this is a war, and that is our standard.

 It’s a bit strange keeping Stefan’s letters on a private blog. I mention him less here, but he’s never forgotten. Every Sunday we scramble to write emails to him– usually one child hanging over the others’ shoulder while they take turns on the computer. Erik’s letters are long and brilliant, mine chatty and disorganized, the boys usually write to Stefan almost the way they’d write in a journal and for Mary, letters are all about the emoticons.

Rabbit faceHeavy black heartGrowing heartDoughnutCookieSmiling face with open mouthRegional indicator for RussiaFish cake with swirl designShortcakeChocolate barCrying faceFather ChristmasSmiling face with smiling eyesRegional indicator for RussiaHeavy black heartGrowing heartRegional indicator for RussiaGrowing heartCrying faceDoughnutCrying faceSlice of pizzaFish cake with swirl designShortcakeFork and knifeWine glassHamburgerFrench friesChristmas treePrincessPrincess

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After sending letters Sunday evening, I often wake up in the middle of the night looking for his email. This one was so beautiful I need to share it:

Dear Family,

    I guess I should have made this more clear, but I’m still in Perm. I leave in two days. I only knew about it last time. I’ve since then had all my sad goodbyes with all the people I’ve come to know and love here. The best though, was my friend in yellow glasses. He said he didn’t know how to say goodbye so we just very simply said, “See you later.” 

    That pretty much sums up my leaving here. See you later. They asked me to say some words in sacrament meeting and I talked a little about how I was grateful for everything the ward had done and for everything they had taught me. I then said that I would see them all later. That’s one of the great promises of the gospel. All the bad things will end, but nothing good ever will. We’ll see all of our friends again, all our family, and the barriers like age and language will be gone. But now I need to wait 80 years to see some of my friends again. That just gives me time to find more.

     I loved your emails and I’m so glad you’re my brother Gabe. I’m also really glad for how much you love and praise us mom. That has made such a difference. Way to go. I love you.

   I feel so sad to leave Perm. It feels like everything is ending. But it’s not. I still get to serve in another place, and I’m excited to start again and do things right. It’s just that all I know about missionary work and being a missionary is based in Perm. Who I am is based in Perm. I have grown and learned so much since living here. I’ve left parts of myself behind on the streets and gained new facets of my personality in people’s homes. I’ve learned so much about my purpose and my God while struggling desperately for the souls of others. This will always be for me a battleground where I became something.
    I know it doesn’t make for a good letter, and it must be hard to understand from thousands of miles away, but I need to say it. Our letters help us to stay in contact. You’ll be able to understand when I get back why polar bears cause me to be wistful and why I buy giant bags of buckwheat from IFA. I remember when I was leaving and mom said I wouldn’t change much. I agreed because I was thinking about basic habits that I already did like reading scriptures and praying. But I have put enough of myself into the lives of people here that we will always remember one another.

    Well, sorry for another highly contemplative and sad letter. I started thinking about all the people and friends I’ve said goodbye to, never to see again, and it was just heart-wrenching. But one thing I can tell you. I will come back. You are my family and I will always remember you. Families are forever. I’ve never seen those words so much as an oath or war cry until now. But this is a war, and that is our standard.

     I’m sorry if my letter makes you sad. If it’s just uninteresting, then read it again. But if it made you sad, just use that as a reason to be like Gabe and give Mom a hug or be nice to Xander. Smile at Hans and play with Mary. Say thanks to Dad and laugh with Ben. Or send a letter to your brother who loves you still.

Love, Stefan

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  1. Jeanelle

    January 29, 2014

    WOW! That’s all I can say because I don’t write as beautifully and Stefan. But I loved it.

  2. Tracy

    January 29, 2014

    Oh that last picture. I love all of you so much. xo

  3. Lisa

    January 30, 2014

    Oh gosh how you must miss him! Xoxo

  4. Selwyn

    January 30, 2014

    Kicked me right in the heart. (Excellent work Stefan!)

  5. Claudia

    January 30, 2014


  6. thatgoodpart

    January 30, 2014

    I love this! And it’s true. I’ve been thinking about subjects like these lately, but I wasn’t able to explain myself in a poignant way.

    One of my friends posted on FB today about changing our country for the better. I added my two cents: How do we fix all of our problems? Go home. Be parents. Love our children. Teach them right from wrong. We strengthen our families.

    Now I think that I’ll add to my friends post – quoting Stefan’s letter! 🙂

    I also had a thought while I was running last weekend. I saw hundreds of tiny, nameless, purple flowers in the desert. I’m a lot like them. I’m not a big, red rose – nothing really special. I’m just a little purple flower. But I can beautify the little part of the world I’m in. And when we all do that, when there are hundreds and thousands of us – little purple flowers blooming on the desert floor, then we are really something.

    Oh, and as far as Stefan goes (and all of the other missionaries like him)… I think that they should be getting peace prizes! (Well, missionaries and moms. and dads.) Just for fun, I’ll share my favorite missionary scripture:

    And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.” – 1 Nephi 13:37 (emphasis added)

    Thanks for posting this letter. It was amazing. I’m so glad to hear that Stefan is doing well.

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