An Epic Journey

George and Pam Hoge, ages 65 and 55, respectively, have recently joined the Church’s missionary effort. They’re a pretty typical couple. They work hard, love their kids, serve in the Church, and try to do what’s right. But because we as members hear about serving a mission so often, we may sometimes forget how remarkable their decision to serve in this way is. They’re not nineteen (or twenty-one, for that matter) anymore, and as George and Pam demonstrate, the decision they’ve just made to leave their family and serve a mission for two years is anything but typical.

Perhaps reading about their journey as they prepare to serve will inspire you or your loved ones to strap on some work boots (or dress shoes in this case), say goodbye despite the sadness, and get out and serve.

Let us introduce you to George and Pam Hoge. Both grew up in little towns in Idaho—George in Blackfoot and Pam in Inkom, the combined populations of which probably wouldn’t be enough to fill a freshman Biology 101 class at BYU. George’s family was inactive as he was growing up, but because of some terrific leaders, he was called to serve a mission at nineteen to Copenhagen, Denmark, and he accepted the call. After serving for two and a half years in Denmark, George returned home, married, started working as an insurance salesman, and raised four boys. In 1984 his sweet wife unexpectedly passed away as they were just about to become empty nesters—his youngest son was a junior in high school at the time, and the other three boys had moved on with their own careers and families. 

At eighteen years old, Pam married her high school sweetheart and together they had three girls and a boy. Her husband passed away at age 34 of cancer and she was left with a high school diploma, a mortgage, four kids ranging in ages from four to sixteen, and a lot of difficult decisions to make. Then she met George and though neither one thought they’d found a match a first, their friendship and respect for one another soon turned to love and they were married in 1987. Pam and her family moved from American Falls, Idaho, to Pocatello, Idaho, George began the child-rearing process all over again, and together the two families tried their best at working out the kinks of a blended family.  

Finally Shai, the youngest, went off to school and then got married, and the prospect of going on a mission, something they’d always discussed, became a viable option. Apart from two vacations in Mexico, Pam had never been out of the U.S., and George’s passport had only been stamped once more than hers, to England, since his mission in 1960. Nonetheless, they decided to tell Church headquarters that they would go wherever in the world they might be called, and signed up to serve a two-year mission.

This is their personal record of their thoughts, feelings, and struggles and they began this exciting and scary journey to serve the Lord as “more experienced” full-time missionaries.  

Feb. 3, 2006

We have our first interview with our new bishop who we don’t really know that well yet because we’ve just moved from Idaho Falls to Island Park.  

These last couple of weeks we have been going to doctor and dentist appointments to get all checked out and to get shots. Not fun so far. Mostly, though, we’re trying to spend lots of time with family.  

Some of our kids came for Christmas here at the cabin. I couldn’t help but think it would be one of the last times we’d be able to get everyone together before we leave. I start to get emotional when I think about leaving them, but I realize the Lord will watch and take care of them. 

We are really anxious to find out where we will be going. 

Feb 3

We are excited to go—it will be good to find out where we’re going. I would like to go overseas, but wherever we are called it will be great. I’m looking forward to serving with my sweetheart. No matter where we go it will be fun with Pam.  

Feb. 8, 2006

 

Today I’m baking bread—I will miss doing that (at least the way I’m used to—in the comfort of my own kitchen). I’m also making baby blankets. Bridget [my middle daughter] is having a little girl. I’m so happy for them.  

Feb 8

I thought I’d like to give a little history about our going on a mission. In November 2004 we were called into Bishop Powell’s office—he called Pam to be the Relief Society president. We told him of our plan that to go on a mission in June ’06 and he said that was fine.  In August of ’05 we started to get nervous about our home selling in time. Many homes in the area had been for sale for two to three years and still not sold. We went and spoke with our new bishop, Bishop Woodland, (who had been in for about five months) about our concern. We have no children or family in Idaho Falls to watch over it and we didn’t want to leave it vacant or rent it out, so we told him we wanted to put it up for sale right away. Bishop Woodland said he could understand. He was kind and said he’d like to keep Pam in her calling as long as he could. That was Sunday; on Tuesday we called a realtor and we completed the papers to sell the house. We showed it to people on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and then again on Monday from a lady who had seen it on Thursday and wanted to look at it again, and she decided to buy! I knew then that the Lord was helping us go.  

Feb. 20

Some of the kids and grandkids are here: Bobbi, Addie, Aubree, Autumn, Bridget, Ryan, Shai, and Adam. It has been a fun weekend. We’ve played a lot of games and eaten constantly. I cry when I think of not being with them for two years. Little Autumn will be almost in school. These kids are my life along with George. Thank goodness I’ll have him.  

It is such a strange thing for me to wonder where you will be in the whole world in a few months. 

March 24

 

Well, yesterday was an exciting day. We have been waiting for over a month, but now we know: We’re going to Denmark. I feel good about it. I think George is really happy—he’s never been back. It will be great. I hope we can be a part in bringing some people to know of the gospel.  

We don’t leave until July 3, so we have over three months. We will start taking language lessons over the phone.  

