What an exciting time for our family!
Savannah left Denver on Tuesday, February 9th, and arrived in Auckland, New Zealand on Thursday, February 11th. She basically skipped Wednesday since she is 20 hours ahead of us. The best way I have found to figure out what time it is in New Zealand is to subtract 4 hours from the mountain time zone, and then add 1 day.
Tuesday started out about as normal as any other day. We woke, had a nice breakfast, and Savannah made her final preparations. Most of her clothes and gear were packed, and we just had a few last minute items to attend to. Around 9am, we made a trip to Walmart for critical items like breathe mints, aloe, and a camera. Once those purchases were made, we went over to Dick’s Sporting Goods to find one more pair of shorts. We didn’t end up buying anything, but did get a chance to see Bishop John, and Savannah got to say a final goodbye which was a really nice opportunity.
We arrived back home with a plan to leave for the airport at Noon. Savannah did her final packing, and the boys and I loaded up the bags in to the Suburban. Travel down to the airport would require two cars since I was also leaving on a business trip. You know your Heavenly Father is watching out for you and your family when my boss decides to hold a staff meeting in San Francisco the same week.
When my boss first raised the idea of having a staff meeting, I informed her that I could do it, but it would require me to travel out on Tuesday, and then we could meet on Wednesday and Thursday. She agreed to the timeline, and I now had the opportunity to travel with Savannah to San Francisco on the same plane! More details to come on our trip together.
The family arrived at the airport around 1pm, and the parking garage was packed. The good thing was that the flight did not leave until 3:40pm, so we had plenty of time. We found a couple parking spots, and made our way to ticketing. At ticketing, we were able to off load Savannah’s two giant bags which both weighed around 45 lbs. each. After this, we made our way to security where we took some of these photos:
Everyone was holding it together pretty good at this point until we looked over at Mom. Becky started to get a little teary-eyed, and then the chain reaction started. Makayla followed, and then Olivia. The boys had their sunglasses on indoors, so it was hard to know if they were hiding some tears under their shades.
Savannah and I made our way over to the security line as the family exited on to the escalators. Josh yelled down to us to say some final goodbyes as we waived back at them. It was a weird feeling to know that our family would forever change after this moment now that we we would have one of our kids separated from us.
With some time to kill, we made our way over to the United Airlines terminal, and then to one of the restaurants to grab some lunch. It was great to have some one on one time with Savannah to reflect upon the last few weeks events, and her upcoming mission. What a blessing it was to travel with her on part of her trip!
Here is a shot of us on the plane to San Francisco:
After a short 2 hour flight, we arrived in California. I was worried that I would not be able to go with her to the international terminal, but we found a route that took us to the Air New Zealand gate. We wandered around for a little while, talked, purchased a sandwich at a small deli, and then had the chance to take this picture:
It was all starting to become a reality! 5 months after her mission call, she was ready to take a 13 hour flight to a country roughly eight thousand miles away!
After finishing her sandwich, we filled up her water bottle one last time. Ok…we filled her water bottle up one of three times. If you don’t know Savannah already, she loves drinking water! Let’s just say it was good she had an aisle seat on her 13 hour journey.
Anyway, we sat down at the gate, and started looking around to see if there were any other Sister Missionaries around. There were none to be found, but we did find one young guy dressed in a black suit, white shirt and tie. The somewhat disoriented look on his face gave him away as a brand new missionary. I told Savannah that we should go up and introduce ourselves. She agreed, so we got up, and sat by him. As we had easily deduced, he was a missionary, and had just arrived here from Eastern Washington near Spokane.
Not too long after, we found another bewildered looking missionary. The three of us agreed to go sit by him, and introduce ourselves. At this point, we were doing a pretty good job of gathering the New Zealand bound missionaries together. This new Elder was from Washington also, but near Seattle. Both guys introduced themselves by their first names, and I joked with them that they must be new since they both forgot that their first names were now Elder.
Ten minutes from gathering the two Washington missionaries, I looked over my shoulder, and saw four more missionaries coming down the escalator. I told everyone that it looked like more of their friends were arriving, and they motioned over the four other Elders. It was really fun to see all of them there, and it was amazing to see the instant bond and brotherhood each of them established in such a short period of time. Here was two missionaries from Washington, two from Utah, one from Idaho, another from Alaska and a Sister from Colorado. It was as if they all new each other for months or years, and it made me feel very comfortable to send my daughter away to a foreign land with her six brothers.
Shortly after, they called her row to board, and I gave my final hug goodbye. I made my way up the escalator as I watched her walk off to the jet way, and the tears began to flow as I both missed her, was proud of her, and felt pure joy for her opportunity to be a tool in the Lord’s hand.
Her journey was just starting, and I made my way over for a little bit of California comfort food before retiring for the night.
We sure love you Savannah!