Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 24, 2014

Hola familia!!! i hope all of you are having fun doing whatever you are doing. today is my first pday and i am quickly realizing that 1 hour isnt much time to write. our pday lasts 3 hours in the mtc and it has already flown bye. after this we get to go to the temple and do an endowment session though so i am super excited. i probably wont type in caps the whole tim im here though becaue the keyboards are super screwy.

i dont even know where to begin... i guess the airport. as soon as i walked away from security i felt like i wanted to just sit down and cry. i was soooo sad. but that all quickly changed when i realized that i had to go exchange my money in a different terminal so i tucked away my emotion and started going. i havent stopped going since. there is so much work kto be done and so little time to do it.

this experience has been so great already. i have already learned sooo much and i have already met so many amazing people. i am in a tripple companionship. my companions names are elder mertz and elder ballard ( yes his grandfather is the apostle but he doesnt like mentioning it because he wants to be his own person). they are both so awesome. they are lots of fun and we have already spent many hours laughing together.

the first day here was the longest day of my life. all 14 of us missionaries who came from the states met up together in the atlanta airport to fly to chile over night and i dont think any of us slept for more than 3 hours. we were all exhausted. we spent the next day in a daze trying to get to know one another and the teachers while also trying to memorize the missiony purpose in spanish... and at the same time chile was playing a world cup game so the teachers were a little distracted =p we got through it though. and we all crashed super hard that night.

we thought day 1 was long but day two was longer. it was our first day in the mtc (we are living somewhere else in santiago in a house by a bunch of embassies) and it seemed like we were there for a week. but it was still an amazing day because i felt the spirit so strongly and learned so much about being a missionary in the classes we were in.

the days following those first two days have been extremely... bipolar. we will be on such a spiritual hi and then all ther sudden be torn down. we are beginning to teach mock investigators and the language barrirer is so unreal. we want to talk and get to know the investigators but speaking to them is pretty challenging at this point in time. i cant really even talk to them about soccer because i just dont know how. it feels demoralizing. but yesterday in my night class (the best class of the day) our teacher shared a message with us that i loved. we might not speak the language very well but the language of the spirit is universal. as missionaries we are just mediums in which the spirit reaches our investigators. if we can just get them to the point in which the spirit can touch their hearts than we are doing and saying exactly what we need to.

i love this mission already. i am so thankful for the oppertunity i have to be here. if anyone is on the fence about serving i highly recomend they come out because it is truly life changing.

i love you all. i cant wait to hear back. i will be back on in a week!!!! now it is time to go to the satiago temple =)


Elder Johnson

p.s. pdays are on tueday the whole time im in the mtc

i love you and miss you mom. im doing well! my stomach is really good because the food here isnt super flavorful. im having funa and being safe. tell the girls i love them and im sorry i didnt write back but an hour really flies. thanks for getting all that done for me. please just spell check and correct anything in the emails i write home before you put them on the blog.

i love you

elder johnson

(I know that Declan wants me to clean up his grammar and spelling, but I am choosing to leave it so that he can look back and see how hard it was for him to get used to a Spanish keyboard, and also to watch as his Spanish becomes easier to speak and his English becomes harder. Another thing I want to remember is the fact that my constant worry about his stomach, something I have been concerned about for over a year, was immediately addressed by Declan and yet another concern taken off my plate- at least for now.)

Declan's Story

Up to this point this has been my story, from my perspective. Now it is time to turn it over to Declan. I will begin to post his weekly emails to this blog and let him tell us about his experiences. If there comes a time when I have a perspective or some insight I will write a quick post, but from here on out it will be mostly Declan's Story.


Is He There Yet?