March 24

We got our call yesterday and we are going to Denmark. I’m really happy about it—I’ve always wanted to go back to my first mission and have never had the opportunity to do so. So, I feel really blessed to have this opportunity now. Pam is happy too.  We had an appointment in Idaho Falls and while we were gone I called the postmaster in Island Park to see if our call had come. I called too early for her to know, so I called again about 45 minutes later and she said “You’ve got it.” I told her to hold it and I would run up and get it.  I went to get it while Pam was finishing up in Idaho Falls and she told me not to open it without her. So I opened another piece of mail and waved it at her as I drove up. I told her she would love where we were going. She said, “You didn’t open it” as I handed her the actual envelope. She looked at it and said, “I knew you wouldn’t open it.”  We took a couple of photos of us holding our call and then Pam opened it. She saw immediately “Copenhagen Denmark Mission”. We were both somewhat surprised but very happy. We quickly called the kids and went to the temple. We enter the MTC on July 3.  

April 9

Our language study guides came yesterday and we hope to start tomorrow. I hope I can do it. I know it will take a lot of hard work but I really want to be able to express myself and my testimony. I’ve been reading in the Book of Mormon today about Ammon and it makes me really excited to go and serve.  

Yesterday Tanner [my grandson] was baptized. He was so cute—what a good boy. I’m blessed with such a wonderful family. Every time I’m around them I know the time is short, but I also know we must go. The Lord has given me so much, how could I not? 

April 9

Our Danish materials have arrived so we can get started on the tutoring program from the MTC this week. I have a lot to relearn! 

April 18

We have been with family in Pocatello for three days. Bobbi [my daughter] cooked dinner on Easter. I was crying again today, but it was because I felt such love for them. They are such good kids and they try so hard to do what’s right. I know each one of them have very different challenges that I wish I could fix, but I can’t. But, I know that going on a mission will bring them blessings. Heavenly Father can take care of them better than I can.  

We still haven’t started Danish lessons yet—they’re having a hard time finding a tutor. Hopefully this week. We are working on our own, though—it’s hard! 

May 7

What a busy but great week. On April 29 little Lily was born—Lilian Pamela Rees. She weighed in at 6 pounds, 6 ounces with lots of dark hair. She is beautiful. We now have sixteen grandchildren. 

We have also bought a house in Pocatello, which we weren’t originally planning to do before going. We were a little nervous about the climbing home prices, so we decided to do it early. Tory [my son] will live there until they move into their own home and then Shai and Adam [my youngest daughter and son-in-law] will move in and live there until we get home. 

We will start our Danish lessons on Wednesday. It will be good to get help. George helps me, but after 45 years of not keeping up with it, he needs help too. He will pick up on it fast though. Time is going fast—less than two months now.  

May 7

Bridget called last Saturday, April 29, at 6:30 a.m. and said her water broke in the night and she was at the hospital. So, we headed to Salt Lake. The baby was born at 1:15 p.m. and things went well for both Bridget and the baby (Lilian Pamela Rees). She’s a real cutie.  We were so concerned about not having our money invested in a house, because they are going up much faster than interest is, so we decided to buy one in Pocatello. If we decide we don’t like it when we get home we’ll just sell it and build one we like.  

May 18

We have started the language lessons over the phone. I couldn’t sleep last night. I woke up and everything I thought of I was thinking of how to say in Danish. We have been studying three to four hours a day—I’m not getting anything else done. Our teacher makes me sing and pray in Danish and sometimes it just really touches my heart because they are songs I love and I get emotional knowing we will have that wonderful spirit wherever we go.  

Our teacher’s name is Andrew Christensen. He’s very nice, but it’s really hard so, to be honest, I dread it a little bit when he calls. His mom is from Denmark and he spent his first eight years there. He just got home from his own mission there—we are lucky to have him. Maybe we will meet some of his family when we get there. 

May 24

We have been studying most of the morning. It gets harder every day. This weekend is Memorial Day weekend and some of the kids are coming up.  

Tory and Danielle are moving. Bridget just had Lily. Kirk is going back to school. Adam is going to California for an internship. Life is constantly changing. I hope we can touch peoples’ lives in Denmark so they can know that even though life changes, you have a constant person you can always count on to be with you. I know I will need Him the next two years—probably more than I ever have.  

May 29

Our class went pretty well today. For the next class I’ve got to be able to give Andrew the Joseph Smith First Vision story. Boy, are there some big words in it. I hope and pray they will come back to me.  

June 9

This week has been busy as usual. Lots of studying—it’s so hard! We spent the week in Pocatello helping Tory get settled into the house and then we went to Utah to see Bridget, Ryan, and Lily. Little Lily is smiling now. We went to the MTC while we were there and had a lesson with Andrew. It helped to talk and hear him in person. Then we got to go meet nine missionaries going to Denmark. One sister was all alone because her companion is coming later. She had only been there two days and was feeling a little overwhelmed. She was really nice. I know we will be close. Her name is Sister Hansen from San Diego. It made me think that even if I can’t communicate with the Danish people, I can help out an elder or sister. 

June 11

I had a bridge come loose and had to go to a specialist to get a root canal done, then I’ve got to go in on the 12th to get a new bridge. Just what we need now right before we go. The root canal will cost $988. I should have been a dentist.  

June 13

It is really sinking in. I called Mom and Dad today and Mom’s health is not good. She has been really sick. It seems like Satan points out lots of reasons to not go—but all I can do is go forward because I know it’s right.

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