We started our Christmas calls with a Skype visit with one of our sons. We asked him how he was doing. We asked our wonderful daughter-in-law how she was doing. We talked to each of the children. Then someone popped the question.
When are you coming home?
Elder Hall smiled. Then he laughed. Then he told a story.
“Yesterday, we took a sister to Cebu for a doctor’s visit. While we waited, we went to the mission office to get mail for the missionaries. The mission president asked us to come into his office.
I have something to ask you.
Would you consider extending your mission?
He put up his hand.
You don’t have to decide right now. Go home and talk about it and pray about it. Talk to your family. But it might not be a good idea to talk to them about it when you make your Christmas calls!”
When Elder Hall stopped talking, our son and his wife hesitated, and then said they thought if we wanted to extend, it would be fine with them. The older children made similar comments. Then the youngest child spoke up.
I want to say something! I want you to come home!
Ah, the refreshing honesty of children!
That young child said exactly what we wanted to say.
We want to come home!
We want to hug our children and grandchildren. We want to share special meals with them. We want to visit our friends. We want to be in our own house and in our own bed.
We really want to come home.
Each time we called son or daughter and their families, they all said it would be fine with them if we stayed longer. Well, not all. The younger grandchildren said what they really thought.
We want you to come home!
And with each call, our desire to be home was stronger.
What can we say to children and grandchildren who have carefully counted the months, who, each time we have called, ask the same question.
When are you coming home?
We will be home the end of February.
Good! We miss you.
What do we say now? We say what we have to say.
Well, it will be the end of July.
Why do we have to say such hard words? No one is forcing us to stay. We are volunteers here.
It is true that there are fewer and fewer senior missionary couples and the need is greater than ever. But no one is irreplaceable.
We have asked ourselves that question again and again.
The answer is always the same. We don’t know.
There is something that we do know. As the words of a beautiful song explain:
I lived in heaven a long time ago, it is true;
Lived there and loved there with people I know. So did you.
Then Heavenly Father presented a beautiful plan,
All about earth and eternal salvation for man.
In the end, there was no decision to be made. We made that decision a long, long time ago. Everyone who has lived on the earth or who will live on the earth made the same decision. When we accepted the wonders of the Father’s plan, we accepted His conditions.
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;…. and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.[i]
[i] Abraham 3:25,26