The next morning I woke up and was just in a funk. I felt a little grumpy, but really had no reason why. Rodney seemed to be a little off also. We were packing up and getting ready to head out to pick Cambria up that night from girls camp, which was 3 hours away, and then head to Baton Rouge for a tournament the next day. I knew that it was a good thing we had a busy schedule in the upcoming days, yet I just wanted to lay in my bed and and do nothing. Throughout the morning Rodney kept saying things like "Do you think he made it? How are we supposed to know it all went ok? Surely someone should let us know he is there! Do you think we are going to seriously have to wait a week to hear from him?" I was trying to just continually tell myself that no news was good news in this situation, but his constant wondering kept me a bit on edge. At about 12:30 my phone vibrated letting me know I had an email, and instead of the normal junk mail that comes through several times a day I found this precious gem:

Who would have thought that such a small little note could have such a positive impact on my day. I did not realize the weight of the anxiety that I was carrying on my chest about his arrival until it was magically taken away by this email. Rodney and I laughed about our ditzy blonde son, and the thought of his mistake made me giggle throughout the day. In the matter of seconds the grumpiness I was feeling melted away and I felt happy and alive. He was there, he was happy, and he was right where he was supposed to be.



The Airport

When we arrived at the airport Rodney stopped at the curb in the terminal instead of parking. I was so confused as to what he was doing, was he expecting us to just drop him at the curb and say good-bye then and there? I guess the look on my face said it all and he told me his truck was to tall to park in any of the garages except one in a different terminal. I couldn't believe he was just going to drop him off and say good-bye like that. Later I realized that it was probably the best way for him to say good-bye. As Rodney sat and hugged Declan on that curb he held him tight and told him he loved him and how proud he was of him. I could see him fighting back the tears, and I had to look away in order to keep my emotions in check. Dec and I then grabbed his luggage and headed inside to the Delta counter to get him checked in. As we scanned his passport his name and some other really funky name came up. We were both a bit confused, but just clicked on his name and went on. We got all of his luggage checked in, and then headed to security. Declan's face was turning a little red and I asked if he was nervous. He smiled at me and said yes. As we headed toward the security line we noticed a Samoan family holding signs that said Return with Honor. Declan said, "I wonder if they have a missionary coming or going somewhere?" Honestly I could not really pay much attention to it because I was so afraid that if I broke my concentration I would fall apart. As we got to the opening of the security line, the lump in my throat felt like it was the size of a grapefruit. I sat and hugged my baby boy and fought to keep it together. He actually held me in an embrace much longer than I had intended, but hey, there was no one behind us and I wasn't going to complain. When we finally broke apart he headed to the security section and started emptying everything into those lovely gray containers. It was taking every fiber of my being to not start bawling. As he went through the X-Ray machine they decided to pull him aside and check something out. About this time the mother of the family with the "Return with Honor" signs approached me and asked if I had a missionary heading out. I nodded my head yes, as I didn't think I could speak. She then asked me where he was headed. It took me a minute to answer because I knew as soon as I opened my mouth I would lose it. I tried as hard as I could to speak normally, but the words Santiago Chile West Mission came out of my mouth as a sob, and I had to step around the corner so that Declan would not see me as I tried to pull it back together. She excitedly told me that her daughter was headed to that same mission, and then I realized that strange name that came up with his when we checked in was hers. I felt a huge surge of relief as I told her Declan would be so happy to have a traveling companion with him, and then I stepped back around the corner just as Declan was putting his belt back on and told him she was going to his same mission. He gave me a thumbs up, finished buckeling his belt, grabbed his carry on, and then it was the moment I had been dreading. He turned and looked at me one last time, mouthed "I Love You", blew me a kiss, and turned the corner out of my sight and into his new life. I quickly ran over to the sister missionary and wished her luck, and then did everything in my power to walk, not run out of the airport doors. As I hit the side walk where Rodney was parked I ran to the truck and hopped in as fast as I could. Rodney looked at me with tears in his eyes, and I finally let mine flow freely. As we drove off we sat in silence as the tears flowed down our cheeks. When our emotions were under control we talked about what an incredible guy Declan is and how blessed we are to call him ours. One thing that Rodney said was how lucky the people of Chile were going to be to have him there, and that he would be such a breath of fresh air to his president. Rodney is really soft hearted, so I order to not get real emotional he puts on a tough front. Once those walls are taken down though he has one of the most tender hearts around. When he says something like that you know that he is not just giving you lip service, but that he truly means it. I then saw a text that he had sent out to those he is close to. It said:

Reading this made me lose control of my emotions one more time, and I thought about the fact that it was not just Declan making a sacrifice by serving for two years of his life, but that we as a family were also making a sacrifice by not having him around over the next two years. It is a sacrifice we are willing to make, and we know that the people who's lives he will bless will be eternally grateful, but it is a sacrifice non the less.

