How can I describe the feelings we experienced as we drove to the airport to pick Isaac up after 2 full years of his being away?! Yes, we were as excited as all get out! When we arrived at the airport there were already many friends there waiting supportively and joyfully with us for Isaac’s return. My spirit wanted to jump out of my skin to run ahead, to hurry to meet him – somehow sooner than his plane came!! Real-time suddenly seemed slow-motion, tiny minutes taking forever now, as we waited the last 10 minutes for his plane to arrive.
Finally, we saw what we hoped was his plane on the ground coming toward us slowly. We waited with tremors of excitement (his little sisters and I were especially having a hard time holding in our emotion.) We went to where we might get a glimpse of him through the airport windows, searching the faces of the passengers as they deboarded the plane and then… we really saw HIM – in person – a glimpse!- our missionary!! – I take that back- the Lord’s missionary, he was really home.
The girls and I started squealing in overjoy the moment he could be seen coming through security. We didn’t care anymore who heard or saw, could ONLY think of him!!!! His little sisters burst forward, right into the walkway, a jumble of at least 5 of them at once, drawn by the magnet of their big-brother, that big-brother being that fills the house and their lives with more joy, that they love and adore, that they’ve all missed so much!!!!
How could I ever describe that first back-at-home-after-756-days-away hug?? The hugest, tightest hug that came with my amazed and incredibly happy tears of emotion and his choked out “I love you, Mom”. Isaac, our Isaac, home.
Since then it has been one of the awesomest weeks of my life!!! I did not know having our missionary come home would feel this incredible!- like BEST THING EVER!!!!! It must be the combination of the immense blessing of having him here IN PERSON again, feeling the joy and satisfaction of knowing he served his very best, along with the awe of seeing and sensing the incredible growth in him for good. He came home as much Isaac as ever just the new & improved, eternally enhanced version. It is easy to see that his sacrifices and service have changed him and his life for good, forever.
Seeing him now has truly made this past few days some of the most joyful and rewarding of my life!! I see that he is a grown man now. He seems to have a greater discipline about him and a greater desire to be obedient to the Lord in him. I see that he has the Spirit guiding him, the determination and will and work, to do good and a greater desire to press forward in the work of the Savior. Perhaps the most moving thing is to see the tenderness, respect, gentleness, even meekness and LOVE I’ve seen in him, felt from him, since he’s come home. I have seen these attributes in him since he was a child but they are more evident than ever now in his actions, in his conversations, in his kindness and thoughtfulness towards me and our family and his friends. I feel greater love, admiration, even adoration for this son of mine more than perhaps ever in his life. The fullest, happiest, most joyful, loving feeling as a mother!! His 2 year mission fulfilled, his life-time mission beginning!!! Life is sooo, sooooo good.
Ways we welcomed our missionary son home:
We had to have posters! Family night found us making a “finish line” for him to break through, an Elder Hoffman name tag poster, Argentina flag and welcome home poster!! We also decorated his door with hearts and welcome notes from all of us!
We had an RM survival kit package waiting for him in his room – one more package for this last transfer to his new mission – the one called life. It was packed with some BYU letters and newspapers (he will attend there this fall), a book about surviving returning home, a book on the next most important step in life: courtship and marriage, and a few just for fun things like his favorite treats and an English copy of “Meet the Mormons” which he missed because he was in Argentina.
We went through all his letters and chose a few pictures to develop to place under glass on his desktop as well as frame and hang around his room. This was one of the best things we did I feel for it was a really special blessing for my husband and I to look over entire mission and see an overview of the many lives, including his own, that were changed by his 2 years of service. We were in awe of the many, many wonderful people he met and came to care for and for the many amazing experiences he had.
After lots of wonderful hugs and welcome homes at the airport we all headed home for a little lunch together with homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert ;-). We RELISHED Isaac’s every word, and listened to this happy, awesome, fully spent missionary! One of his best friend’s just happened to be tutoring next door and stopped by to see if Isaac was home. It felt so great to have Isaac, and his friends, here again!
We took him on a little home tour right away when he got home (mostly just showing him his room). It was soo fascinating to see Isaac seeing home again for the first time with new eyes. He paused at the door of his room and took off his shoes. He laid on the bed and sighed, “wow, haven’t slept in a bed this nice in 2 years”, “wow, this is a really nice room” (it made us giggle because it’s just a room, right?), he found the shower REALLY big, and couldn’t get over being fascinated by the washer and dryer, (he hadn’t seen any dryers while he was away and he hadn’t seen a dishwasher in 2 years either, or iPhones for that matter. 😉
We just LOVED listening to his every word as we went about life that afternoon. Just amazed and in awe of having him with us, for us it was like an awesome dream come true to have him here in person, for him it was easy to see it all seemed like it must just be a dream, so surreal going from winter and different words and world as it were to being here in the summer at home. We all knew there would be some mourning involved in saying goodbye to the people and places of his mission experience. When discussing this as a family, Esther blurted out, “We don’t want you to be sad Isaac!” I felt happy that Isaac could make this transition well when he posted on facebook: “Can’t believe I’m home… feels like a dream! I’m so thankful to God for the past two amazing years and for the many things I’ve learned. Being a missionary’s the best, second only to being back with family.” Makes my heart soo happy to have him home, to be able to enjoy my wonderful son Isaac, home again. We also enjoyed a big, nice dinner together at home that evening – American style.
