We had the great blessing of being able to take the 7 departing elders to the Orlando temple today. We were able to do this almost as soon as we got here and it was a wonderful experience. However we really did not know any of the elders and sister who were leaving. This time we knew four of them very well and one fairly well. The other two we knew only through forwarding mail and the mission board. However in the 15 hours we spent with them we came to know and love elders Farr and Chandler as much as the others.
The 7 stalwart Elders who have faithfully served the lord here in the Fort Lauderdale mission for two years. Elder Neeley who we worked closely with for the months we have been here and who saved me from driving for 7 hours. Later he confessed he was much more comfortable driving when going long distances than being a passenger. A view of the temple above the trees as we drive up the hill. The temple sits on the highest hill we have seen in Florida…the elders were all impress with the height which was probably 220 feet or so above sea level.
We were up at 4:00 am and at the Plantation chapel by 5:20. This group of elders were so obedient that all but one of them were already there and the last one drove up at 5:31. We took only enough time to take a couple of pictures and say a prayer before we were on our way. Elder Neeley, who was just released as an assistant wanted to drive and since had a lot more experience with the van than I did, I was happy to let him.
The seven in front of the temple. Next time I am going to take this from the other side like they suggested. Mary beside one of the twelve fountains on the grounds. The corner stone that was laid in 1984.
Mary beside the wall that looks like a door that faces the traffic that is streaming by what I think is the North side of the temple. Mary beside one of the beautiful colored glass windows. Finally a view of the temple with the dark clouds behind Moroni.
We got to the temple early enough to take a tour of the grounds and take pictures before going in for a session and then President Tilton of the temple presidency spent 30 or so minutes talking to us about the temple and answering any questions that the elders might have. Missionaries hold a special place in his heart because, like me, he and his wife are converts. He spoke about the special place the elders would have in the hearts of each person they brought unto Christ and were baptized.
After the temple session we all went to Firehouse Subs where all the missionaries love to eat. For some reason I forget to take pictures while we are there. Maybe it is that the food and company is so good that nothing else is worth thinking about. I did give a pass-along card to one of the servers who I chatted with for a short time.
Elder Neeley decided he would like to also drive home and was not about to take the pleasure away from him. One thing he kept spotting was alligators in the canal along the side of the expressway. No one else could see them but he swore that they were there.
We made it back to the mission home by 5:30 where we had a delicious dinner and good conversation. We found out that President Anderson was a swimmer and had swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco. Sister Anderson proudly showed us a picture of the President in his wet suit just after he had finished.
After dinner I clean-up while the elders first shared a special experience they had on their mission and then bore their testimonies. We were privileged to share in these experiences. We left after that and made it home by 8:30 – some 15 1/2 hours after we left this morning. Physically we were tired but spiritually we were fully charged.