On the way home Rodney stopped by Bahama Bucks and let me drown my sorrows away with a Stawberry Daiquiri Bahama Mama Rama (a snowcone on a scoop of vanilla ice cream with cream on top). That evening Rodney and I sat in our living room alone watching a movie together, and then crashed out hard as we were both emotionally drained. As I went to bed and drifted off to sleep I wondered what Declan was doing, thinking, and feeling at that exact moment- and was hoping he was getting some sleep on the plane before he landed in Chile and started his first day in the MTC.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

June 17th D-day

I woke up this morning feeling a little emotional. I did not want to have an emotional day, I did not want to boo hoo my last moments with Declan away; But as I woke up I felt a little bit heavy in my heart. I reached for my phone so I could distract myself with Instagram and Facebook, and quickly found myself writing this post:

I allowed myself about five minutes to tear up, to get lost in my emotions, and then I told myself it was time to pull myself together and get on with our busy day. We had packing to finish, a few errands to still run, and a 4:45 deadline to get him checked in at the airport. The day passed very quickly. Jessie Bishop came by and brought Declan a sweet bag of things she wished she would have had when she went to the MTC (extra pens and pencils, post it notes, a 3 subject notebook, and some snacks). We finished all of the packing and before we headed out to run our errands Declan gave me a blessing. It was a beautiful blessing, and the tears that I had tried to dam up all day flowed free for a moment. As I hugged Declan I told him those were the only tears he would see from me that day. Quickly I dried them up and we headed out to finish up. First we went to walmart to get Declan's prescriptions. The pharmacy was closed of course. Declan wanted to get a voice recorder, so we looked there for one- no luck. We headed to Radio Shack next to look there for one- got it. Next we headed to the bank to make sure they had everything they needed to ensure Declan's debit card would still work in Chile over the next two years, and get a medical release notarized. Of course this would be the first time since I've lived here that I would have to sit and wait on someone to help me. We waited for at lest 20 minutes, and when we finally did get help we found out we needed to change him to a new kind of account. The woman that was helping us was so interested in what Declan was doing that it took her about 30 mins to get the accounts switched over because she just kept asking questions. I was starting to get a bit panicked because time was running out. We finally made it back to Walmart, and I ran in to quickly get Declan's prescriptions. Yeah right! They had forgotten to order in his stomach prescription and did not have any available. The one thing I have worried most about is Declan's stomach on his mission. Every day I made it a point to tell him several times to make sure he ate smart and kept his stomach in check. Now they had no stomach medicine for him!!!!! I had done so well with my emotions all day, and now I could feel them right on the edge. The pharmacist (who I have come to know all too well because of the insane about of medicines I have to pick up monthly) saw me and could tell I was flustered and came over to help me out. As I explained that I had to have Declan at the airport in an hour and a half, and there was no stomach medicine there for him to take, he quickly said they would get it fixed and went to work. Before long they had located some of the medicine (only 30 day worth instead of 90- but some is better than none) at a different store, gave me my other prescriptions for free because of their mix up, and had me on my way to the other pharmacy. When I got to the other store the medicine was waiting on me and I was in and out in minutes. The guy who helped me check out told me he knew Declan and that he was leaving that day to go on a mission trip to Chile. He told me he had been following it on his Facebook and wanted me to tell Declan good luck and he would be thinking of him. All of the sudden my panic faded away and the happiness of Declan's choice once again calmed me down. We had wanted to take Declan out for a steak before we left, but all of the hiccups in our day had caused us to run out of time, so we stopped by Freebird's and fed him a monster burrito for his last meal. And then we were on our way.


Side bar

There are just a couple things I want to remember about Declan preparing for his mission.

