November 03, 2014

Return to Oakland


I popped up to Oakland recently after the end of our final Power Summit (but first, I popped over to San Francisco and Google HQ (thank you, Falon!!) – both for the first time!), and it felt like coming home.


When I served my mission, Oakland had one of the highest murder rates in the country. (Does it still?) If you were to visit some of the areas I was in, you’d probably either A- never want to get out of your car, B- be paranoid that someone would jump you at any second, C- have the urge to flip a U-turn and get the heck out of there, D- all of the above.

But the things is… I loved my mission. I love the people. And in spite of the crime, the graffiti, the dirtiness, the rundown homes, the bars on the windows…. I love Oakland. It is sacred ground to me. I know it’s the missionary goggles, and I was a little worried that I’d feel differently going back after five years of being home.

Oakland Temple

I am happy to report that Oakland is just as beautiful and wonderful to me now as it was five years ago when I still had the mantle of a missionary on my shoulders.

I had to work East Coast hours while I was in Oakland, so I didn’t get to spend very much time visiting people, but I was grateful to spend any amount of time in a place that’s so special to me and with people I love so much. I was determined, at the very least, to make it up to the Temple, and to the Visitors’ Center where I very much became the person I am today.

My goal was to make it to Temple Hill in time to see the sun set. And I’m happy to report I made it!

oakland sunset

I walked to the back of the Visitors’ Center – one of my favorite things was to sit on the back couch and watch the sun setting over the whole Bay from that back couch – and saw the blinds were down. Thankfully, I still remember the secret little cupboard where they keep the remote for the blinds, so I was able to lift them. Heh heh!

Tears came to my eyes as I stood in the back and watched that glorious sunset. The same sunset I’d watched so many times. I remembered one of my first sunsets on that couch. It was my first transfer, and I felt so discouraged and overwhelmed. I contemplated going home, and I was so distressed, I drew a handmade calendar to count down how many days, weeks, and transfers, until I went home. I also recalled my very last sunset as a missionary, where, tears rolling down my cheeks, I flashed back to that first sunset and reflected on how far I’d come in those 17.5 months.

And last night, I thought back to both of those sunsets and to the five years’ worth of sunsets since. Being back at the Visitors’ Center felt like coming home, and every spot, every exhibit, every corner held a precious memory or brought back a treasured lesson. I will be forever grateful that God saw fit to let me serve as one of his missionaries in the California Oakland mission – and especially in the Oakland Temple Visitors’ Center.

I closed out my VC visit with the Christus (of course), which was always my very favorite presentation. It struck me that the words of Christ haven’t changed – in the narration and in real life. So much of my life has changed and evolved. In the five years I’ve been home, I’ve completed my Bachelor’s degree, gone to grad school, started my professional life, dated, experienced heartbreaks, seen my parents and sister get divorced, dealt with health problems – both my own and my parents’… So much is always changing, but the ONE thing that never changes, the ONE thing that is ever constant is Jesus Christ. As we continue to make him the anchor and the foundation of our lives, everything is going to be OK, and we will be filled with a sense of peace, knowing He is in charge.


I also took some time to walk around the temple (hence the two previous temple photos), and then Hna. Velasco and I did sealings in the temple.

Here's an insider tip when walking around Oakland's Temple Hill -- make sure you walk ON TOP OF THE TEMPLE!! On a clear night, you can see all five bridges in the San Francisco Bay area, and you get an incredible view likes this --

View from the temple terrace

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