Monday was a day of changes because of the fickle finger of weather. We started out our morning with a great walk at the mall. We had been keeping tabs on the weather forecast because a big snow storm is on the way for the evening. We had planned on holding our The Basic School family home evening at our house so that participants did not have to drive too far in the snow. But the forecast got worse and the snowfall began earlier than expected. So we had to cancel the FHE. It was a sad way to say goodbye to our last two faithful attendees, but it would have been dangerous for them to be out driving around in the heavy snow. We also were going to have dinner with our niece who is visiting Virginia, but we cancelled that because of the snow too. We did, however, have a delightful lunch with some dear friends in the ward. They are an older couple that served a senior mission several years ago. They kind of adopted us. Our very first Sunday here they invited us over for dinner. They also had us for dinner a couple of other times, including on Mother’s Day. They are in their early 80s and are active and involved with many things. They are kind or our role models of how we would like to be in 15 years. We had a great visit with them at lunch. We will miss them a lot and it was a hard goodbye. Other than that we have been packing boxes, cleaning cupboards, and throwing things away. It is tiring, but we are making good progress. We can hardly believe we will be leaving in just a few days. Eighteen months goes by fast, but it is long enough to make dear friends. It will be hard to drive away. But every minute has been worth it. This is what the snow looks like outside our back patio.
It snowed and snowed last night. We were planning on staying home most of the day anyway to pack and clean. We did have a very enjoyable dinner with our niece and family. We saw them once last summer when they came through here. They are settling in Eastern Tennessee and were visiting friends here. It was fun to talk to them about their adventures. We then visited the home of the couple that are serving as part time service missionaries for military relations. They will take care of things here until the new senior couple arrives in mid April. We turned over about six bags full of military scripture sets, notebooks, paper goods, and baking goods for use with the marines. We had a good meeting to discuss all the families we have been working with and feel good about them taking care of things. Just as we were about to depart the brother, who was the bishop of our ward here until about 6 months ago, got very sober and said he owed us an apology. He said that when he was bishop he just took us for granted and did not realize all the things we were doing for the ward and the marines. He said he was sorry he was not more supportive because he now knows that we have been doing yeoman’s work and have touched the lives of many ward members. We were so humbled and grateful that we have been of some value here. It was especially touching to hear this from our previous bishop. We feel that since he has been working with us a service missionary he has really seen all that we do, so a compliment from him was very poignant.
Lezlie was gone all day Wednesday to attend the Sister’s Training Meeting. She got a ride down with two sets of young sister missionaries so I had all day to clean house and pack. I was getting a lot done and moving along just fine when I got an email from the Officer Candidate School Chaplain about noon. The frantic note said that the OCS director had changed the schedule at the last minute and they would hold the informal OCS services tonight, just a few hours away. I assumed the other couple could handle it since they were planning on doing the service tomorrow night anyway. But when I got in touch with them they said no, they could not do it tonight. So I had about 3 hours to come up with a lesson and prepare some treats so that I could do the family home evening by myself. Lezlie was not expected to get back until too late. I made up our last batch of brownies, although I had to unpack one whole box to get to the baking pan. I dressed up a lesson I had done before on Liberty Jail. And I went to OCS alone. To my surprise 7 marines walked in. Our lone LDS guy had brought 6 friends, which was great. We had a good lesson and some excellent discussions about what you can learn from adversity. Although the treats were a little short because I was not expecting that many, they each appreciated getting a couple of brownies and some fruit. What a great bunch of guys they were. They all said they would come back to the next FHE, but I had to tell them I would not be there. We will be in Florida by the next time they meet. When Lezlie got home she was very enthused about the training meeting. She had been pondering and praying about some big concerns that that she is having, and she felt like she got direct answers. There were several different mini-classes, and she said each class gave here specific insight into how to approach her issues. It was a testament that prayers are answered.
Thursday was our last shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. We had a slow day, but that gave us a chance to visit with some of the other volunteers. It was nice to talk about things with them, and share our memories and good experiences volunteering there. We will miss it very much, and we have felt good about helping out many marines and their families with NMCRS loans and budgeting advice. We will especially miss the director, as she has become a good friend. She and Lezlie had a lot in common, and they talked a lot during our time there. We are so glad we decided to volunteer there and feel like it was an important part of our mission. We will never forget it. After our return home we plunged in to more packing and house cleaning. It is amazing how much cleanup a small apartment needs!
Friday was our last District Training Meeting, and essentially our last association with our young elders. We had a good meeting and enjoyed being there. Lezlie and I each gave a short training session on attributes of Christ. Hers was on knowledge and mine on charity. They went well. We also had a training talk by a young elder on “listening with charity,” which was an excellent talk for us to hear. As we dropped off that second set of elders they handed us a note that thanked us for our examples and service to them as part of the district. It was quite touching. We will sure miss our association with these outstanding young men and women. The rest of our day was consumed by more packing and cleaning. I think we will be packing and cleaning until the moment we drive away. But we are getting closer to being ready. Late in the evening we had an unexpected visit by the two sister missionaries that are in our ward. They were trying to help a newly baptized couple get some names ready to take to the temple for baptisms. But they were not sure of all the steps. So Lezlie got online with them and coached them through it. They will be able to help the couple tomorrow. It was fun to see the sisters one last time. We will see them Sunday at church, but it was nice to chat with them in our apartment for a few minutes.