  • One of the things that I loved was listening to Declan tell people he was going to Chile on a "mission trip" for two years. Where I come from we would say "I'm going on a mission" or "I will be serving a mission", but when I heard Declan say "I'm going on a mission trip" I knew he was a Texan. Every time he said it I smiled.
  • Everywhere we went we always needed to plan on it taking a little bit longer because anytime we were out we would undoubtedly see someone we knew, and Declan made sure to take the time to tell them about his mission. I was amazed at all that people wanted to know about his "mission trip". Everyone had seen the missionaries in suits walking around, and now they had the perfect person to ask questions about them to. I sat and listened as he answered question after question, some of them not easy, and was amazed at his maturity and understanding as he eloquently answered them. Everyone was so impressed with his decision to serve, and they continually told him how proud they were of him and what a great choice he was making. Their encouragement was amazing.
  • During the time leading up to Declan's mission I was so overcome with love for our community that has become like an extended family, and grateful for the influences of the people in it on our kids lives. Members and non-members alike have had such a good, positive influence on our children, and have helped to encourage them to not only be themselves, but be the best version of themselves. We have been very blessed to be surrounded by such a good, loving community.
  • I have felt the blessing of the many people in my life that have been keeping Declan and our family in their prayers. We have had members, non-members, Facebook friends, nurses at doctors offices, ladies in the bank, all kinds of people tell us that they will be praying for us, and we have felt their prayers.

  • I received an email from one of Declan's old scout leaders who moved a couple years ago. He included this picture that he was getting ready to send to all of the young men that are in it. Everyone of the boys in the picture are now serving a mission. EVERY SINGLE ONE. All of the boys were so different than each other, yet they all were friends and all loved each other fiercely. If you were to ask Declan about any of the boys above you would hear nothing other than the amazing qualities that that one person had, because that is how they saw each other. What an amazing group of boys to grow up with.
  • My love for the ward we are in, the ward that is home for my children, grew even more. I thought of the individuals that made that ward feel like home for my children. I thought of the leaders that had gotten to know and grew to love my kids. I better appreciated the time they spend with them, the times they put up with them when they are ornery, and how my children have always felt loved in their presence. I thought of the people in the ward that have become more like family members than friends. I thought of the youth they've grown up with; the lessons they have learned in patience, forgiveness, humbling themselves, and finding the best in others. I have became so appreciative of the fact that our ward has become our ward family.
  • One thing I never wanted to do was make Declan feel pressured into serving a mission. I have always hoped he would, but wanted it to be something he wanted to do and his decision. I learned that several years ago my dad sat down with Declan and told him that as the oldest grandkid he needed to be a good example to all of his cousins and serve a mission. He felt a lot of pressure to live up to that, something I never wanted him to have to feel the weight of. As Declan started to become of age and was starting to thinking about his mission he knew it was something he needed to do in order to set a good example. When he prayed about when he should serve he felt very impressed to go to school first and then go. His original plan was to go to school for a semester and leave on his mission around Christmas, but that was not the plan The Lord had for him because nothing worked out so we could get his papers in on time. It was a very frustrating time for Declan, but when he accepted the fact that he would have to wait until the school year was over everything started to fall into place. He began to want to serve a mission for himself and the people he would reach, along with being an example to others. The mission began to become something that was personal to him, and not something he was doing just to check it off on the list. He learned to trust in The Lord and his timing.
  • While my parents were here my dad made the comment that Declan was ready. I said, "you think?" And he said he thought he as probably more prepared than any of my brothers. I was shocked by that statement, and it stuck in my head the rest of the time Declan was here. As I sat and talked to Declan, watched Declan, and listened to Declan over the next couple weeks I knew that without a shadow of a doubt he was ready. He had done an amazing job of preparing himself, and he really understood the importance of what he was doing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

His Final Days in America

On his last Friday night, Declan stayed the night at his good friend, Garrison Bird's, house for the last time. Garrison was headed out on his mission to Couscous, Peru on the same day as Declan. It had been so fun to have both of these boys home from college and preparing for their missions together. I can't express the joy I received from watching these two spend their last few weeks together, whether it was wasting time together, playing games together, or watching "The District" together. What a special time to share with one of your best friends. That Saturday morning I received a phone call from the stake executive secretary trying to get in touch with Declan to set up his final interview and appointment to set him apart. When he said "tomorrow" I almost jumped out of my skin thinking there was no way that could be right. It was. I told him Dec was at Garrison's, but that I would have him get back with him ASAP. I then called Declan and woke him up to call the secretary back. When Declan called me back a few minutes later he said "Mom, he wants me to meet the Stake President at 10 am tomorrow for my final interview, and then he wants to set me apart as a missionary tomorrow night at 8! I just got real!" And real it was. I was starting to feel a little panicked about having him ready, but the girls had to leave for Girls' Camp Monday morning at 7:30, and I knew I needed to forget the mission for a bit while I made sure I had every thing ready for them.

