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Welcome Home, Child

By Hildie Westenhaver

Earlier this year I had the amazing opportunity to welcome my daughter home from her mission to São Paulo, Brazil. She is my oldest child and first to return home from a mission (her brother is still serving and will be home in a month). I watched the progress of her airplane all night as she traversed South America and the Caribbean Sea. As her arrival got closer I felt a mixture of excitement like Christmas Eve and having a new baby all rolled up in one.

My daughter struggled quite a bit on her mission; there were emotional issues and lots of physical ones. Dengue Fever and severe back pain competed with sadness and anxiety to get the best of my sweet girl. Trips to the emergency room (or what passed for one in Brazil) for either her or her companion became so commonplace we barely even noted them after a while. Our family and friends fasted and prayed that she would be able to stick it out. It was hard and I spoke often with her Mission President and his wife in the first few months. I remember thinking that if she stayed the entire time it would be nothing less than a miracle.

But she did it! She served the entire eighteen months! No matter what was thrown her way, she succeeded and made it home, full of faith and with a happiness I had never before seen on her face.

As she descended the escalator into the baggage claim area where our family waited, I burst into tears and cried like I have never cried before.  She made it home! She was finally back with us!

We waited for her luggage as she chatted excitedly, telling us about companions and how strange it was to not speak Portuguese anymore. All the injuries and illness and depression were a thing of the past and all that mattered was being back in the place she came from with the people she loved.

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I think about the missions that all of us our serving; our mission here on this Earth. Will we make it back to our home with success? Will our Heavenly Parents be waiting for us, falling on us with happy sobs when we return home? Marveling as they hold us that we did it! No matter what came our way we were true and strong and made it back with honor!

Welcoming home my missionary has given me a tiny glimpse of the feelings I hope our Father in Heaven Feels when I return home. Each day I strive–some days more than others–to make this mission a good one. Eventually the troubles and heartaches I feel now will be a distant memory and I’ll be joined by those who love me most, excitedly welcoming me back to my oldest home. This time to stay, surrounded by nothing but joy and peace.

About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

4 thoughts on “Welcome Home, Child”

  1. Hildie –

    Another great post from you! I love the family pic! Precious! Oh, those missions! What killers and what opportunities to learn what we're made of! Very much like child birth!!

    We welcomed home our 3rd daughter from a Santa Maria Brazil mission 12 years ago. Nothing in Brazil is easy, but I think Santa Maria was easier than the big cities. And Brazil is easier than Africa and Philippines. It is SO terrifying when they are sick. And even with all the miraculous stories that get published in the Ensign (and I'm not denigrating them) there are hundreds of our missionaries that come home with permanent stomach problems, lifelong foot funguses (fungi?)…annoyances that last for the rest of life…as well as some emotional problems.

    Yet I look around and see these trials by fire as missing in many of our young people's lives today. They are incredible experiences that can bless lives forever.

    I do want to add that for those who are unable to finish their missions for whatever reason, LDS Family Services reminds "they are like the Stripling Warriors. Helaman reminds us that many fell wounded…none died…but MANY were wounded. Yet, we praise every stripling warrior that joined the fight. Being wounded is not shameful." (my quote marks from presentations I've made) That said, it is so exciting when they can last the 18 or 24 months.

    Thanks for the beautiful analogy of our life's mission – it resonates and makes me happy to think of! And hope this is a wonderful time together for your family!

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences welcoming your missionary home. So much love here. So happy for you and your family. I really love the comparison to how God will feel when we return.

    I'm hitting the halfway mark for my first missionary next week, and there have definitely been some struggles along the way. Nothing like having one of your children facing challenges while they're thousands of miles from you to send you to your knees. I didn't know prayer could feel like such a workout until my son hit a real rough patch. All the best to you

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  3. Thanks for this uplifting message today! I love that vision of being welcomed home by our Heavenly Parents at the end of our mission. Sometimes I want to hasten the day, but the lessons we learn here just by sticking it out are vital to our eternal life. Today is a sticking-it-out day, so I appreciate the encouragement.

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