Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hello, I Must Be Going

Last night we called Thompson's to say goodbye to Drew one more time.  The only problem was - he wasn't home!  He had gone with his cousins to Mutual to play basketball (and no, he wasn't wearing his white shirt and tie).  Rochelle sent his cell phone down to him so he was able to speak to all of us one last time.  Not a lot was said - I think we were all out of good byes.  He did tell us how much enjoyed his session at the Salt Lake Temple and his experience at the Conference Center with a Dutch tour guide.  (Drew said they were kindred spirits).

After we hung up, we did have one last toast in his honor.  I have been hoarding this can of Guarana for far too long and I had planned to share it with Drew before he left but we somehow forgot.  After cooling a glass down in the freezer for a few minutes (you can't drink Guara with ice), I poured the contents into the glass and we all took turns having a sip until it was gone.  

We did manage to speak to Drew one more time before he went into the MTC today (at 1:10 MST).  I was on a teleconference at about 1:40 CST when I got a call from Rochelle's cell phone.  I stepped out of my office and simply told him that I loved him and challenged him to "Step up, brother."  He was able to reach Raena one last time before he reported.

Raena spoke with Rochelle later and got some more information on how the day had gone.  Before he left, Drew went into each of his cousins' room and wrote something on their whiteboard.  Rochelle didn't say what he wrote, other than it was appreciated.  On the way to the MTC, Drew was somber "but in a good way" as Rochelle described it.  They got there right on time and were the first ones in their group to arrive.  They were both a little shocked to see a red limo pull up (it had to go the bus area) and see it disgorge a missionary and his entourage.  Seriously.  

I have been think a lot about Drew tonight - wondering how this first experience in the MTC has been, what his companion is like, and what might be going through his mind.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

And He's Off!

Okay, this is now real.  Today at 11 am, Drew boarded his flight (via Houston appropriately) to Salt Lake.  Everybody was up early this morning so instead of sitting around looking at each other, we decided to go to Midland early and do some errands before Drew left.  We stopped at Walmart to try out Drew's new debit card (it worked) and to buy a laundry bag.  While Raena and Drew went shopping for a second pair of shoes at Kohl's (how did we forget that?), Carson and I ran over to Academy to get him some new athletic shoes.  They are a little too red for my tastes, but he likes them and that is what is important. 

We ended up trying to do a little too much and didn't get him back to the airport until 10:10.  Fortunately, Midland isn't a very busy airport so he didn't have any problem checking his bags or getting through security.  We were able to say our goodbyes, pose for one more picture, and then watch him go through security. 

 It was a little surreal to be blowing a good bye kiss to our son as he walked off towards his gate.  I will confess that I am a little worried about whether or not he will struggle with homesickness.  He is such a home body!

What he didn't know was that Grandpa Barry Romney was going to meet him in SLC and not his Aunt Rochelle Thompson.  Grandpa had a meeting in St George and was flying through SLC a few hours before Drew so he stayed behind security and waited to great Drew at the gate.  Tomorrow he will go to the Salt Lake Temple and then Wednesday he reports.   

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hi! My name is Elder Tonini

All I can say about today is, "wow." 

The branch president gave the assignment to the Tonini family (okay, I volunteered us) to administer the sacrament during our meetings today.  Jacob and Drew blessed and Carson and I passed.  It just worked out perfectly - we live in a branch were it only takes four to administer the ordinance and the age difference between Carson and Drew allowed all of us to participate.  It was a singular experience and very memorable.

After the sacrament, President Davis invited Grandma Tonini (who is visiting from Harrisonburg, Va) to come share her testimony.  She is an amazing woman who is so well grounded in the Gospel.  I was grateful that her grandchildren were able to hear her testify of how the she has found strength in the Gospel during the challenges of the last four years.

We enjoyed our monthly potluck dinner and then headed up to Lubbock so that Drew could have his final interview with President Sterling Shumway and then be set apart.  President Shumway shared his favorite mission scripture - Alma 26:22 - and testified to Drew that if he repents, exercises faith, bringing forth good works, and praying continuously, he will be "given to know the mysteries of God."  He re-affirmed to Drew that he was called to the California Riverside mission because there are people who need him to be part of their conversion.  President McCombs (second counselor) told Drew to use his Priesthood to bless people's lives.  President Kimball shared an experience from his mission that helped him overcome the homesickness he had the first three months of his mission and the love that he has for the Hawaiin people.  President Shumway gave Raena and I an opportunity to share some thoughts.  Raena reminded Drew about how important a mission is and how he has grown up listening to stories from our missions and she bore her testimony of the Gospel.  I pointed out to Drew that the topics that the stake presidency had just touched on mirrored priesthood blessings and his patriarchal blessing and that was a tender mercy from our Heavenly Father.