Elisabeth Wiser, Garrison Bird, Declan Johnson- Called To Serve
Elisabeth Wiser, Garrison Bird, Declan Johnson -Called To Serve
Sunday Declan met with the stake president at 10 for his final interview. His friends Garrison and Elisabeth were also there having their final interviews for their missions. At 1:30 we had sacrament meeting where Declan was the first speaker. Granna and Pawpa, the McCammon's, Ora Jane and the Cotton's were all there to hear him and support him. Declan gave a great talk. He is such a good and eloquent speaker. He spoke about being a member missionary and opening up to our friends about the gospel. He talked about how his understanding of missionary opportunities has changed and evolved as he has grown up and learned more about the gospel. He finished it with an awesome story about a friend of his at college that he was able to share the gospel with and watch the conversion process unfold as the boy accepted the gospel and was baptized. Although I had heard about this friend from him before, I had not known of all that Declan had put into it and what an awesome experience it was for him to be a part of. One of my favorite things that Declan said in his talk was that at the baptism the spirit was so strong you were "litterally sweating the spirit." He made us all chuckle, yet we knew exactly what he meant. I know that when he was praying about whether to go to college for a year or straight on his mission, he received the answer to go to college so he could participate in the many amazing experiences he did at school that have made him grow and be completely ready and dedicated to his mission.

Kinslee the future missionary
Kinslee the future missionary
After church we rushed home and had a quick open house for people to stop by and say thier farewells and wish him luck. As it ended the dreaded moment came when Declan and Katie had to say good-bye. She had decided to leave before he was set apart, which ended up being such a good decision. Declan and her sat out front talking for a bit, Katie crying and Declan trying to be strong for her. When they finally said good-bye Declan waked into the house and fell into my arms and allowed himself his moment to break down and cry. Decota was so, so worried about him. At one point she pushed me out of the way and sat and hugged him. He only had a few minutes to be sad before the Stake President showed up. When he pulled up Declan said, "Alright, time to be sad is over. On to the next thing." Declan was set apart as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints around 8:00 on Sunday, June 15, 2014. The blessing that he was given was beautiful. The thing I remember most about it was how much he would love the people and see them through the Savior's eyes as brothers and sisters, without judgement. This is something that Declan has always had the gift of doing, and I can only imagine how amazing he will be as that love and understanding of others deepens. What a great future father and husband to be able to have those characteristics. After Declan was set apart everyone started to head out. When everyone was gone we spent the rest of the evening together as a family for the last time for two years as we got the girls' packing for camp finished.

President Cannon, Elder Johnson, Rodney Johnson
president Cannon, Elder Johnson, Rodney Johnson
Uncle Dustin, Dad, Elder Johnson, and Papaw
Uncle Dustin, Dad, Elder Johnson, Papaw
The next morning we were up and going early to get the girls to meet up with their leaders for camp. Declan was up at 6:30 and dressed in a suit when I left the house with the girls a little after 7. Rodney had given the girls quick blessings before they headed out, and Declan gave them big hugs and kisses as they walked out the door. Once again, the timing of the good-byes was a blessing. The girls had both been very worried about saying good-bye to Declan. The fact that we had to be somewhere at a certain time, and that they were going to be very, very busy over the next few days was such a blessing. It made it a lot easier on both of them and Declan.

Declan and Garrison ready to serve
Declan and Garrison ready to serve
After the girls were all taken care of, I grabbed Declan Chicken Minis from Chick-fil-a (one of his favorite breakfasts) and headed home. The next two days with Declan were amazing. It was so nice for Rodney and I to be able to spend that time with him alone- no friends, no tv, no video games to distract us. We got Declan all packed, bought everything we could think of to send him off with (Rodney's must have list included gummy bears, Swedish fish, jelly beans, twizzlers and gum to butter up his first senior companion), and enjoyed Pho and Sushi for Declan's last time for 2 years (or so we think-who knows). One of the last things we did was take Declan by Garrison's house so they could exchange ties with each other (so they would have something of each other's on their mission), give them time to talk about the excitement and nervousness they were both feeling, and grab a couple last pictures with each other. It was also nice to sit and talk with Garrison's parents as we were both sending off a missionary for the first time. The last two days Declan was here was really a very special time that Rodney and I will cherish forever. And then, in the blink of an eye, it was time.


