Sunday, July 2, 2017

Week of June 26 - July 2

This week was a week of lasts; our last Tuesday-Sunday in Bakersfield, our last time taking James's white shirts to the cleaners, our last meal out in Bakersfield, etc.  We also finished reading the Book of Mormon for the third time while we were on our mission. In addition to that, we read it just before we came.

This week was a little cooler. The 100+ degree temperatures were not so high and there were even two 99 degree days.

Sister Breinholt and Sister Hutchinson brought in this bouquet of mums to thank their mission office  "mums" and "dads". That was so sweet! Elders Fry, Salvesen, Keeney, and Thunhorst showed up soon after, so we took a picture of all of them.
Monday evening we went to Family Home Evening at the church as usual. We had the tinest inkling something was up when we picked up Melva and she came out caring two plates of something, when we pulled into the parking lot and saw a bunch of cars instead of just a few, and when we went into the church and saw some kids running around and heard a lot of commotion in the gym. We saw some of the missionaries and went into the Primary room to help them set up the chairs in a circle like we usually do. Then all of a sudden they opened the folding doors and everyone yelled "Surprise"! A whole bunch of people with a table full of food and a big banner where there. We were overwhelmed! My heart was beating very fast and the tears came to my eyes. Everyone started shaking our hands, giving us hugs, telling us how much we mean to them, and how much they will miss us. Bishop Butler welcomed everyone there, a blessing was said, and they made us be first in line for the food. We had just eaten dinner, but thankfully we hadn't eaten much at home. The tables were set with real tablecloths and fresh flowers. Everyone enjoyed the meal and visiting. Then Elder Hulet took charge and asked Spencer Keller to bear his testimony. He just received his mission call to the Phillipines. Elder Thomason bore his testimony and then I and James did. After that the kids got to hit the piƱata. There were more hugs and goodbyes and "we'll see you Sunday".  (The lady in pink in between us shares my name. Each Sunday she enjoyed saying, "Hello Alecia" and I loved saying, "Hello Alicia" back to her.) 

Wednesday the Alvarez's invited us over for dinner along with the four Spanish missionaries in our ward. However, the missionaries did not make it because they were stuck in traffic coming home from the temple. Brother Alvarez was telling us how his mother got married after church last week. They had an appointment with the Bishop to talk about the arrangements to get married, but weren't planning on it right then. She just happened to be wearing a white dress. They were married before, but got divorced for financial reasons so she could get social security benefits from her previous husband. After the wedding ceremony, Bishop Butler asked Santiago when he wanted to get baptized. The missionaries had been teaching him, but he couldn't get baptized because they were not married. He said he didn't know and the Bishop said, "How about tonight?" So that is what they did. It all happened so quickly.

We went by the Assistant's house the other day so we could see where they live. It is a nice three bedroom house in a nice neighborhood. The living room is filled with bunk beds as well as the three bedrooms. Elder Bennett and Elder Bankhead use the family room for their bedroom. Arriving elders stay with them their first night in the mission and departing missionaries stay there their last night before their early morning flights home. The sister missionaries stay at the mission home with President and Sister Layton.

One day around 10:00 am as I was washing my hands in the bathroom at the mission office, I looked in the mirror and nearly scared myself. I forgot to put my makeup on. We had a lot of phone calls before we left that morning, and I guess I got distracted. I promptly went home and fixed the situation.

Friday morning was the last day of the boot camp Ingrid and I went to this month. It was not until we walked all the way to the park and I started to put my mat on the ground that I noticed I was carrying my purse over my shoulder. I never take my purse with me. I guess maybe I am losing it! After our rigorous workout, they had a little going away party for us with muffins and fruit. We gave them the little booklets, "The Way to a Happier Family" with a message and our names and phone numbers in the front.

Friday evening, we visited with Sonia and Eddie to tell them goodbye. Well, actually Eddie was called into work so he was not there. They are the cousins that Verenice lived with while she was here. They and their two boys are such a sweet family. The missionaries are still teaching them. Sonia gave us fresh peaches off her tree before we left.

Bakersfield has a "love locks" bridge. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it on my walk Saturday morning on the river walk. The river walk is not like the River Walk in San Antonio, but it was very peaceful and pleasant along the Kern River. 

Saturday we finished taking stuff over to the Stephenson's apartment (the new mission office couple) before they arrived in the afternoon.
Then we attended a special baptism. John Sullivan who is about 75 years old was baptized by his returned missionary grandson. Missionaries knocked on his door about forty years ago. His wife and children joined the church, but he was not interested in their message. His wife has been inactive for many years. John saw the change  his grandson's mission made in his life and how his countenance changed. It made an impression on him. A few months ago President Layton was invited to an ice hockey game by one of the stake presidents. President Judd's father-in-law, John Sullivan, was also at the game. President Layton and he visited during the game. When they were leaving, John surprised himself by asking President Layton to send the missionaries by. Of course President Layton did and the missionaries taught John and he accepted the invitation to be baptized! Now he hopes that his wife will start coming back to church. She did attend his baptism.

Sunday Bishop Butler bore his testimony. Then with a little bit of a choked up voice he said, "I can  not sit down without thanking Elder and Sister Porras for their sacrifice to come on a mission and their service to our ward and members." James also bore his testimony about God's love for us and the love we need to have for others. James bore his testimony again in Priesthood Meeting. Nervously, I bore my testimony in Spanish in the Spanish Group Sacrament Meeting. A couple weeks ago I wrote my simple testimony down and had Jayline translate it into Spanish for me. James helped me practice pronouncing the words. Everyone told me they appreciated my testimony and understood what I said. There were lots of hugs and kisses after church again. It was hard to say goodbye to all these people we came to love.
The group leader, Brother Parada, his kids, and his parents. His parents are here visiting from Sweden.

After church we were invited to Jose and Irma Godinez's house for dinner. They had the Spanish elders over and some other members as well. We ate pombazos again. It is a dish that is very popular in Mexico. They made it for us another time. The drink was made with spinach, pineapple, and chia seeds. We ate outside on their covered patio which had misters cooling us off. They gave us a bunch of fresh avocados to take home. We took pictures and hugged again and said our final goodbyes.

Jose & Irma Godinez

Both Elder Solis and Elder Stewart gave James ties today. This is Elder Stewart wearing the nice, purple tie James gave him last week. Elder Stewart also has diabetes so he and Elder Porras have something in common.

Then we went to our second dinner at the Ball's house. They had us and the Stephenson's over. We got to know the Stephenson's a little and answer some of their questions about the mission.


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