Renae came home, but… it didn’t happen. So I hope you won’t mind, if over the next month or so, I post the rest of our pictures and experiences there.
Best part of the airport? (Besides Jim and Renae.) The moving sidewalks.
We returned to Jim and Renae’s home, where we had been cleaning, washing linens, stocking the fridge, and preparing for their return. The grandkids made a darling Welcome Home sign with the Maori greeting, Kia Ora!
And this sign was made by their life-long group of friends, who I’m sure can’t wait to get together for dinner, a round of golf, and some ridiculous laughter.
Did you know there are more than 150 LDS missions in the world that do not have senior missionaries?
So I have to say to those of you contemplating a senior mission, Go! You are needed!
Of course we missed Jim and Renae, and they missed us. But really, it was a blip on the timeline here. On the NZ timeline, however? It was momentous. And now, it feels as if they never left.
And for those of you my age? We ought to plan now, so we can serve a senior mission. Set aside funds, talk about it, make sure our children know it is something we plan to do.
All of us know fear. It is the subtle restrainer. The paralyzer. It make us hold on to things too tightly, feel inadequate, ill-prepared, and incapable. But what it really does is keep us from doing what God needs us to do.
I love these words from Joseph Smith,
“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”
That is the kind of work I want to be a part of.
I risk sounding preachy in this post, I know. But this is a cause I will always stand behind. The truths found in the LDS church have made me who I am. They have given me freedom, peace, and perspective unlike anything else I have found in the world. And when I think of Christ giving his life on that dark Friday in Jerusalem, it seems a very small thing to give our time and means to do what He would do for others.
We love you Jim and Renae! Welcome home!