Friday, June 20, 2014

The Temple

On May 31st we were able to take Declan to the temple for the first time to receive his endowments. This day was a very special day for that reason, obviously, but what even made it more special was all those that were there to be with him. Granna, Papaw and Alicia where there from Rodney's side of the family, and Mammy and Pappy flew in and surprised me by also flying in Brittani, Chelsey, and Mikael and Henry, and then my amazing sister-in-law Stepahnie drove all the way from Alamagordo, NM to Houston to drop off her kids at her mom's and then drove to Dallas to surprise me. All the surprises were in celebration of my 40th birthday, but having them all at the temple with us was the best present ever. It was a very special day made even better by all those who made the effort to be there with us.

On June 11th my brother Johnathon was in town visiting Declan one last time and we were able to go with him, Decota and Cambria to the temple to do baptisms for the dead together. My dad was able to get about 12 female names and 12 male names from his family tree that we could do the work for, and we were able to help an elderly man and woman who were at the temple with their family names. Since Declan was now an endowed member he was able to preform the baptisms. I think one of my favorite images that I will keep in my head forever will be of looking out from the front of the font to see Declan in the water baptizing Decota with Cambria anxiously looking on from the bench behind the font waiting for her turn. Something about that picture brought such peace and happiness to me. After the baptisms it was so special to see Declan and Johnathon preform the conformations, an uncle and a nephew that are so much more like brothers. After they were done I was talking to the girls as they were changing back into their clothes. Cambria said she was so nervous for Declan that she couldn't take her eyes off him while he was doing Decota's names. Decota said she could feel Declan shaking as he held her. Both of them wanted to make sure he knew he had done a great job. I think the mixture of the image I previously described with the insight into what they were thinking has made it such a sweet memory for me. After we were done, the girls and I left to go to a doctors appointment nearby while Declan and Johnathon stayed at the temple and took all of the male names through for washings and annointings. Declan was so glad he was able to spend that extra time in the temple with Johnathon. As Declan and I talked later he told me he was making a conscious effort to promise himself that he would figure out how to attend the temple at least once a month once he gets home. That boy is always such a great example to me. The girls want to figure out how to do baptisms more often, so I guess I will have to try to figure out this family history stuff so we can try to go more often. I have to admit though, it is a great place to be with those you love. In a world and life filled with so much chaos and uncertainty, it really is nice to walk into a place where the hustle and bustle disappear and you can relish in the peace that you feel within the walls. What a great way to spend time with those you love.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Wait

After Declan received his mission call, he found the next couple of months of school to be hard to finish. The crazy kid didn't want to have to write any papers that semester so he decided to stack his schedule with math classes. I'm not talking addition and subtraction type math classes, I'm talking Calculus 2, Microeconomics, Logic (some math class that deals with probabilities and such), and Statistics classes. After he received his call he said it took everything in him to stay dedicated to his classes. Somehow, whithin the matter of one evening, all those math classes seemed to become less important while his mission prep class and his temple prep class seemed to become so important. He said it took everything he had to finish off that semester with good grades. He actually ended up with a couple of B's and was quite disappointed, but I thought he did great considering the "mission distraction" and the difficulty of his courses. In mission prep he was challenged to share the gospel with someone, and was blessed to be a part of sharing the gospel with a friend who converted and was baptized that semester. I think it is safe to say he passed that mission prep class.

When the semester ended and he returned home he had a little over a month until he left. I knew he would be completely stir crazy by the time he left, so I sent him to New Mexico to visit and say goodbye to a big chunk of my family, had my baby brother come visit during another week, and I tried to keep him busy with lists of things to do before he left. He became a master at using the line "But it will be two years before I can have this, or do this, or eat this, or whatever else this again". This line was used for everything from staying up all night playing games, to laying in bed until 2 in the afternoon, to going to this resturant or that, to anything else he could come up with. It was funny because one day I happened to see an email from his good friend Nic Mower who is on his mission in Spain. Nic told him to be sure to lay the " But it's my last time for 2 years" thing on thick the last couple weeks because "mom's can't resist that line and you can get almost anything you want." Those tricky, tricky boys! I do have to admit, it is a hard thing for a mom to resist though. So needless to say we didn't get as much cleaning and organizing done as I'd planned, but we did get in a lot of his "last time for 2 years" wishes.


