This is my last post as we will be released from our mission this afternoon via FaceTime. We will be the first group ever to be released using technology. We anticipated Elder Walker returning to release us, but he was released as our GA director officially on Oct. 20, due to medical challenges. Elder Schwitzer was here in October, and we hoped he would return to see us off. But he has since had surgery and is travel restricted. Each couple is scheduled for a call from him later today.
Elder Walker has already been replaced. Elder Randy Dennis Funk has been called as a new GA director of Adam-ondi-Ahman. He and his wife, Andrea, plan to be here in December with the Schwitzer’s to begin their service. Sadly, we won’t meet them at that time.
Check out his April 2022 Conference Address. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2022/04/56funk?lang=eng
This morning our church block was dedicated completely to a final testimony meeting. With the time change, we were ready early, so we went for one last visit as missionaries to Tower Hill. It was just what I needed to fill my heart and say “Farewell until we meet again” to a place I love!
Sacrament meeting at Adam-ondi-Ahman was a difficult “last” for us. It’s hard to describe to those who haven’t had that opportunity. Meeting with 13 of the best couples on earth, while overlooking the valley is something few have experienced. Prior to COVID the missionaries met with the wards and branches here. So our privilege has been unique for 20 months! I rather dreaded the meeting this morning knowing the depth of emotion I’ve been struggling with, but being together in that setting, sharing testimonies, perspectives, and strength offered the closure and Spirit I needed to let my heart turn west without regret. I felt the excitement of going home rise. I almost physically felt it change. A new chapter of our lives is ready to begin! We look forward to being with others we love and be more involved with our family.
Last year Elder Walker gave the departing missionaries counsel, which still applies to us. I’m grateful I was there when that counsel was given and took notes.
He suggested that before leaving, missionaries identify what they’ve come to love while serving. He suggested that they write of it, speak of it, share it. He counseled, “Speak of your mission with expressions of faith, testimony, and gratitude. Never let your faith be difficult to detect. My thoughts this week have centered on what I’ve come to love here. There are so many and so much that fit under that umbrella. We hope to share those things again and again in person.
Elder Walker also counseled, “Cultivate your love for AOA after your mission. Continue to study the history of the Saints, the prophet Joseph. Hang a picture of AOA in your home. Maintain your friendships and happy memories from your mission. Keep in contact. Love and encourage each other.”
His parting message included with his powerful testimony was “FOLLOW THE PROPHET!” Following this counsel will be a joy!
It’s been a busy, sometimes emotional week as we’ve prepared to depart. Last Sunday we met with our wonderful friends in Cameron for dinner and one last fireside together. Truman and Debbie Pratt have become like family to us. We watched a short video clip on the conversion of Parley P. Pratt and then discussed impressions we had as we viewed this man’s ability to be directed by the Spirit. Our conclusion was more a desire to be as in tune, confident in Spirit, and determined and faithful in our quest for true discipleship. Gratefully, they have many ties in Utah and we will see them again.
Monday we gathered at Austin and Darlene Bonnett’s home for dinner and a fireside. I can’t remember a Halloween I enjoyed more. Sister Bonnett loves to cook Mexican food and we were her beneficiaries. Elder Bonnet always has a message to equally feed us spiritually. My takeaway that night was his powerful testimony of the wonder of the restoration and coming forth of the Book of Mormon as well as his deep devotion and loyalty to our modern prophet and apostles. That may have been our last association with them in this life, but it was sweet.
Tuesday and Thursday were our regular scripture study as a group. Our topic was the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. (D&C 5 and 17) What a thrill it is to be in a group so well read. We will miss the stimulating, deep discussions so much. That is a gathering we’ve come to love while serving, and one hard to duplicate at home.
Wednesday evening we went out to dinner with a former missionary and friend, Judy Smith. She lost her husband earlier this year and it’s been a blessing having her in Gallatin where we could check on her. Friday evening we enjoyed a last date night with those also going home. Never have we been a part of a group where we felt more accepted, loved, and completely comfortable. Most live in Utah—so reunions will bring us together, but the day in and day out associations will be sorely missed.
Our spare time this week has been spend passing the baton to those called to replace us, finishing up last minute projects, packing and cleaning. We’re ready to pick up our moving truck in the morning and head west on Tuesday.
We came with a utility trailer, but since I recently bought a baby tractor, we needed something bigger to go home. That’s a story for another day, but I sensed that my purchase made my Dad smile, and it will be handy for us to take care of a large garden and huge lawn. It has a bucket, lawn mowing deck, and tiller. Best of all, it’s adorable and very orange!
We’ve found that everything here is cheaper than it is in Utah, so with a truck ordered, we picked up some furniture and an upright freezer to replace those we gave away before leaving. We’ll arrive home in style!
We had a little family from the area stop by to help with us with our non-perishable and frozen food items. After seeing their reaction, we know the Spirit prompted us to reach out to them. Their appreciation suggested real need and we felt blessed to be a part of it.
We are having our first gathering as non-missionaries with the Snows tonight to break our fast. Tomorrow we’ll be on the fast-track loading, cleaning, and heading home!
Our Love, Darrel and Karen Kenison
P.S. Our release this afternoon was wonderful. The Schwitzers have been a powerful influence in our lives and this final visit was personal and Spirit filled. It’s amazing that the Spirit available via technology was almost tangible.