Chad and I were talking the other day about the corona-virus. Years from now would people understand it? Years from now will people remember what it is? Will they understand the facts and know exactly why all of the missionaries, including Elder Orton, came home early. Will they understand his feelings and how I felt as his mom during this scary time. I am guessing not. For that reason I am deciding to write a journal so to speak of his last days in Ghana and how we felt here at home. Here it is Elder Orton's journey home from the view point of his mother Kristi.
My world before March 18- The corona-virus is slowly getting worse. We are hearing that a few countries have gotten it and it has shut things down in their countries. China and Italy are two that come to mind. It is spreading fast and the medical world is trying to keep up. Things here is Spanish Fork are slowly changing as well. People are worrying about getting supplies in the grocery stores since there are a lot of things that come from China and they are shut down. People are also afraid of being quarantined to their homes and not being able to leave. For those two reasons and maybe more the grocery stores are crazy! You can't find anything on the shelves at the store! For some unknown reason to me toilet paper is hard to find, almost impossible! People are buying cases and cases of it to hoard for themselves along with many other supplies and food. The schools here have closed and the kids are doing online homeschooling. Almost all restaurants have closed and are doing take out or drive though only. All concerts, school activities and church activities are cancelled. Two activities that our family were upset about was the State FFA Conference and the Stock shows coming up. All churches have closed and we are doing come follow me study and taking the sacrament at home. All temples have closed except for living ordinances that are already scheduled and even then you can't have more than 10 people there in the room with you. People everywhere are encouraged to only be around 10 people or less and stay 6 feet away from everyone. People are staying in their homes and are practicing social distancing. It's definitely a change to what we're used to and it can be lonely and scary if we let it.
March 18- I got a phone call from Tell today. He is in his new area of Kof and has only been there an hour. He was really upset. He told me that he heard all African missionaries are headed home. He sent me a news article to read. It says, "Church sending most missionaries in Africa home for isolation, reassignment. Most of the Latter-day Saint missionaries in Africa will go home to self-isolate for two weeks and then receive temporary reassignment to other missions around the world.
SALT LAKE CITY — Most of the Latter-day Saint missionaries in Africa will go home to self-isolate for two weeks and then receive temporary reassignment to other missions around the world, according to a release issued Wednesday evening.”
He was really upset because he heard that he would be home for two weeks and then get reassigned to another mission in the USA. This was devastating to him! He always knew that he would leave someday, maybe even wished it would come sooner but to have it ripped out from under you and so much sooner than expected is hard to swallow. It is hard to leave a country, culture and people who you have grown to love. It is true what they say, the more you serve someone the more you grow to love them. Ghana is a part of him. To say this rocked my world and his would be an understatement. Little did we know what else was in store for our family.
March 19- Tell called again this morning. I love that this has become our routine everyday but hate the reason why he calls. After reading an email from his president and talking to the missionaries he is still hearing he will be reassigned. He has valid reasons to worry about going somewhere else. He says he talks, eats, acts and even teaches the discussions like an African. It will be a hard adjustment to switch to teaching in his home country of the USA. He is having a hard time adjusting leaving there so soon. He is also told that for the two weeks he will be home he will be a missionary and not released. To have him home and try to follow the mission rules at home will be a challenge for sure. He is convinced that coming home and seeing friends and family and living here for two weeks and then packing up again will be hard to do. When I think about packing his suitcase again and sending him off to the airport to leave me again after having him here for only two weeks makes me cry. I often think to myself, "how am I going to be able to do that?" I don't tell him how hard this will be for me. I just keep encouraging him to finish honorably and do what the Lord asks you to do.
March 20- Tell is still in Kof and spending most of his time at the church so he can have WiFi to check emails from the president to see what's going on. Both he and I are coming to terms with him leaving again. I got a letter today that he wrote two weeks ago for my birthday. I find it no coincidence that I got it when I did. In the letter he said that his favorite scripture is in 3 Nephi. It says that we should seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be given unto us. It hit me hard and after talking with him today we have decided that that's what we are going to do. We will put our Savior first because we love him. We will send him back out even if it's hard because we love him. We have started getting his room ready and washing clothes for his return. We are excited for him to be here on his birthday next week. He has gotten an email from his president that tells us he will fly out on Tuesday the 23. He is last group to leave Ghana.
