John and I took a quick trip to Alabama / Georgia to visit with Josten and Jehkiah and it was magical. Of course, John fell in love with it all (must be the trees that completely surrounded us.) We weren't in a position to plan a trip like this. It was an unexpected surprise, paid for by members of Jehkiah's ward who insisted that we come so that John could ordain Jehkiah a High Priest.
Jehkiah and Josten picked us up at the airport in Atlanta on Saturday (the 1st). We arrived there at about 8:45 p.m. Actually, our flight got in about 30 minutes early so we had to wait for the boys a while. What a huge airport ~ I was so grateful there was a wheelchair available and someone to push John to baggage claim. It's about an hour and a half drive to where they live from Atlanta, but we took our time to drive around the city a bit and later, on the way home, stopped off for a bite to eat at this waffle house. It was fun. The waitress was pure southern hospitality! "What can I get for you darlin'?" I loved it...
We stopped at Jehkiah's place first to drop him off and take a peek at Jace who was fast asleep. Jehkiah and Casey have a cute apartment tucked off in the woods. Then on to Josten's where we stayed the whole time. He, too, lives off in a little area on the outskirts of town in a wooded neighborhood. The house was spacious and has a bonus room above the garage that doubles as a playroom ~ homeschool ~ Grandparents guest room :), and that's where we slept. It was so warm that each night we had to open the window next to our bed and let some cool air in. We fell asleep to the sounds of crickets chirping and frogs croaking outside. On Monday, it got up to 70 degrees and we were in short sleeves.
Sunday morning we went to church. The ward was so amazingly friendly and warm. It seemed like everyone knew us already by name and made us feel so welcome. It was fast Sunday and Jehkiah conducted ~ his first time. He's a natural! That ward members adore Jehkiah and Josten, and their families, especially the stake leadership. Both of them bore their testimonies and had us in tears. It was a beautiful day.
Jehkiah's boss, President Eiland was there and he bolted from the stand in the chapel to meet us and then sat with John through Sunday School and Priesthood. Apparently, they are just alike and think the same way. This is the man Jehkiah has spent every day with swapping stories and so it was like they had always known each other. Everyone kept asking when we were moving out there. After the block we went in to the Bishop's office and Dad got to ordain Jehkiah a High Priest. That was a spiritual experience for us all. Then we all went home to Josten's and had a huge feast.
Monday Jehkiah, Josten and John hung out together and drove around looking at houses and stuff, then Josten took all of us to Ft. Benning and gave us the grand tour. He took us all through Columbus (which is on the Georgia side of the Chattahoochee River) and Phenix City (which is on the Alabama side of the river. It's like Tri-Cities. Those two cities (and Ft. Benning) are all right together, divided only by the river. Ft. Benning itself is several thousand people.
Later in the after noon we went to the base PX (military retail stores). It is actually a mall! John got one of those electric scooters and drove all over the place with Breck and Sienna riding on it with him. That night we all had dinner together, again and visited until late.
On Tuesday morning Josten had to go to work early so John, Jehkiah and I (and Jace) drove around town to see the sights. Then we went over to Columbus sate University where Casey is head volleyball coach and women's athletic director.
Both Columbus and Phenix City have historic as well as modern architecture, and we walked down to their river front park (like Spokane's) and enjoyed the features there. That's when Jayden called, so we spoke to him for some time. He sounded so mature and spiritual. He admitted having had some refining while at the MTC that helped strengthen his commitment and enthusiasm. (Overcoming struggles of self-doubt). It was emotionally hard, obviously, to say goodbye. He told me he loves me in Armenian which made me cry. Then he bore his testimony in Armenian to John. Then John asked him if he would recite the First Vision in Armenian beginning with "I saw a pillar of light..." That's when they both lost it. He was in Salt Lake at the time he called (at the airport waiting for his flight to New Jersey). There was concern his flight would be cancelled because of an Arctic storm that had already delayed flights. But, he was determined he would make it and call us later from there.
When Josten got off work we all met over at Ft. Benning to the Army's National Infantry museum. It was stunning and awe inspiring. A sober and reverent place where the government has spared no expense to honor the infantry soldiers of every war since the Revolution.
After that they treated us to dinner (for Dad's birthday) at a Hibachi Japanese Buffet and it was fantastic food!!! What fun! We all sat around this long table in a banquet room and feasted! Then Breck and Sienna brought Grandpa out a bag with a gift inside: a shirt and hat he had eye balled at the infantry museum!
We got done late and visited for a while but had to finally get to bed so that we could leave early back to Atlanta before rush hour traffic. We said our good-byes, which is always so hard, and then Jehkiah drove Dad and I back to Atlanta airport. It was so sad to have to part. We spent some time together at the airport before going through the security check. Then, said our goodbyes and flew home.
Good times, good memories!
Papa looking for alligators with Breck & Sienna
Sarah & Josten Jr.