We left Salt Lake City on November 22nd, and flew to Atlanta, then overnight to Brasilia, and then finally made it to Belem at about 2:30pm on November 23rd. We traveled with a wonderful couple, Lara and Andy Hoch, from Idaho who were also picking up their son, Coben. Long, long trip! We took a cab to our hotel and basically crashed for the night - ordered room service and went to bed at about 8:00pm, their time. We were worn out! The next day, Sunday, was when Tom and Coby were supposed to arrive from Santarem at about 5:00pm that evening. The Hoch's came to our hotel and left their luggage in our room and we went for a long walk around the city, ending up at a large mall for lunch. Even got stuck in a huge rainstorm on our way back to the hotel! It was fun to finally see one of the cities that Tom had served in. At around 4:00pm, we headed to the airport to get our boys and we all couldn't have been more excited (and nervous)! A little after 5:00pm, Andy got a call from the mission office informing him that our boys had missed their flight - what??!! Andy actually thought it was a joke. But no, it was true. They had missed their flight and were trying to see if they could get them on another one that evening. So, we hung around the airport until they got back to us and informed us they would be arriving at 3:40am. They told us we could come to the mission office, so we did. Super nice missionaries in the office and they really took good care of us. They contacted President Scisci and he was on his way back to Belem and wanted us to come to his house and have something to eat with he and his wife. Sister Scisci fixed us a wonderful dinner and we got to chat with her and her husband, plus Elder Peterson and Elder Braca from the mission office - they were so incredibly kind to us! This is where I proceeded to badly sprain my ankle, while helping clean up from dinner, by rolling it on a step I didn't know existed while going into their kitchen - ouch! President Scisci took us back to our hotel and then arranged for a couple of LDS cab drivers to come pick us up at 3:00am and take us to the airport.
|The city of Belem from our room.|
|A nativity scene in the mall in Belem.|
So, after a couple of hours of sleep, if that, we got ready to go get Tom! We were really tired, but so, so excited! At almost 4:00am, they finally came down the escalator into the baggage claim area with the biggest, happiest smiles on their faces! We had to wave at them through the glass until they could get their luggage. It's hard to describe the sheer elation in seeing your son after two long years. He was tan and his hair was a little long and very blonde and he looked amazing to me! Once he finally got his luggage, he came through the doors and I got to give him a great big hug and I couldn't help but cry out of sheer happiness! He hugged his dad and we just wanted to stare at him! The Hoch's were experiencing the same joy at the same time with their son. They both seemed so happy! We had to drop them off at the mission staff house since they couldn't go with us until they had their finally interview with President Scisci. So, we went back to our hotel and got some more sleep. Dave woke up the next morning feeling sick and my ankle was huge and very painful to walk on - we were quite the pair. We just hung out at the hotel until Tom called us that afternoon to tell us what time the missionary dinner was. We took a cab to President Scisci's house that evening.
There were ten missionaries that were done and going home. Not surprisingly, Tom had the most worn out, worst looking pair of shoes on! Sister Scisci prepared a wonderful dinner for everyone, Lara and I doing what we could to help. After dinner, we all gathered in the living room where President and Sister Scisci got to tell the boys some final thoughts before they went home. One of the things that stuck in my mind was the saying that "only the strong serve in the North!". I could tell that all of these boys were strong, both physically and spiritually, after serving in the Northern most mission of Brazil - it was something they could all be very proud of! They sang a hymn together and it was extremely emotional for all of us. Then, each boy talked about what their mission had meant to them, what they had learned about themselves and how it had changed their testimonies. All of this was done in Portuguese with Elder Peterson translating beautifully for Dave and I. Then, the end of the meeting had all of us standing in a circle and singing "Called to Serve" - it was so touching and really beautiful. Just an incredibly touching experience that we are so, so grateful to have shared with Tom. Then, we took lots of pictures of the group and then each missionary had their picture taken with President and Sister Scisci. One of the things that really got to me was when Sister Scisci told both me and Lara that for two years our boys had been hers. And now, she was giving them back to us. It was very emotional and wonderful to see the pure love that these two people have for the missionaries that they take care of. We will never forget the Scisci's and how wonderful they were to both Tom and to us!
|The missionaries of Belem going home!|
|Missionaries and the parents!|
|Tom shaking President Scisci's hand.|
|Tom and President and Sister Scisci.|
|Tom goofing around and Elder Fox!|
|The door to the mission home.|
Tom had to return to the staff house that night, again, because he still hadn't had his interview, yet. The next morning, we headed to the mission home, again and met up with Tom after his interview. We had hastily made plans to get Tom released over the phone by his Stake President and so we then had to wait for President Scisci to return from the airport where they were picking up a new group of missionaries. Tom spent a lot of time out on the balcony writing in his journal, most likely about his thoughts and feeling of the last few hours of being a missionary. You could kind of tell there may have been some conflict going on for him. Sad that it was all over, but possibly happy that he would be going home, too. He told us he loved Brazil and wants to go back. He made wonderful friends there and loves the people. Once he was released, we took a cab back to our hotel and let Tom just hang out a little and relax. He was mesmerized by my phone, his i-pod and my i-pad. I think he was having electronic device withdrawal! And, the first thing he wanted to do was to head to the mall and get some new dress shoes, which we did! The funny thing was he didn't feel comfortable not wearing missionary clothes for a couple of days.
|Tom's first chance to relax as a non-missionary!|
|Relaxing with the i-pod and his music....|
|Still with the i-pod, at breakfast the next morning.|
This entire experience can probably best be summed up by something Dave said. He said that other than the weeks that his three children were born, this had to be one of the most amazing weeks we have ever had as parents. The love, pride and gratitude that you feel for having this privilege to share in this experience with your son is really hard to describe. We are so glad that we went to Brazil to pick up Tom and now we can't wait to do it again with David!