Isaac then had an interview with his stake president. Since his stake president just happens to be Dad he was able to do this here in our home, in the privacy of the front room (very special for them both). It was touching to see his grateful, tender response to this last interview of his precious mission experience.
Next we called a Wednesday night ‘family home evening’ and Isaac shared with us a mini-lesson and powerful testimony of Jesus Christ. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt the comfort and witness of The Holy Ghost stronger in our home. It was so, sooo neat to see him and hear him as a missionary. Then my husband read us a letter from his mission president and showed us the certificate of release he had sent and our Elder Hoffman was officially released from his full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a beautiful blessing by his father (a member of the stake presidency does this).
Then an ice cream bar while he showed us some awesome things from Argentina and passed out gifts for each of us from Argentina. My favorite, the amazing leather work from Argentina – Isaac gave me a leather carving of the Salt Lake Temple where Michael and I were married and sealed for time and all eternity.
And time to celebrate! A few days later we gathered friends and threw an Asado, Argentine style!-Or in Brazil it’s called a churrasco- to welcome home Isaac, his ‘twin brother’ Levi and our mutual friend Dani who also just returned from serving in Brasil! (We couldn’t helping missing a few others who would be returning soon, including dear friend Kimber who is also serving in Brazil and will be home in August!)
And then we stole away for 3 days together so we could thoroughly enjoy Isaac and hear more about his mission! He requested we retreat to a place with a temple so we visited gorgeous Watkins Glen on the way to Palmyra, NY where we spent a beautiful day at the temple and historic sights before venturing on to Niagara Falls. It was a wonderful, worthwhile trip together! We jogged together in the mornings, swam together at night, visited together, were taught together and had an incredibly beautiful time in the temple together. And we laughed together. (Like when we pulled up to the stunning 4 star hotel overlooking Niagara falls that Dad had Pricelined for us. The girls started panicking that they were NOT dressed for this place and Mike and I started panicking when we realized there was ONLY valet parking and the car was a traveling-mess, but what could we do? We all bucked it up and got out, a shoe and a couple other random things falling out with us. As I was climbing out I looked up at Isaac standing in front of me and picked some Pops cereal he’d been feeding the babies off of his shirt, then he and Clara were looking at me funny. I looked down just in time to see little yellow corn-puffs fall from my clothing onto the fancy hotel pavement. We all started laughing at our predicament, too embarrassed to do anything else. We definitely weren’t feeling classy enough for a classy hotel. The very nice, attentive, valet men had already surrounded the Excursion ready to take it away so we just handed them the keys went inside. Thankfully there were, in the end, PLENTY of other families there, all dressed like us.)
Last Sunday was perhaps the best part of all. On Saturday evening we enjoyed a beautiful dinner out with Grandpa and Grandma C., aunts and uncles, cousin, my husband and I and President and Sister Johnson of the Pittsburgh PA mission (a special ‘tender-mercy’ to have them with us). Isaac spoke in church the next morning for his ‘homecoming report’. “Look to God and Live” he reiterated, his testimony a powerful one that impacted me, and I believe everyone there, for good. It gave us hope that we can come to Christ, look to Him, and be changed, even saved by Him. He was followed by Pres. & Sis. Johnson and the meeting was closed with testimony from our stake pres., Dad’s own powerful testimony of truth and light, the pathway to joy.
I felt my heart couldn’t be fuller!! We came home and celebrated with another family feast and then my husband invited me to come and hear Isaac report to the high council. I hope I never forget that experience. A room full of shining, powerful, good men, all one-hearted in the cause of Christ. I feel such a sacred trust in and love for these men, who serve so faithfully and whole-heartedly. We see their love for the Lord, their loyalty, their sacrifices and goodness as they seek to do the Lord’s will in guiding and presiding over this stake. My husband was sitting directly opposite Isaac and I at the head of the high council table with his good counselors beside him. His face, his whole countenance shown with light, health, vitality, strength, goodness. I’ve witnessed that goodness first hand at home again and again and again. I don’t know how I ever got so blessed as to marry him. I DELIGHTED in hearing Isaac share some of his mission with these men gathered here. I loved their questions, I loved hearing his answers, more details about his 2 years. I can’t get enough of hearing about it. 😉
And my opportunity to hear more didn’t end there! Isaac and I went from high-council meeting to the mission prep meeting happening just a few rooms over. My daughter Mikela was in there. We came in and sat down and Adam, their faithful instructor didn’t miss a beat, “We have a newly returned missionary here. Once I finish teaching this principle we’d love to hear from him and then open it up a question/answer session with him.” I was sooooo happy to be there, to hear more about his mission!!!! 🙂 Makes my heart rejoice!!!
Yes, Isaac’s mission has come to an end but the effects of it will never end! They will stay in his heart and his life, in the ways our family was blessed by his service and most of all in the lives of those he taught and loved in Argentina forever. Some of the seeds he planted will grow, in ways he never would have imagined, and many of the delicious fruits of his mission will be tasted in the lives of all of us for years to come.
I’m so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for the peace, hope, JOY, LOVE, and just plain happiness it brings to me and my family and well, ANYONE who lives it!
Lots of Love and Best Wishes for your Own Happy Homecomings!!