Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Journey to our Mission Assignment-October 14, 2011

The Willder's-Left to Right: Liam, Ethan,
Mark, Erin, Quinn, Alexa
with Oma and Grampa Volz on the right
We had a wonderful family gathering at Mark and Erin's home in Provo on the night before our departure.  Amanda and Austin came with their family, and also Jordan and Michelle.  There were several other friends who stopped in to say good-bye and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.  After everyone had gone, we gathered our things and said our last good-byes.  Erin dropped us off at the MTC gate, and we both cried and held each other for a long time.  We knew there would be skype and phone calls and email, but leaving for two years is a big thing for any parent, and it was difficult.  Tears do not mean regret, or a change of heart-Erin is completely supportive of this mission and I am totally committed.  These tears meant love and a sacrifice of our time together while Clark and I go to serve the Lord.  We survived.
The Cole family-left to right: Austin, Dylan,
Amanda, London, Caleb, Oma, Grandpa
and baby Reagan
Jordan and Michelle with her parents

We were up late shuffling bags, then fell into bed for a long nap before the alarm went off.  The shuttle was right on time and we enjoyed our conversation with the young brother who drove us to the airport in Salt Lake City.  Our flight was on time-no problems.  Once on board, I began to take a mental inventory of all that I was leaving behind to go and serve the Lord in a country that I knew little about.  I made this entry in my little journal:

10/14/2011-"According to the moving map on our plane we are flying over the middle of Lake Michigan now.  In the next few minutes we'll pass over our loved ones below and fly on to New York.  Farewell for now--How we love you!!  How we love our home in Michigan!.  We passed over South Haven at 1:17pm (approx), a little north of Kalamazoo about 1:21pm, Battle Creek at 1:23pm, Marshall at 1:24PM and Detroit at 1:34PM.  We have traveled 1518 miles so far, and are traveling at 544 mph with a 67 mp tailwind".

At JFK we tried to get something to eat on the plane, and that put us behind in a very long line for the security check on international flights.  I was so worried that we would miss this important flight.  We were in one of those mazes, and we couldn't see anyway that we would get through on time.  Then as we rounded one end the airport person directed us right up the middle row--it was like the red sea parting, sort of!  We couldn't believe that we were back on schedule that quickly.  Praying in airports works just as well as praying anywhere else!

The flight across the Atlantic was a bit bumpy at first but it soon settled down.  We had the great good fortune to have the entire center section to ourselves, so we could stretch out and relax on the long flight to Vienna.  Well, I should be honest and say that I was able to stretch out and sleep-Clark takes such good care of me and he was worried that I would get sick if I didn't get some sleep.  He's wonderful and so kind to me.  We were in Vienna only about an hour and then we were off to Tirana and our mission 'home' for the next 23 months.  I was so nervous!  What would it be like there?

We made our way through the confusion at the Tirana airport without too much trouble, collected our bags and made our way into the sunshine outside.  Pres. and Sister Ford were right there to meet and greet us, thank goodness!  Sr. Ford shook my hand and then pulled me close so that she could 'smooch' beside my right ear, then switched to the other side and said quietly to me 'this is how it's done here'.  I smiled and thought 'I'm learning already!'.  Clark had our huge pile of luggage on one of those carts, which Pres. Ford insisted on pulling to the car.  Thanks to the pavement and sidewalks in Albania, the cart fell over two or three times on the way to the car.  It was like a Laurel and Hardy scene for sure, but we finally made it.  I'll write more about our first impressions on the next entry.

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