Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Micronesia; Chuuk and Pohnpei, Places in the Heart

Kevin opened his mission call on December 14, 2009. When he read his letter to us and said the words "Micronesia Guam mission" I said, "Where is that?" Several other people who were there expressed thoughts about where they thought Micronesia was, most of them not correct. It is amazing how much one can grow to love a culture and the people there. Kevin learned to love the people there as he labored and served among them. He learned to adjust and embrace a lifestyle that was very different than the one he grew up in. I learned to love the people as he shared their stories with us. Upon returning home, Kevin had several items with him. These items were gifts from the families he had worked with and loved. They were people that Kevin now considers part of his family. He told us the story of visiting a family to say good-bye a few days before he left. They were very sad that they had no food to offer him though he told them repeatedly that he did not need food. Suddenly the lady got up and got something out that was wrapped up and obviously treasured. It was a pair of carved earrings. The woman asked Kevin to please give the earrings to his sister as a gift from her. Kevin tried not to take the earrings but the family insisted. Several times throughout his mission I took Kevin's camera cards, had the pictures made up, and sent the pictures to him. He would then give the pictures out. It touched me to see one of the pictures I made up of Kevin with one of the locals hanging on the wall next to the Savior with a special wreath around it. That picture can be seen on this blog several posts back titled "God Be with You Till We Meet Again". It is amazing to me how a place that I had never heard of can now be so special to me in just a two short years. I am grateful that Kevin was called to the Micronesia Guam mission and for the love that the people there showered upon him. I am grateful for the mission program that our church has. Yes, it is hard to let your son go for two years, but what our family gained from it was worth the sacrifice. I look at how strong my son has become in the gospel, the love he has developed for people that live in a place that I did not even know existed a few years ago, the love that many of those people have for him, and the lives he changed for the better as he taught the gospel and helped in many other ways and I know the sacrifice was worth it.

Culture Shock?

Many days Kevin can be found eating on the floor.

Kevin eating his salad with his hands?

Kevin enjoys reading and spending time with his nephews, Jaxson and Kolby

While in New Orleans, Kevin enjoys his first round of golf in over 2 years

Kevin enjoys watching the Cougars in the Sweet 16 in New Orleans. Too bad the final score did not go the way we hoped.

Many people have asked us if Kevin has gone through culture shock. Though he is doing very well, yes, there was some culture shock. Kevin was born a natural driver. When he was 15 and went to the DMV and got his learners permit he sat behind the wheel and drove home. No practicing on neighborhood streets for him. He earned a perfect score on the driving test. However, the first few days after arriving home he hung onto the car door handle saying, "Whoa." On two of the islands Kevin served there were no cars at all. On the main island in Chuuk it is not possible to drive over 10 miles per hour because the roads are so bad. On Pohnpei they race around at 35 miles per hour with very few other cars around.
Also, Kevin can be found sitting on the floor. Yes, that includes eating. He ate his first meal with his hands. (salad included) It did not occur to him that anything was wrong until he saw everyone looking at him. People sleep and eat on the floor in Micronesia. (at least on the islands Kevin served on) Some families had a set of silverware they would offer the missionaries to eat with, but Kevin learned to eat with his hands as he said if he was going to live among people he should live like them.
Many people have asked us if Kevin had a favorite meal request when he returned home. Not really. That might mean I don't make any memorable meals, but I think it is mostly because his tastes have changed. After several days he decided he wanted sushi. He did say it wasn't as good as the fresh sushi in Chuuk. He says nothing beats a little boy who just caught a tuna and slices it open and hands you some to eat. He also asked for a pineapple which is something he never ate before he left. He is calling stores to find if anyone carries breadfruit.
He does not seem very interested in American music and is listening to Chuukese CDs he brought home with him. He is looking around to find if other Chuukese music is available. One CD he has was made by a high school group, and is fun to listen to.
He has become very frugal and had "sticker shock" when we went to buy him a new shirt for church. He is cold most of the time.
Despite a little culture shock, Kevin is still Kevin. He loved cheering on his beloved Cougars in basketball the day after his arrival and we were happy the Cougars beat Gonzaga and did not let him down. He was delighted with his new I-phone and already does things with his that I still don't know how to do with mine. (Since it was handed to him he did not have to go through sticker shock). He was able to travel with his dad to New Orleans to cheer the Cougars on in the Sweet 16 and while there was able to enjoy a round of golf. (his father reports that sharing a hotel room with Kevin was interesting because he mumbled in Chuukese throughout the night) His dad was thrilled to win the round of golf. It has been a long time since he has been able to beat Kevin, BUT he only won by three strokes so once Kevin golfs a time or two more he should be back into the "swing of things." Golf partners are lining up with the hopes that if they play him early they have a chance of saying that were able to beat him at one point.
Kevin is excited to return to the Y and will do so at the end of April.

