Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Elder Berger goes home

April 27, 2015, Elder Berger, my father, returned home to Idaho, after serving 18 months in the Tonga Nuku'alofa Mission. I watched him as he got off the plane in Tonga.....

Fresh off the plane in Tonga, November 2013

.........and I watched as he boarded the plane as he left Tonga.

Fua'amotu International Airport

Heading toward security

Waving good-bye from the tarmac

Last good-bye

Into the wild blue yonder
The day after he left as I walked to the office I spotted his silver Hyundai van parked in the parking lot and thought to myself, "Oh, Dad's in the office this morning." And then I remembered. It's been interesting getting used to seeing the van permanently parked in front of the office, and knowing that Dad's not there to drive it anymore. It will forever be "Elder Berger's van."

Of the 54,000+ kilometers on the van, Dad drove nearly every single one.
Last assignment - Taking Elder Vave and Elder Vailea to the luggage storage unit, just before heading to the airport.
He made history. He may be the only single senior adult male missionary in the world. He may be the only father serving in the same mission as his daughter.

I believe nearly everyone on the island of Tongatapu knows Dad. He doesn't know all the people in Tonga, but they recognize him and always say hi when they see him. And they know he's my dad! People on the street let us know if they've seen Dad, or ask how he is doing if they haven't seen him for a while. People everywhere ask, "How is Elder Berger doing?" He will be missed by many people, not just  me.
Last words. At the Mission President's Dinner Sunday, April 19, 2015
Senior missionaries singing, "God Be With You" before Dad gets on the plane
Dad turned 77 years old this year. I expect he will live to be well over 100. He is strong and healthy. He worked so hard. He was often awake by 4:00 a.m., would go on his daily walk before any of the rest of us were even thinking of getting out of bed. He would drive missionaries around all day, many times still on the road until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., and go strong all day long replacing water filters, moving beds, buying supplies for the office, buying food for meetings, picking up or dropping off missionaries at the airport. His father had a strong work ethic, and Dad learned that lesson well.
Hard at work at the airport. Waiting for missionaries (us) to board the plane. A boring job.
I feel so privileged and blessed to have been able to have spent the last 18 months watching and working alongside my dad. The memories I have made will be a lasting legacy, and a treasure I will hold close the rest of my life.

I love you, Dad.

Here are some of my favorite memories of Dad in Tonga.

Dad's very first Tongan meal - after a stake conference

"Hoorah for Israel" - Elder Stephen Meyers, Dad, Elder John Aland

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