July means a lot of different things to different people.
Summer. Family. Fireworks. Reunions. Heat. Swimming. Popsicles.
But for around a third of missions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide, it means a changing of the guard, as one mission president says a tearful goodbye and another says an energetic hello.
I was surprised to find quite a few Mormon missionary blogs posting about these turnovers, so I will spotlight some of the most beautiful tributes (and be sure to click in for the entire posts because they usually have more descriptions as well as some incredibly moving photos!):
“'Paalam' in Tagalog means 'goodbye — I am leaving now' And yes, it is time. 70,000km put on the car, (and) 467 missionaries later. It is difficult to describe our feelings as we depart for home after serving here for three years. With five children and 10 grandchildren and family and friends waiting for us at home, our homecoming will be sweet, but not without some sadness of saying goodbye to the people we love here. ... I think we both have become Filipino in our hearts.”
“No words can express how we feel as we conclude our service in the Spain Barcelona Mission. It has been an incredible three years, filled with more miracles than we ever imagined. We love every missionary we had the privilege of serving with, and we pray that their future will always be bright as they go forward to build the kingdom. We love the members and the local leaders — their faith and diligence is an inspiration. We are excited to see the church continue to grow in the remarkable and beautiful land. And we love the new converts whose faith is growing.”
“Our beloved mission president and his wife had only one week before they left for home. We have watched them work nonstop since we arrived in March. They certainly were sprinting to the finish line, not coasting. In one of our meetings, with emotion in his voice, President Roth said that when they came on their mission three years ago it was so very hard to leave home. But now that the time has passed it is even harder to leave the mission. While they were here they enjoyed working together. They love the missionaries and feel for them as for their own children. Also they have developed a great love for the country of Bulgaria and the people here.”
“And with all of our love we say thank you and goodbye to everyone. To all the wonderful members who do so much and give of their time we say thank you. To all of the parents and families of our missionaries who so often send such kind messages of love and support we could not have done this without your faith and prayers. And to the best missionaries in the entire world, WE LOVE YOU ALL AND WILL CHERISH YOU FOREVER.”
“We sign off for now saying how much we have loved these past three years and the association we have had with our wonderful missionaries, the members, our recent converts, our investigators, actually everyone we met. We love the families of our missionaries as well and look forward to meeting many of you in the coming days. We will miss our new friends that we have made in California, but we are comforted in the fact that relationships are eternal. Our lives have been changed forever! The gospel is true. Jesus is the Christ. People can change.”
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