Now and Then

This is a picture of Kevin and his luggage entering the MTC on February 11, 2009.

Here is a picture of Kevin returning with his luggage on March 18. 2011. His luggage is fairly empty at this point. Kevin left things such as towels, sheets, clothes and leftover toiletries with the people in Chuuk.

Welcome Back! Let's Go!

I was not able to get any pictures of Jaxson with Kevin at the airport, but here he is leading the way down to baggage claim.

More Greetings

Kevin with his Grandpa and Grandma South, his cousin, Kristen, and his Uncle Shaun

Kevin with Tody and Debby Wanlass. The Wanlass family sent Kevin letters and packages throughout his mission.

Taylor and Shain Smith. Shain received a huge hug at the airport and Taylor a handshake.

Kevin with Shain. Shain was on a mission in Ecuador when Kevin left so Kevin and Shain had not seen each other for 3 years.

Kevin with Winter, Chance and Blake Wride and Sheila Heims. Kevin has known Winter and Sheila his whole life. He met Chance before he left on his mission, but while he was gone, Chance and Winter married and had Baby Blake.

Kevin with his sister, Tori, and his nephew Kolby. Kolby was only 7 months old when Kevin left. We tried to get a picture of Kevin holding one of his nephews, but even though they were happy to see him, weren't ready to be held at this point.

Kein with David and Rochelle Howard. David and Kevin were high school friends and ran cross country and played basketball together. Rochelle, his mom, always made sure Kevin was well fed and taken care of throughout high school

kevin poses for a picture with his mom and dad.

Kevin with his brother-in-law, Lewis Mitchell. I am sure they are probably already planning a golf trip in this picture.

The Smith family

Uncle Shaun Gets a Hug

Grandpa Daune Gets a Hug

Grandpa Duane was very sick when Kevin left on his mission. We are all grateful that he is here and able to enjoy Kevin's homecoming.

Dads Get the Second Hug

Moms Get the First Hug

It is an unwritten rule that DeRonda pulled out from somewhere, but moms get the first hug.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

There he is!

After a what seemed like hours we got a glimpse! He is way back there!

He is getting closer!

There he is!

Get the Signs up!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Da Plane! Da Plane!


Jaxson watches the planes coming in

Kolby plays an animal game on Tori's phone

Kolby shares with baby Blake

Exploring the airport

running around the airport

Tying the Yellow Ribbons

Tori prepares posters and balloons

As you can see it was a very windy day, but Tori insisted on decorating outside anyway.

Kolby enjoys grocery shopping with grandma

Yellow ribbons done
At home, preparations for Kevin's return were underway. Kevin's sister, Tori along with her husband, Lewis and their two boys arrived as well as Kevin's Uncle Shaun his cousin, Kristen.

Good-bye to the Missionaries Kevin has Loved Working With

Kevin with Elder Johnson

Kevin with Elder Butler and Elder Blaser

Kevin on Romonnum with Elder Butler, Elder Blaser and several of the locals.

Kevin with Elder Krause

Kevin with Elder Johnson

Kevin with his final companion, Elder Fisher

Kevin with President and Sister Dowdle. Also shown is Elder Standage. Kevin and Elder Standage were companions in the MTC and both extended and were able to travel home together. Elder Standage served on Pohnpei and Guam.