Hey! I've been back from Guatemala for two weeks now! Life has just flown by since I've been home. Parting with Elder Hill and Elder Pérez was a little more difficult than I had expected. Back on Tuesday, March 5th, we left Sayaxché for Santa Elena. We were waiting in the bus station for a while and getting together with all of the other missionaries to leave. Saying goodbye to Elder Hill was easily the hardest part. I know we were only companions for 13 weeks, but he truly became one of my best friends during those short weeks. When you have to be with someone literally 24/7 it will either drive you nuts, or he/she will become your best friend. For Elder Hill and I, it was the latter.
Wednesday was full of movement! There was really no down time. My final interview with President Watts was just incredible. We talked about my 10 year goals, my character evaluation and dating. Since I have fairly solid goals, we did a lot more focusing on the dating scene. For a return missionary, marriage is the next big step (if he/she hasn't already begun college). I don't want to spill all the details to dating life, but it's a little like being a missionary. You have to know how to find people you would like to pursue. You need to know how to learn more about that person and show your interest in their lives and ultimately, make commitments.
On Thursday morning we headed to the airport and on to the United States. I expected to be nervous. Coming home after two years is a big deal! There is a certain culture shock you expect, just like when you left. I was very relaxed and prepared throughout the three flights. Actually, in the first flight to L.A. one of my companions, Elder Miller, and I had the opportunity to share more about our beliefs with the man sitting next to us, then once again from L.A. to Salt Lake City.
When I landed in Idaho Falls, I was slightly delayed leaving the plane, waiting for my carry-on bag, which seemed tortuous to my waiting family. When I stepped through the door, my four year old niece, Elliana, rushed to give her uncle a great big hug, followed next by my mother. It felt so good to hug my mother once again, and let her know how much I love and appreciate her though the simple act of a hug. Believe it or not, a simple hug says a lot.
From the airport we went directly to the airport where I had an interview with President Arnoldson, who released me as a missionary. Throughout our conversation I could tell he knew something was different about me but that he was proud of my service as a missionary. I really did change a lot in Guatemala. I learned how to love more fully, how to serve, how to carry myself in foreign situations and other things without number. The moment arrived when President Arnoldson looked to me and said, "You can take of your name tag now." I glanced down at my name tag, clipped to the lapel of my suit. A flood of emotions came over me that I was not expecting. It was one of the most difficult things I have heard in my life. That name tag was, and always will be, a part of who I am. For two years I was a representative of four things and people. 1, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 2, my family 3, me and 4, Jesus Christ. That is something I can never forget. I was sad to have to remove my name tag, something that set me apart from the world, something that let me know who I truly was and am. However, I know who I am, with or without a name tag. I will always be that person.