We are back home in San Tan Valley, Arizona now. Our mission ended in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission (NHMM) on January, 9, 2024. We took our time arriving back in Arizona. We only drove as far as Weehawken, NJ the first day and spent the night there. The weather turned nasty that night with a driving wind and rain. We were able to see the 911 Memorial pools in NYC, but the museum is closed on Tuesdays, so we couldn't see any of that. We were able to see the Statue of Liberty from the New Jersey side of the Hudson river. The wind was blowing very hard and nearly launched my baseball cap across the river to NYC!
From New Jersey we drove to West Virginia to spend the night and eat dinner with my first cousin, Jeff Zollinger and his wife Merla and two of their sons, David and Matthew. It was a lot of fun to catch up with Jeff and his family. Jeff and I spent our early childhood together in Providence, Utah. This was a special time together that went all too quickly.
From there we drove to Florence, Kentucky to spend the weekend with our son Mark and his wife Bonnie and their boys Hayden, Jace, and Oliver. We were able to attend two of Jace's basketball games, Hayden's academic competition, and participate in Hayden's ordination as a teacher in the Aaronic priesthood. The last couple of days got very cold in Florence, down to -3 degrees!
On Monday, January 15th we began our drive to Los Alamos, New Mexico. We stopped overnight in Springfield, Missouri, then Amarillo, Texas, and then on to Los Alamos, New Mexico where we spent a long weekend with our children who live there; Anna and DJ in Santa Fe, New Mexico who just had a baby boy, Trey several weeks premature, and their older boy Kobe. The others live in Los Alamos; Tyler and Lahni and their daughters, Quinn and Riley, and their boy, Logan; Tanya and Xavier and Tanya's daughters, Kaylee, and Bella; Ian and Julie and their children, Abigail, Jack, and Percy; Todd and Danielle, and their boys, Alex, Henry, and Ben. We experienced the warm chaos of the grandchildren all playing and rough housing together. In all of our travels on the way home we experienced no difficult driving conditions. The weather was extremely cold when we left Kentucky and when we spent the night in Springfield, Missouri. This was indeed a tender mercy as there was bad weather to the north and to the south of our travel route. God is good.
Finally we arrived home in San Tan Valley, Arizona on Monday, January 22nd. We met with our stake president on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 and were honorably released from our missionary service. It felt very strange to take those nametags off and know that we were no longer missionaries. We gave our homecoming talks in our ward Sacrament meeting on Sunday, January 28th at 12 noon MST. That morning at 6:30 am we reported on our mission to the stake council at our stake president's request. We were very blessed to have several of our former missionaries attend our homecoming in person. Hermana Ashley Cahoon and her sister Kyli, Sister Rebecca Cattanni (who lived in our house for over six months and took very good care of it!), Hermana Rylee Smedshammer, Sister Mailee Goddard (and her boyfriend), Sister Kelbee Knudsen (and her fiance), Hermana Kayli Kersavage and Elder Payton Cox, and Elder Dane Matthews. Our son Ian and his family also came to our homecoming. Many others listened and viewed the meeting via Zoom. We felt very supported by everyone and got to share many of our experiences with them. These are very special young people with whom we share a common bond; service in one of the very best missions in the whole world!
Our missionaries from Lowell, MA. Front row left to right, Ashley Cahoon, Kelbee Knudsen, Mailee Goddard, Sister Zollinger, future missionary Abigail Zollinger, Kayli Kersavage, Payton Cox, Rylee Smedshammer, Kyli Cahoon (little sister to Ashley). Back row left to right - Kelbee's fiance, Dane Matthews, Rebecca Cattanni, Brother Zollinger.
And so it now officially ends, the little slice of heaven in New England. Not always heaven, because there "must needs be opposition in all things" if we are to grow and develop as children of God. We love the people of New England and especially those in the Lowell First Ward and even more especially those in the Spanish Group. I am so blessed to have learned Spanish in my first mission in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I developed a great love for those who speak the language and their rich culture. Many tears were shed in that last meeting with those who we grew to love so much. And those young missionaries with whom we served, they will never know exactly how much we love them. We have no doubt that they will do great things in the future. They have built a very sure foundation that promises to sustain them when the tempests and whirlwinds descend.
And so it ends as it did in the beginning, with our family. Thank you family for supporting us, especially my mother, who has now supported me on two missions. This is the finish line!