March 21- Tell is still in Kof. He still hasn't received his flight plans and is a little worried because some of his friends there have. He is bored being in his apartment all day but is ok. He called later today and told me that the boarders are closed. He was in a panic and kept texting me, "get me out of here!" over and over. He is in complete fear that he will not be able to get out. He sent he a picture of the news article going on around there.
I am completely numb when I hear the news. I hang up the phone with him and can not control the tears. I am in fear and completely helpless as to how to help him or what to do. I grab my phone and start walking down the road. I have no idea where I'm going or what I'm doing. I just know I have to get out of the house and cry. I text one of my good friends and she comes and picks me up. We go for a long drive and it helps to clear my head. After dinner I ask Brady if he will give me a blessing. He is so sweet and blesses me with peace. He blesses me to know that Tell will get home safely and will stay healthy from the virus. He reminds me to remember that our Heavenly Father is in charge and loves both Tell and I. I feel so much better and have a complete peaceful feeling wash over me. I know that Tell is going to be ok. I don't know how, I just know he will be.
March 22- I am still feeling so peaceful from the night before. We received an email from the president today that comforts me. It says that the church is working on getting a charter plane to come get the missionaries. I feel that this is better than the commercial flights they were going to do. This plane will go straight to the states with no stops anywhere. The whole plane will be all missionaries and they will get the remaining missionaries out at once. They will send as many planes as needed. Tell tells me that he is leaving in the morning for the mission home. His president wants everyone to come to the mission home to be together when the plane arrives. I think this is a good idea because Tell's area is 4 hours away from the mission office. He can't pick up and be there fast if needed. We are hearing that the charter plane will be here on the 24, 25 or 26th. We will keep our fingers crossed. We are hearing that there are missionaries stuck all over the world in airports because their layover flights have been cancelled. What a mess! I'm glad Tell is going straight to the states. We are praying for all of the people involved in getting the flights together and our leaders. Tell was told today that he is no longer to contact new people to teach. Tell sent me an article in the paper that says they are not letting flights in or out. He is starting to panic that the charter planes aren't coming. I still feel completely at peace and calm. I remind him to have faith and trust in the Lord. I know that is so hard to do in his situation right now and being so far away.
March 23- Tell has made it to the mission home. I am so glad! I received an email from his mission president. It says that the people in Ghana are starting to blame “the white” people for the violence. Some missionaries are reporting people wanting to fight them and saying vulgar things to them. I am worried about the violence a little but comforted that he is in the mission home and is safe. We also received a picture from the church that says that Tell will not be reassigned when he gets home. He will just be released. I know this is a big worry off his mind and I am glad for him. He doesn't need anything else to worry about right now. He told me today while I was talking to him that he was told when he would be flying out, if it all works out, but couldn't tell me. He was told by his president not to say anything. When I ask him if it is because of the violence and for his safety that he tell me when he leaves he tells me, "yes and I will be home by the end of the week." I hope that is true. He is starting to realize his time there is short and the sadness is kicking in again. I also received a phone call today that told me the airport is changing it's policy on how we can come pick up our missionaries. They are worried about spreading the virus and people being to close together in the airport. We can only send one person to go up to the airport. That person has to remain in the car and wait for the missionary to come outside. There will be no one there to greet him as he gets off the plane. I am sad and upset that he won't get the reunion he has imagined all this time. We are going to send Chad up and the boys and I will stay here with the grandparents and have our reunion at home.
March 24- I woke up this morning to still no email or news from Tell’s president. Tell texted me and said he has been updated by his president but still can’t say when he’s coming. He is still in the mission home. Early afternoon I received a text from Tell. He said that they were making him turn his phone in and so there would be no more communication from him until he’s home. This is my last text to him in Ghana. He informed me that he would be leaving there Round 9 am tomorrow. He doesn’t know for sure when he’ll be here but his President will email me. He also told me that they told all of them to not wear their missionary clothes home onthe plane. They were not to look like missionaries at all while leaving. He isn’t sure why but is guessing because of the violence that is getting worse over there by the day. He is going to change back into his missionary clothes at the airport when he gets to Salt Lake. His mission president did send an email that said he is coming but had no times on it. We will keep waiting. How excited I am to see him soon! I am hoping and praying that everything goes smoothly. How I cannot wait to hug that kid!!