The Perfect Fit

Flag of Texas
Flag of Texas
If you asked Declan if he would like to serve his mission domestically or foreign, he would tell you it didn't matter to him. He thought foreign would be neat because he could learn a new language and about new cultures, but he also thought domestic would be great because he would develop effective ways to talk to people in our own culture about the gospel which would benefit him for the rest of his life. A couple days before he got his call he dared to venture a guess that he would serve in Germany, a place he thought would be great to experience as he learned about his family's heritage since he has German ties on both Rodney's and my sides of the family. When Santiago, Chile was revealed as his destination he was thrilled, yet surprised since this was not a place he had pictured himself.

Flag of Chile
Flag of Chile
Over the next couple months we started gathering information and learning about Chile. On our way to Colorado for spring break, I stummbled across a web page designed for missionaries about his particular mission, Chile Santiago West. As I read the information aloud to Rodney and the girls we all could not believe how perfect he was for this mission.

  • This particular part of Chile had a big German influx after WW2 and, as a result, has a lot of German influence. There are words in this region that are a mix of German and Spanish, and are exclusive to this region. Plus there is some German flair added to some of the cuisine.
  • The biggest compliment to the people is to love and enjoy the meals they feed you. Declan has always been very willing to try new things, and genuinely enjoys the opportunity to expand his pallet. Even if he eats something new that isn't his favorite, he would never admit it and would make you think it was the best thing he has ever eaten.
  • The flag of Chile is almost identical to the Texas flag which he loves so much. The only difference is the blue of the Texas flag runs from top to bottom while the Chilean flag's blue runs through the white stripe and then stops at the red stripe. This also makes the Texas star larger than the Chilean star.
  • The people in Chile love blonde hair and blue eyes. They will bleach their hair making it an orangish color, and call that blonde. It is said that you could be the ugliest person alive, but if you have blonde hair and blue eyes they will think you are gorgeous. Declan's hair might not be as blonde as it once was, but it still has a tinge of blonde, and those blue eyes of his are beautiful - not to mention the fact that he is just pretty dang cute.
As we continued to read fact after fact, there was no doubt he was going to be serving right where he belonged. Funny how that works out isn't it ;)


Chile Santiago West

In February of 2014, Declan sat in Jonzzey's Cafe at Southern Virginia University surrounded by his friends, his grandparents video chatting on an iPhone, and us video chatting on the iPad as he anxiously awaited opening his mission call. We happened to be at a high school soccer game that night, so it seemed like everything was working against us as we tried to get our technology linked up. I was feeling particularly frustrated because nothing seemed to be working and it was so chaotic. After what felt like forever, we got everything working at the same time and Declan was finally able to rip open his letter and see what his future held. (Side note- Declan is not good with surprises at all. On Christmas we have learned not to have gifts delivered or bought until the last few days before Christmas or he will search the house looking for hidden gifts and open wrapped gifts and then rewrap them. I had sent him a package which contained a small gift for him to open each day of December from the Christmas Elf, and he opened every one of them the first day. Knowing that he would not be able to wait until evening to open his call when we could all be there with him, he decided ahead of time that when he got his call he would give it directly to his roomate who would keep it in his possession until the appointed time.). He began to read his call:

Elder Johnson,

You are hearby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Chile Santiago West Mission.

Everything after that was chaos. Screaming from the people around me, screaming from all of the friends in Jonzzey's, and then screaming from me because I COULDN'T HEAR WHAT HE SAID. After a couple seconds it calmed down enough for me to hear it as he repeated it. Chile. Chile. My baby was headed to Chile. He'll be able to speak spanish with his daddy. Santiago, Chile. We asked people to guess where he was going to win a prize. We had close to 100 guesses. Three guessed Chile- my brother Andrew, Chantel Grubelnik, and Nick Gorgio. Chile. I was so excited for him, but honestly that was a country that had never crossed my mind.