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.


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