This week I started my travels for home in California on Tuesday. I took a very late bus from Tacna to Arequipa. We passed by sun at and waited there for 3 hours. Due to the fact that it’s so near Chile, people like to smuggle illegal contraband into Peru. For that reason we were stopped, and all of our bags were searched and any illegal items were confiscated. Luckily for me, I had no problems and passed right on through. I got to Arequipa 8 hours later, and showed up to the house of my ex-pension. Wow, what time has gone by! Seriously, when I got there I couldn’t even speak or explain how I felt. They called me Grigin for a nickname. I got to see all of the kids that had grown up! They don’t all remember me, but either way, it was one of those experiences that I will never forget. From there I went to the Casa de la Mission (Mission Home).

I had my last interview with President Zobrist. Man was it a great one. It wasn’t what I expected, as much as it was what I felt. I really learned how much he loves us and confides in us as missionaries, and as returning missionaries. One of the most famous quotes he shared with me went something like this: “Elder you’re here to learn, and you’re learning.” Sounds simple but think about it for a sec… and then apply it. After about 45 minutes, we finished and I went on my way to see some more of the people that I had the chance to get to know in Arequipa.

I ended up at the business of my good friend, and husband of the pension, Eduardo. We had a great talk, and from there I ran over to zamacola. As I got there, they had a party and a good amount of the ward members were there! It was great. I got to spend the night at their house, with the other elders who live with them. Let’s just say I didn’t get much sleep!

The next day we had our super long talk with the mission president about the things we need to do when we get back… like go to school, get educated, get a job, and get married. You guys know, the famous returning missionary talk. It was great as we came up with a game between all the gringos where we were going to let someone answer the question and the other three of us would testify of each other. It made the comments great, along with the class.

When all was said and done, we got some time to go exploring in the Plaza de Arms. During that time, we bought souvenirs and stuff for our families and friends. We really had a great time! There is probably a reason why Elder Adams, myself, and Elder Klienlien weren’t ever in the same zone… The day was a blast, and I think we probably made the best trio there was! As we got back to the mission home, we had to get our bags down to 23 kilos and 18 kilos. That was an adventure that took us until 3 am to do! We finally went to bed and then woke up at 6 the next morning. We took a bus to get to the airport and then hopped on a plane.  It took us to Lima, and was a great flight as we were all sitting there sharing we all of our stories. It’s crazy to think the kid that I started the mission with in the MTC on my first day, is the same kid who I was finishing with that same day in the airport!

We got to Lima and from there, we had a 14 hour lay over…. why? I have no idea! But anyways we went to take some cool pictures and live our last day in Peru to the fullest! After another delay, we ended up 2 hours later entering the plane. So to say the least, we were all dead tired!

We got on our flight to Atlanta, and man I have never seen so many dark skinned people in my life! I thought it was just a stereotype, but it’s true, they all have the same accent! It was kinda scary. So we practiced our Spanish, my three compadres, so they couldn’t understand us! It’s fantastic to be able to speak about people in another language!

After that, we took off on our different planes and we enjoyed the climate of the United States again. I had another flight to Utah with one other elder, and then from there I had my final connecting flight to Orange County. Luckily, both went smoothly and without any problems.

Getting off of the plane, I knew there would be no going back at this point, and hoping that my family and friends were waiting down the steps, I stepped back onto Californian soil! The smell of home was in the air! The trees and real cars, the smell of real American food all sunk into insignificance as I took the escalator down, finally reuniting myself with my family for the first time in over two years!

Mom!

Mom!

Dad!

Dad!

Braden!

Braden!

What I’ve realized is, that the material things of this world are present, but drift into nothing, when placed before them is your family. The hug of a Mom and a Dad are two of the most unforgettable things I will forever cherish!

An amazing welcome home from family and friends.

An amazing welcome home from family and friends.

And yes, the first thing I did was go to Cafe Rio to eat a salad! And after that, a b-line to my truck. Mi camioneta. Yes, she waited. Even though my brother’s getting his hands on her here and there, she will always hold a dear place in my heart! I started the motor and I gave her a couple revs. Man is it great to be back home!

Big Red!

Big Red!

But, it is family over material things.

It’s been one heck of a journey in Peru and I hope to share the true message with each of you in our own due time.

The mission seems like a blur at times, and at other times seems to be so crystal clear. The experiences I’ve faced, the trials and tragedies I’ve overcome, have all just gone on to strengthen my testimony.

I will finish this with my simple testimony: Se que mi padre celestial nos ama y quiere que escogimos nuestro propio futuro. La iglesia que representaba y represento hoy en Día, es la única verdadera. El Libro de Mormon son otras palabras de Dios. Amo Jesucristo, su ejemplo y su expiación. En el nombre de Jesucristo, Amen.

RM Parker McPherson

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