Monday, December 1, 2014

MTC Day 1 - Orientation

Our day has finally arrived!  Last night we said our final goodbyes to our family.  I had some very sweet time with our three year old grandson, Jacob.  We made up a pretend story about a skeleton-creeper named Fred and his dog friend Rayson who lived in a red house with yellow curtains.  It was hilarious.  

We have sure had some precious times with that little boy over the past six weeks.  We will miss him and all the family we are leaving behind.  We are eager to get this mission started, and yet the reality of this long separation we are about to begin is really sinking in, bringing heavy hearts as well as excitement.

This morning we got up at 3:30 AM to head off to the Phoenix airport.  We got through security without a hitch and then I slept some on the plane, so it seemed we were were touching down in Salt Lake City in no time.  It was quite a bit chillier in Utah than what we were accustomed to during our time in Arizona.  At least there was no snow or rain, so we made out alright.  Navigating all our suitcases was a little tricky.  But my dear companion made sure we got to where we needed to be.

We took Shuttle Express to Provo, a trip of about 45 miles.  From the minute we stepped on the grounds here we were impressed by how well organized everything was.  There were missionaries stationed at every point to direct us of where we should go. Everyone was so kind and welcoming.

Of course there are missionaries here going to just about every place imaginable.  One of the traditions is for each missionary to go to the big world map and point out where they are going to serve.  So here is our map picture of us point out New Zealand! 

As we walk down the halls we hear smatterings of different accents and phrases of other languages since there are people who have come here from many other places as well as groups of young American elders and sisters practicing the language of the land for where ever they may serve.

We met other senior couples who were going to England, Germany, Ireland, Mozambique, Russia, the Philippines, New Guinea, and many more places – as well as states scattered all over the US.   Some will be working in the Perpetual education / Self Reliance area.   Some will work for Church Education System (CES) and some in Membership & Leadership support.  There were Humanitarian Aid missionaries and Records Preservation missionaries.  Yet no matter how different our assignments may be in terms of where we will be going or what we will be doing,  there was a strong sense of camaraderie built of our common bond of faith and willingness to put God’s plans ahead of our own.  We’ve all left behind dear ones, homes, other things we might have done, because we believe in this.  That’s powerful stuff

As we talk to some of the other missionaries - some first timers like us and others who are now going on their second or third missions - we have each shared experiences about leaving our families, our homes, interrupted careers and other considerations that might have convinced us to stay put.  Yet for every one of us, the WHY is what makes it all possible.  Committing to a full time mission brings with it an overwhelming sense of purpose.  So many people I know back in the regular world express feeling like they are stuck in a hamster wheel - going around and around, staying very busy all the time, moving until they are exhausted, but in the end feeling like all that effort made very little real difference.

This experience is the absolute opposite of that.  With mission work, we know that we are involved in something for the greater good that will make a very real difference.  That is significant for me.

Today we got to talk to a couple on their way to Denmark for their mission who served a previous mission exactly where we are going.  They had a family history assignment with the same manager we will work for.  They raved about their experiences, and about what working with Mike Higgins was like.  That gave us a lot to look forward to.

Elder & Sister Turpin - previous Family History Missionaries in New Zealand
This time they are on their way to Denmark for a different assignment

This first day mainly consisted of an orientation and getting settled in.   Our main orientation sessions were held in big groups with all of us together.  From there we were assigned into districts with eight to ten people per district.   Elder Bennett was assigned as district leader for our group which basically means he is in charge of making sure we are all where we need to be and deals with any questions that may come  up.

The only challenge we have had so far is that Elder Bennett is having a problem with one of his teeth.  Apparently the crown on one of his back molars is hurting him.   He had a clean report from our dentist back home before we left, and up to now has never had any serious dental problems.  But this toothache is pretty bad.  So he reported it to the coordinator for senior missionaries and they made an appointment for him to get in to see a dentist tomorrow.  We'll see then what needs to be done.  We certainly don't want to leave the problem go since we will be leaving the country very soon.

We are going to have a very memorable experience here, no doubt.  Some of that may include challenges.  For good or ill, we know this time will be special to us always.   It feels so right to finally really be here.

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