President Shumway then placed his hands on Drew's head and under the direction of the First Presidency, set him apart to be a full time missionary.  I won't document here the blessings that he received, but they were pretty incredible.  Great things await this young man.

So now the bags are packed, the boarding pass printed, and we are ready to go to bed and get ready for tomorrow.   

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Want to Ride my Bicycle

Check another To-Do item off the Missionary Checklist: Raena ordered Drew's bike this week.  The mission has worked with a couple of local bike shops to make this is as easy as possible.  Drew's Haro Flightline was purchased from Joel's Bicycle Shop in Thousand Palms, California.  They assemble and deliver the bike to the mission home and include a helmet, lock, pedal clips, water bottle, and the cage.  We opted for the upgrade and changed out the off-road tires to street "slicks" so he won't have to work quite so hard as he is pedalling down the street.

Raena also picked up his bedding.  On the suggestion of the mission home, we will just ship that straight to the mission instead of him having to carry that on the plane.

Can he really be leaving a week from tomorrow?

The Non-Farewell Farewell

Is it still a missionary farewell even if you don't call it a missionary farewell?  Today's sacrament meeting consisted of Raena using examples from the Old Testament to to teach the principle of obedience (she did such a fabulous job), I spoke on how the Scouting program helps develop a Priesthood Man, our kids were joined by their Frisco/Prosper cousins in singing I Hope They Call Me on a Mission as the intermediate hymn, and Drew was the concluding speaker.  He spoke about the importance of faith in missionary work.  You would have never known that he lost the first version of the talk and rewrote the entire thing two hours before church!  And in carrying on with the Tonini family tradition, he read Uncle Ross' Don't Look Back at the Wheel story to illustrate the application of faith.  If it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it just might be a farewell.

We are very grateful that Darren, Heidi and their family as well as Kimball and Maya were able to be here with us this weekend. 
Uncle Darren, Aunt Heidi, Dad, Drew, Mom, and Uncle Kimball
Siblings and cousins

Family Temple Trip

One of the advantages of being over the youth is that Raena and I are able to plan branch activities around our family schedule (is that unrighteous dominion?).  With Carson turning twelve last month and Drew leaving on his mission next week, we wanted to have a branch temple trip that would fit in that window so that we could be in the temple with all of our children.  Friday night, we were able to do just that.  To make the night even more memorable, we had four male and six female family file names that Grandma Tonini and Grandma Romney had sent us (the Romney names had arrived that afternoon).  Drew spent most of the night in the font so he was able to baptize Corina but I pulled rank and baptized Carson since it was his first time in the temple.  (Drew was able to do the confirmation).

As we drove home that night, Raena and I talked about the singularity of what had just happened.  It could be years again before we are all in the temple again.

From l-r: Corban, Carson, Elijah, Dustin, Jacob, Corina, Bricia, and Cheyene - the youth of the Seminole Branch.  All but two of our youth are present. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Carson's Ordination

Carson turned twelve two weeks ago and he wanted me to ordain him a deacon and give unto him the priesthood. This is the second time I have gotten the opportunity to ordain my brothers to the priesthood. I had no idea what I was going to say so I put my trust in the Lord to give a blessing that Carson needed. It was an awesome blessing and I could not have asked for it to go any better.

Lamesa Day Trip

On January 27th, I took our missionaries down to Lamesa, Texas to go check up on the part member families that live in that area. The first person we went to talk to was not there, so we tracted the street surrounding the house. We talked to this woman that was on her way to work but told us that the houses we were about to go knock that there was not anyone living there. We took the advantage to share our message and she was very much interested in what we had to say. She has been looking for a church to attended for 18 years and she is very interested in the message that we have to share. That was fifteen minutes into our day so we were diligent and kept working in the area. We would knock and talk to the less active member, if they were even home, and then tract the surrounding area. When we were walking down a main road, we had someone yell an exploitative when they drove by. Elder Clark said, "That's okay, Heavenly Father still loves him the same too". We knocked on a few more doors and talked with a few people that made return appointments. After we went through our full list, we went to visit with an elderly woman that was a member. She welcomed us in and we talked for a while with her. Come to find out, she has been going to the local Baptist church for 20 years! We challenged her to come to Seminole to come to our services but she could not promise us anything. After that, we went to Presley's who showed us the way to the last family we were going to talk to that evening. They were an awesome family and they fed us dinner. We shared our message and challenged them to come to make the effort to come to church. All in all, the trip was a success and gave me a taste of how my mission will be.