My analogy of the last few days with Tell.....
I’m On a roller coaster that I feel like I can't get off of 😜one hill is excited, next comes panic and fear, next is sadness and let's not forget the hill of "what the hell is going on." 😂I have the ride memorized I have been around so many times! I am ready to get off now please....
I am now trying to sell my fast pass to this ride for toilet paper.
March 25- I got an early morning text from Tell today (about 3 am). He was in the airport getting ready to board his plane. It was the news I had been waiting for all week! He is flying to Washington DC and spending the night there. He will fly from DC to Salt Lake in the morning. He will be land about 10:30 am in the morning. After he was in the air for about 7 hours I got an email from his president. He said nothing about his flight from Accra to DC. I am wondering why the secrecy? I looked everywhere on the internet and cannot find a flight listed anywhere for him. It is crazy! Later that night he called and said that they had landed in DC and were at a hotel. The church has booked every room in the hotel. There are 150 missionaries there. He is in the room with Holman, his bestie there. How fun! He told me on the phone that night that the reason for all the secrecy with his flight. The not being able to dress like a missionary, no name tag, etc. He said the US government realizes there are other US citizens trying to get out of Africa and they didn’t want it to look like they’re favoring the missionaries. It makes sense. We are so very excited to see him tomorrow!! I hope I sleep tonight!!
March 26- Today is the day!! Best birthday ever for him!! I can hardly stand it! Tell texted from the airport in DC and said his plane was on time and everything looked good that way. I am so excited! After Chad left to the airport I spent the morning hanging signs, balloons and picking up the house. All the family came over and cheered for him as he came in the door. The boys held up signs and everyone was so excited to see him. I started laughing and cheering when I saw him! I loved getting my first hug! He teased me I was going to get coronavirus. I told him I didn’t care. He has a spirit about him that radiates into our home and I absolutely love having him home. Sometimes he will start talking in the next room and it surprises me and then I remember he's here. I love it! He bought gifts for everyone which is so sweet and thoughtful. We had a drive by welcome home for him in the afternoon. Because of the virus people can't come around much. We stood out in the drive way and people drove by. It was fun for him to talk to everyone. Some people honked and cheered and even decorated their cars. I think he enjoyed it. He even had a few people give him a birthday present as they went by. Later that night we got his favorite dinner at cafe rio and then stake president face timed him and released. He was given a really neat blessing by him. Just watching Tell talk about the miracles, people he taught and things he loved about his mission made me realize just how much he loved it there, loved the people there and the culture. It made me sad in a way that this part of his life is over. It made me realize that some of the people he loves from there he will never see again. One question in particular that the stake president asked him was, "If you could have lunch with one person again in Ghana who would it be?" He answered, "Akpene." How grateful I am for the wonderful people in Ghana especially Akpene. How grateful I am to them for loving my son almost as much as I do. How grateful I am for the experiences he has had there. It takes faith to go on a mission. It takes faith to leave everyone and everything behind for two years and go to another country. It hasn't been easy for him but I admire him for not only sticking it out but for having a good attitude about it. I admire him for studying and doing his best even when it was hard. I admire him for loving the people. To say that I'm proud of you Tell doesn't seem adequate enough but I am. I love you always and forever!
After Tell had been home for about a week he texted his testimony to a few ward members. I thought it was beautiful and a perfect way to close this book. Here it is in his own words.
“ This is Tell Orton. I just got home from my mission in Ghana. Bishop Galt has asked me to see if there is anything you are in need of and if there is anyway I can help you! I was surprised to find out that I was coming home early and had mixed feelings about it. I’m happy I had the chance to serve a mission for the people of Ghana. I have loved it over there and wouldn't change it. I know this is the only true church on the earth today and if you follow everything the prophet has told us you will be blessed forever. One of my favorite scruptures is 2 Nephi 31:19-21 it talks about the path we should be on in this life in order to enter the kingdom of God and live with him again. I know in this hard time with the corona virus going on that everyone is worried and trying to find peace. Know that the lord is in control and there is nothing he doesn't know. He knows what is going on right now and all you need to do is trust in him. I hope this helps you at this time. I encourage you to read your book of mormon and pray daily and you will find peace. Let me know if there is anything i can do for you!”