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The Real Elder Price, Part 8: Hello and Goodbye

Elder Kendell Coburn, who in the hard beginning of his time in Africa had received assurance that he would love his mission, wrote:

My thoughts are all over the place. I don't know how to explain it, other than this end of the mission stuff is horrible!! My dad sent me a wonderful email this morning. He explained how a couple of weeks ago he received a prompting of something he needed to tell me, but he waited until today. It was short and simple: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Kendell and Elder Daniel Kesler returned from the same mission to the same airport—Salt Lake City—and descended the stairs arm-in-arm. Kendell began university life at Utah State University, and Daniel at BYU.

Elder Chirwa's last email recounted "an amazing experience with Alphonse Madiya." He wrote:

Alphonse is the artist that engraves on the nuts. I took him a picture of the First Vision and also of the Manti Temple for my companion. He engraved these two pieces so beautifully that it brought tears to my eyes. I wonder if he ever thought about what was symbolized in these two images: the restoration and the possibility to live together forever. I think he did. So before we took our priceless souvenirs, he asked us to pray for him. He rushed into his house and pulled out an old worn BUKU YA MOLOMONHI, a Lingala Book of Mormon Jared Wigginton gave him many months ago. We read together and with the little Kicongo [dialect] I know, I tried to bear my testimony.

I guess the wonderful mission experiences are numbered for me, but they sure have been sweet, and I am keen on using every last minute to serve the lord and others.

Chiloba Chirwa returned to Zambia, and began his studies in architecture soon thereafter in Malaysia.

Chirwa returning to Zambia

Elder Henry Lisowski wrote this on his last day in Africa. His plane would leave just hours after he sent these words:

Well, that's about it. Last lessons have been taught, pictures have been taken. Goodbyes have been said, and tears have been shed. And though I've still got some long, exhausting hours ahead, crammed with last minute notes, packing, and just plain reflection left to do before my plane leaves at 4 in the morning, I feel at ease, like I've done all I could. Then I will be off, on my way to Morocco, to share a brief layover with my MTC companions [Kesler and Coburn] before again parting ways, me heading to Quebec, then finishing off in Toronto. It has not yet hit me yet, that I will be leaving. It's a fact there, floating in the top of my mind, and I know it exists and I can see it there, but I don't yet understand it. And yet I know, the time will come that that fact will be processed, that intelligence will become wisdom, and that simple piece of information will become a reality. And then I will realize that I am no longer in Africa; that the many people I have met and gotten to know and love so dearly will no longer be just a bus ride away; that my only concern will no longer be the welfare of souls, and that the incredible promise and power of guidance that comes with this calling will disperse, and I will be left, once again, just another normal person.

Growing up, the gospel was something I was taught while young, something I followed, well, just because; something that was nice, but just kind of meshed in with everything else. However, I understand now. The gospel has become a living, breathing reality for me, and in me as well. I've seen people change. I've seen lives blessed, I've seen miracles performed, and I myself have been changed.

Henry returned to Whitby, Canada, but a few weeks later came to Provo to begin university life—which included a creative writing class from me and meeting the young woman he married on December 17, 2011. He and Kendell Coburn accompanied my family to the BYU art museum, where the Carl Bloch exhibit was up, depicting scenes from the Savior's life. Kendell loved the spirit of the art, and said, "I haven't felt this so strongly since my mission. It's beautiful."

Returned DRC missionaries at Henry Lisowski's wedding luncheon

I was privileged to be in the "audience" for the real stories of Elder Price and the Mormon boys. I wrote this to them as I contemplated their work:

1/3/2012 5:00:00 AM