You could safely call this a forced smile, as I am not a happy camper to say good-bye today. Elder Maldonado has been a dear friend to both of us as a previous office elder. He was the interpreter for Mike's scientific presentation, handling the English masterfully. This young man came into the mission as one of the test group of 18 year-olds, when the church was trying to decide about lowering mission ages. He passed with flying colors for a number of reasons, maturity-wise. He is heading to BYU for a semester, and then possibly transferring to the U of Utah.
Elder Maldonado's father sent him a box of candy early in his mission, but it didn't arrive. A month before his mission ended a birthday box arrived full of his favorite Mexican candy. I was very touched to have him stop in the office last week to give me samples of his precious birthday gift. He knew I wanted to share his piquante candy with my son. He also brought me a bag of atol de haba from his last area in Momostenango. It is a bean mixture that Latinos add to hot milk for a flavored, nutritious hot drink.
Mike tells all the missionaries at orientation to save a small amount of their missionary allowance (fondo) each month in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. There are frequent robberies here and it is wise and helpful if the missionaries involved can return home to have enough money to get their needs met until Mike can transfer money onto their credit cards. Elder Maldonado came into the office this week with this Pringles can FULL of coins and small bills that amounted to Q400 in emergency fondo that he was returning to the mission.
We took the customary jumbo-sized chocolate chip cookies for their trip to Guatemala City. It is a tradition from Mike's mom (now 92 years old!) that will probably continue in the Fairbourne family for a long time. We usually take iced sugar cookies on trips, but there isn't enough time here to fuss with fancy cookies during changes.
Hermana Morgan is heading back to Anchorage, Alaska. She has been a dear friend and we'll miss her very much.
Elder Guerrero also has a soft spot in our hearts. He is Honduran and a serious lover of all things chocolate. His sense of humor will be missed in the office.
Our office elders: Elder Little, general secretary (travel); Elder Kinghorn, first assistant to the president; Elder Nunez, retention secretary, Elder Guerrero; Elder Salgado, second assistant to the president.
The sisters who are leaving make a lasting impression on their friends here, so this young woman came to the bus terminal to say good-by to our exiting sister missionaries. As excited as they are to return to their families, they leave with the same sadness that we feel as we return to the office.