Thank you Elder Ehmke for writing this post!
Our mission has been very fortunate to rent a large home located close to the mission office and mission home. It is called "La Casa Grande" or the "Big House" because it has four bedrooms in the main house and with the nine bunk beds in the garage, the house can sleep 26 missionaries! We also have places to shower with the five bathrooms counting the one in the pool house! Yes! The Casa Grande has a pool along with a beautiful front yard and large spacious backyard ideal for playing volleyball and soccer.
The backyard of the Casa Grande has several trees including this olive tree along with a lemon and a cherry tree. The swimming pool is a visual reminder that we are missionaries and the best way to use the pool is to keep it empty!
The Casa Grande serves many purposes. First of all, it is the home to the Assistants to the President, and the office staff including the mission nurse and office manager, Elder and Sister Ehmke.
You may wonder how we, as a Senior Couple, are able to live in a house full of Elders. This is our "little corner of the world." The Elders are very respectful of our space, always knock when the door is closed and even ask "permiso" before entering when it is open. One of our favorite things is Family Prayer around our bed with our Argentina Sons.
The Casa Grande also serves as the mission "hotel" for visiting Elders. When there are Leadership Councils, mission transfers, or other reasons for Elders to come into Neuquen we are fortunate to have them spend the night in our bunk house.
The bunk house also has been a wonderful asset as we have received our new Elders into the mission. This last fall we received groups of as many as 58 missionaries (Elders and Sisters) at a time. The Casa Grande was a perfect place to host these eager, enthusiastic new Elders.
The Casa Grande has a large living room and dining room that convert easily to a study hall. There are times the Spirit is so strong in the house. We feel the Lord´s presence as He invites these young missionaries to learn more about Him.
Of course, a home full of young men gives us all an opportunity to cook and to eat! We have laughed as we have bumped into one another as we have all tried to help out in the kitchen at the same time. Food and young Elders go hand in hand.
This big family breakfast was held on a General Conference Sunday morning when we gathered together to watch the Priesthood Session of conference. Since there is a three-hour delay in time zones, it is much too late for our missionaries to stay up to participate in the Saturday evening broadcast. Besides that, the Priesthood Session also seems to feel better with a breakfast of French toast, chorizzo and fruit salad!
The Casa Grande gives us special moments with these outstanding representatives of the Lord. Sometimes it is staying up late working together on college entrance papers, or pitting cherries from our own tree.
Sometimes it is just gathering around to share several tubs of ice cream after a long day in Leadership Council.
Time always has to be taken to enjoy the beautiful spring and summer days in our backyard for a family picnic
Hermana Ehmke has become famous though out the mission for her baking skills. Our Elders enjoy her homemade apple pies, cobbler and torts as well as her Mission Brownies and variety of cookies. It seems that whenever there is a group of Elders spending the night in the Casa Grande, homemade goodies magically appear!
As the "House Parents" we have the privilege of getting involved in many feasts and activities. This has been an unexpected blessing of the mission. We will long remember the smiles, expressions of love and abrazos that are so generously given.
Oh, did we mention that these young men love to eat? We have learned that happiness and food go hand in hand!
There is great joy to be found in the garden and yards of the Casa Grande. Elder Ehmke enjoys time "puttering" with the decorative trees, beautiful roses and heavy laden grape arbor.
The Casa Grande also has an interior atrium that brings light and greenery indoors. We have watched the plants grow from seedlings into hearty vegetation.
The holidays are always special times in the Casa Grande. One year Christmas gave us the opportunity to sport new soccer shirts. We felt we were competing for team championship in Argentina!
Decorating the Christmas tree, sorting through presents sent by parents to share with others and giving to one another helped fill our thoughts of home during the Christmas season.
Hermana Ehmke gets her very own maté cup!
One of our Casa Grande sons received this rather bright tie and was eager to try it out!
In addition to baking, Sister Ehmke loves to decorate for every season. St. Patrick´s Day, The Fourth of July and Thanksgiving always create many questions from our Spanish missionaries while Easter, Halloween and Christmas bring memories from home for all of us.
We have learned that eating and playing together seem to go better after spending time working together. When we first arrived at the Casa Grande it needed a "bit of cleaning" to become a home. The Elders had lived there six months without a senior couple and were eager for the direction from Sister Ehmke on what to clean first. Her answer was simple, "Everything!" We all pitched in washing windows, laundering and ironing window treatments and scrubbing floors. We hope you notice the smiles on the Elders´ faces. Working together can be a great deal of fun!
Of course, playing together is also a lot of fun. We never seem to find enough time to get in all of the P-Day playing that we need. Whether it be playing soccer in the backyard on New Years Eve or volleyball on a summer morning, it is just good to run, holler and exercise together.
A great game of soccer always leaves our Argentina sons relaxed and happy!
The Casa Grande is a house where love is freely expressed and deeply felt. What a privilege it is to come home after traveling to a different location in the mission to find that we were missed and loved. Our Elders have always been so thoughtful leaving notes on our pillows, in our refrigerator or on the bulletin board, even remembering Mother's Day.
We learned a great deal about love from our Elders. How eager they are to express their love for their companion, for others in the home and for us. Happiness is sharing abrazos for Elder Ehmke while Sister Ehmke invites each Elder to come see us in Arizona so she can give each a hug after the mission.
While happiness is heartfelt and often expressed, the Casa Grande also has its sad moments. These seem to come when it is time to tell one another good-bye, We are never amazed at how quickly we learn to love these great young men and acknowledge the tremendous leadership the Church has in its future. Yet we are frequently amazed at how quickly our time with them flies by. Saying good-bye is a bitter-sweet experience. Our Argentine sons are leaving the Casa Grande but we know they will be returning home to their own families.
The joy comes in knowing that the Casa Grande always has room for more bright faces, more eager spirits and more valiant servants of the Lord. Each new group of missionaries is a joy to receive. Each group of worthy Elders going home leaves us with memories of love and treasured experiences.
We want our Elders to know that the Casa Grande is their home away from home, that they are loved and honored for their dedicated service. Thank you, Elders, for the joy you have brought us and the love you have shared with us. Come back soon. Your beds are made and ready for you!
Los Ehmkes en Argentina