This is what our “packing up” looks like. I hope all the boxes fit into the van!
The whole week has been a little bittersweet because of the weather. The snow and frigid temperatures have put a damper on our farewell week and we missed several “lasts.” We had to cancel our last The Basic School family home evening because of heavy snow. The weather caused the Officer Candidate school to change the night for informal services at the last minute. Lezlie was in Richmond at a sister’s training meeting, so I had to go do FHE all alone. Today, Saturday, it has been snowing most of the day. Then tonight the snow changed into freezing rain. So tomorrow we will not be able to go to OCS for our last sacrament meeting as it was cancelled. Also, we were to give our testimonies in our ward sacrament meeting as a last farewell. But the weather is so bad that all church meetings have been cancelled tomorrow. Bummer! However, we totally understand the situation in cancelling church. The roads are really treacherous and it will be below freezing all night. It will be bad first thing in the morning. Sunday it is supposed to warm up to about 40 degrees by about 1:00pm, so the roads should be fine by the time we need to leave home. But we did have some very nice email goodbyes from our Quantico Ward family. The Bishop wrote:
Elder & Sister Couch, although we won't be able to do it in person tomorrow as planned, on behalf of the Quantico Ward I want to express our love and appreciation for all the service that you have provided to us and, in particular, our military members during your mission. Godspeed on your way home! Warm regards, Bishop Rollins
Today, Sunday, we will leave Woodbridge, VA. We will drive to the Mission Home in Richmond for dinner and to spend the night. Then early tomorrow we head for Atlanta. Since church was cancelled because of the snow it has been a slow day. We have been doing touch up cleaning and final packing and loading. Lezlie came down with a cold and sore throat. Because she does not want to be contagious we went to the CVS minute clinic. That took a long time, but the nurse found no major illness. It is more like a bout of asthma. So mom got a new asthma inhaler and some basic cold medicine. It is hard for us to believe that we have been here for 18 months and are now leaving. We have loved serving as senior missionaries. At times we have almost felt outside of ourselves, as if we are observers of activities and accomplishments that are not really our own. And we know that they are not. When we were set apart as missionaries we were promised that we would receive the guidance, courage, and wisdom to be able to accomplish our work. And we certainly did receive those things. We feel that we have received so much that the minor inconveniences seem small. We have learned to move forward with faith, knowing that good things will happen. We have learned to rely on prayer. We have received a greater and deeper testimony of the Book of Mormon. And we have learned to follow the promptings of the Spirit right away. Our experiences have been exceedingly rewarding. We can’t wait to get home and share them with family and friends. To all of you that have given us such tremendous support in many ways, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
We had a marvelous evening at the Mission Home with President and Sister Wilson. They fed us a wonderful salmon dinner and we had a great chat about our missionary work. We shared many stories about the marines and young missionaries we worked with. Then we had our formal interview with President Wilson. He asked us to provide 4 highlights from our mission. It was hard to stop at 4. We had so many amazing spiritual experiences. We are glad we kept a journal to record them. Then he thanked us as our Mission President for our service. Then he also said as your Mission President I also thank you for Heavenly Father. He is well pleased with your work. We were pretty teary eyed. Then we got to participate in the unofficial departure ceremony. In this event you remove your scarf and tie, write your name and your dates of service on them, and then tie them to the banister on the stairway. Every couple of months they remove them from the banister because it gets too full. Some ladies in their local ward are making a large quilt for President and Sister Wilson out of those ties and scarves. So that was very fun to participate in this tradition. Here we are with the Wilsons and hanging our scarf and tie on the railing.
We got to sleep in the bedroom they call the General Authority room. Whenever a church leader visits to provide a mission conference or whatever they stay in this room. So it is very well decorated and furnished. It had a very comfortable king size bed and did we sleep well! What a great night at the mission home.
Today (Monday) we drove from Richmond, Virginia to Atlanta, where we are visiting our niece Jessie and her husband Rob. That is another story, but I had to report one last thing about out mission. This evening at 9pm Eastern we had a call with our Stake President. He read our release letters from our Mission President, which were very nice. We felt flattered and humbled. We had a nice chat during which he asked us all about our mission and what we did most of the time. He had to stop us because we kept telling more and more stories about the miracles we got to witness and participate in. Then he asked each of us to bear a short testimony about what we had learned on our mission– we talked about faith, prayer, the Book of Mormon, about getting out of the way and letting the Lord be in charge, and listening to the Spirit. Then he thanked us for representing the Stake and our Ward well and honorably released us from our mission. We took of our nametags and shed a few tears. So now our mission is really over! We feel so grateful that we were able to have these 18 months working together and serving others all day every day. It was rewarding in ways we could not have imagined. We loved being Senior Missionaries and feel that we got much more than we gave. It will take a while for us to get over the shock of not being missionaries and return to our normal life. We hope that we will be able to use the things we have learned to do a better job being good people and good church members. We love you all and thank you for reading our mission blog and for your wonderful support. Goodye to all.