In a May 2011 letter the First Presidency said concerning senior missionaries, "Couples may, at there own expense, take a short leave of absence from their mission (normally no longer than seven to ten days) to return home for a critical family event.
We were pleased that the Area President allowed us to go to Minnesota for a family reunion. Here is our picture with 6 children and their spouses, 23 of 24 grandchildren, and on the cell phone you can see a picture of our grandson Jaron currently serving a mission in Tahiti.
I hope this blog will encourage other potential senior missionaries to serve; yes, you can go home during a senior mission. It is a lot different that serving a mission at 18 or 19 years of age.
We went to the St. Paul temple to do baptisms with some of our grandchildren. Very special!
We held our reunion north of St. Paul at Grandview Lodge on Gull Lake. Yes there were lots of water activities.
And our children where the worst at pushing others off.
And a bonfire and Smore's; Grandma was feeling sick and chilled but did not want to miss the fun.
And a family dance. Those of you who know our son Jonathan, he and his children do the family dance. It is always a lot of crazy fun.
We love to see the younger children dancing with their cousins.
But one of the highlights was the baptism of our grandson Benjamin, the son of our daughter Karen and son-in-law, Chris Woodson. We got permission to do the baptism in the lake.
The grandchildren sang at the baptism and confirmation with one granddaughter playing the guitar.
We grandparents love these events.
While we were in Minnesota, the husband of my sister Charlotte died in Utah and the Area Presidency agreed we could go to the funeral. We were so glad that we could attend.
Then it was time to leave with the tradition of pushing the car of those leaving.
I do want to share a spiritual thought with those of you who have endured to the end of this post.
This thought is taken from an article in the Liahona called "Pathway to Palmyra." It is taken from a talk originally given to the missionaries in the Provo MTC by Mathew S. Holland who is president of the Univeristy of Utah Valley.
First he goes through all the challenges the Smith family had before the first vision: losing a store, many crop failures, Joseph's surgery on his leg, and other things that I did not know. He even talked about a volanco going off in Indonesia that caused one of the crop failures. He talks about how Lucy Mack was robbed while traveling during many of their moves.
Then he makes the point that all in all is was part of Joseph's preparation for his mission and part of getting him to Palmyra where he needed to be.
He concludes with these words of encouragement to the missionaries, and to us, that we remember that God is directing our lives.
"Remember this as perhaps the first lesson of Joseph’s life and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. In spite of failure, mishap, and bitter opposition—and in many cases precisely because of those things—Joseph Smith got exactly where he needed to be to fulfill his mission. So, if now or on some future day, you look around and see that other perhaps less-devoted acquaintances are succeeding in their jobs when you just lost yours; if major illness puts you on your back just at the moment critical tasks of service seem to come calling; if a call to a prominent position goes to someone else; if a missionary companion seems to learn the language faster; if well-meaning efforts still somehow lead to disaster with a fellow ward member, a neighbor, or an investigator; if news from home brings word of financial setback or mortal tragedy you can do nothing about; or if, day after day, you simply feel like a bland and beaten background player in a gospel drama that really seems made for the happiness of others, just know this: many such things were the lot of Joseph Smith himself at the very moment he was being led to the stage of the single most transcendent thing to happen on this earth since the events of Golgotha and the Garden Tomb nearly 2,000 years earlier.
“But,” you may say, “my life and earthly destiny will never be like that of the Prophet Joseph.”
"That probably is true. But it is also true that your lives do matter to God, and your eternal potential and that of every soul you will meet is no less grand and significant than that of the Prophet Joseph himself. Thus, just like our beloved Joseph, you must never give up, give in, or give out when life in general, or missionary work in particular, gets utterly painful, confusing, or dull. Rather, as Paul teaches, you must see that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28; emphasis added).
"Just as He did with young Joseph Smith, God is shaping and directing you every single day to ends more glorious than you can know!"
Elder and Sister Sandberg