Our time here in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission has drawn to a close. Today we began our journey home. We leave behind treasured friends that we've made over the past 23 months, but we will never leave them completely. They will occupy a special place in our heart forever. Where to begin this post?
We've had some personal challenges over the past two months. First, Lynn's sister in England suffered some from serious health issues, but is now doing much better. Then, on December 28th our 19th grandchild was born eight weeks premature. Trey Jackson Sugar was born to our daughter Anna. In what is clearly a miracle for our family, he is doing very well in the NICU. A difficult pregnancy with a good outcome was a welcome blessing.
As our days drew to a close we decided to go visit our favorite New England location, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. On New Year's Day, our weekly preparation day, we took a chance and braved the cold to visit one more time. It was a beautiful day. The beach had more clam shells than we had ever seen before in any of our other visits.
We then drove down the coast to Gloucester. One of the oldest fishing ports in the country and the site of the Massachusetts Bay Company. We hadn't been there in a while and enjoyed sipping hot chocolate along the harbor.
The above picture might be my favorite of the past two years. The sun broke through the clouds and reflected in the water in a stunning way. A sign, maybe, that our work here had been acceptable.
We attended our last district council and were honored by the young missionaries and were treated to a cake by Elder and Sister Reynolds who will replace us now in working with the Lowell Spanish Group. We will miss these fellow missionaries!
On Saturday, January 6, 2024 there were two baptisms in the Lowell Ward. Part of the service was conducted in French because one of the friends who was baptized is from Haiti. Another great demonstration of the diversity of the ward. At the baptism the bishop announced that due to the big snowstorm moving in that night church was to be canceled the next day. That was to be our last Sunday in the mission. But, much to our surprise the members of the Spanish group had planned a party for us right after the baptism. We were very touched to see how many of them were there to honor us. Sister Zollinger could not stop crying as they rose to tell us how much they loved us and appreciated us for what we had done in our time in Lowell. We love them all. One young man, Francisco, had grown to become a grandson to us as we drove him to mutual nearly every week. He made sure he had my phone number on his phone. My official contact name in his phone is "Abuelo Zollinger" (Grandfather Zollinger). The whole night tore at our heartstrings.
Then came the snow and it snowed and it snowed. I had always wanted an nor'easter and finally it came. Right before we needed to drive home. 16.6 inches in total. Snow is beautiful only when you don't have to shovel it!
Finally, one of the enduring truths I have experienced in my life is that wherever I go, I find that I am related to someone in the local congregation. A few weeks ago I found that I have a third cousin twice removed living in the Lowell Ward. Hannah Syndergaard approached me one day and said that she had an email from FamilySearch saying that it was her great great grandmother Zollinger's birthday that day! Upon further review we found that my great grandfather Jacob Zollinger's sister was her ancestor. So, Hannah is now my cousin and there you go, Zollingers are everywhere!
And so our mission comes to a close. We've made many new "eternal" friends in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission. We are grateful for the blessing of serving here.