President and Sister Dunn

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 21-22 Departing Elders

Well, it has been one week since our first Elders left the missions and headed for home.  I don't know how we will survive without these 15 great leaders in the mission...but we must!  These young men had the distinction of being President and Sister Omer's last missionaries and they got to end their last three weeks with us, the new kids on the block!

We couldn't have been schooled by a greater set of missionaries. They are men that have matured in the gospel and their growth is evident and their spirits are strong. They represent 8 different countries and they have all left their mark.  It was an honor and a privilege to spend an evening with them in the mission home. We witnessed their camaraderie and heard from each one as they expressed their gratitude and testimonies. They helped season me regarding transfers and the departure dinners I will have ahead over the next 35 months. I figure we need to savor each one, for we will have about 23 nights like this and each one will be very special.

As part of our new tradition, we asked each Elder to take time and leave a reflections with us and create a page for our book. They took it seriously and made creative, heartwarming personal pages we are already treasuring. Here is a line from each one of their reflections. i could have written so much-but this also lets you see their names and where they are headed home to!

"I am happy to serve a faithful mission and to have you as a mission dad and a mission mom. It's a blessing."Elder Kelem (Kenya)

"I love this gospel and this Church. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. "
~Elder Mower (Utah)

" Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God and no man can possibly get back except through Him.
~"Elder Costigan (Australia)

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding," Proverbs 3:5 ~Elder Ruekhart (Utah)

"It has been an absolute pleasure to serve in this mission. In my heart I know the gospel is indeed true and Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God.    ~Elder Smith (UK)

"My mission has been a great experience for me. I have learned how to love my Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ." ~Elder Ramiaramanana (Madagascar)

"Following the Lord brings blessings in my life and to those I taught on my mission."
~Elder Msanga (Zanzibar)

"The Church is true and the Johannesburg Mission will continue to thrive under Christ-like leadership." ~Elder Brinkerhoff (England)

"My mission has taught me more than all the books I read in school." ~Elder Mukarati (Zimbabwe)

"The time has been short, yet glorious, our interactions have been divine and life changing, wish we could have had more time together, but the Lord's timing is for a reason. "
~Elder Nherera (Zimbabwe)

"This is for sure and by far the best thing I have done in my life. The things that I have experienced will never leave me." ~Elder Booker (California)

"Thank you for the energy you have brought to the mission. South Africa Johannesburg will always be in my prayers." ~Elder Purnell (Canada)

"It really has been the best two years and I  have a strong testimony of the truthfulness of this gospel." ~Elder Searle (Idaho)

"In my service of God here in Joburg, I count myself lucky to have glimpsed through "God's Window" and seen  His children as they really are."  ~Elder Elliott (California)

"I feel blessed to have had such a sacred opportunity to become one with my father and saviour." ~Elder Ryan (UK)

Fun to prepare dinner for 22. Elder Smith from England had his great family pick him up and join with us.

Our second table had the Assistants joining with the other departing Elders.

Everyone is satisfied after dessert!
A sense of our dinner shown above, plus a salad and a fillet of beef and homemade chocolate cake and ice cream. It all turned out, despite a new cook in the country and a new kitchen to work with!!

After dinner we gathered around and had time to hear from each departing Elder.

It was so sweet to hear them bear testimonies and share their gratitude for the growth and opportunity they have had.  This is a very close group with deep and enduring friendships.

Standing for the mission song!!

Elder Elliott started it all off by being the first to stand and share his testimony!

Elder Smith sharing his testimony. His parents also spoke to everyone and it was wonderful to have them with us.

You can feel of the love and comraderie

Elder Kelem from Kenya loves his camera and asked me to send him every picture I have taken in addition to  his!:)

Elder Ruekhart with everyone singing

Elder Rami heads back to Madagascar. He had open heart surgery during his mission and has been quite a champ during an unexpected health challenge.

Elder Purnell from Canada and Elder Ryan from England will be missed!

Elders: Smith, Costigan, Elliott, Searles and Mower

Elder Msanga, Elder Kelem and Elder Booker -You can feel of their sincerity and love

On our way to the airport, we had time to take a few hours at spend some time together at the Apartheid Museum. Many of the Elders had not been here during their mission. It is a sobering place to be reminded of the  South Africa's past and the amazing healing and forgiveness that is part of this country's rich history.

Last chance to say good-bye before the airport

Elder Ryan checking in and getting a little support from Elder Bodily,

Elder Ruekhart getting everything in order

On day two of transfers we make one more ride to the airport to send all the departing African missionaries. They leave during the day instead of night flights like those going to Europe and North America.

One last photo before they go their separate ways.
 Elder Nherera, Elder Kelem, Elder Rami, Elder Msanga,  and Elder Mukarati
Can I get a different seat??:)

We have only been with these Elders for three weeks and already we feel so connected to each and everyone of them. It is crazy how quickly your hearts are knit together. We love these Elders and are so proud of them. They will go back to African countries and be such amazing leaders and examples. They really are so inspiring to us and we are so blessed to know and love them.
Elder Nherera, Elder Msanga, Elder Mukarati


  1. This is so amazing!!! I love the lines from what they wrote in the book, and the meal you made. It will always be bittersweet taking elders home but you did it right! So cool you could stop at the museum too. Love it!!

  2. The African missionaries will return to small villages and life will not be as great as in the mission. They will need someone to help them fill out application for education and get PEF grants so they can become the leaders the Lord needs them to be. You two are the perfect couple to facilitate this! Your work is inspiring and inspired. Blessings!

  3. Hi, Dunns! I was delighted to discover your blog and have enjoyed reading your posts and seeing the photos.....a walk down Memory Lane. Thinking of you and visualizing you (with a big smile on my face) at 21 Carnation Street and the ol' stompin' grounds. XO, Laura Snow