Friday, December 12, 2014

Preparing For Departure

(post adapted from a letter to friends and family on Dec 12)
We are now in the final count down, preparing to leave the country on December 15.  Our week of training at the MTC in Provo was amazing.  That part focused on the spiritual elements of the mission.  It involved doing a lot of role plays to practice how to teach individuals and families.  There were 133 senior missionaries in our cohort.  They came from all over and were preparing for all sorts of different assignments throughout the world.

We met so many great people.  There was even one couple that was coming FROM New Zealand to serve a family history mission in Utah!  Another couple headed for Denmark was on their second or third mission.  They had been in New Zealand before doing exactly what we will be doing,so you can bet we quizzed them on what we should expect. 
Our "District" at the MTC

The traditional MAP photo pointing to where we will serve

We stayed in dorm-like rooms and took all our meals in the cafeteria.  We had classes each day from 8:00 AM till about  4:30 or 5:00 PM so we had very full days.

We had one bit of challenge during our MTC week – Larry was having lots of problems with his back molar and ended up having to go get a root canal done.   OUCH!   That meant  big pain to mouth and pain to pocketbook!   At least we were able to get it taken care of quickly and he is doing fine now.

Once our MTC training was done, we came to Salt Lake for the next phase.  Larry’s brother, Ted, was our absolute hero for coming to get us in Provo and taking us to where we needed to be in SLC.  We had planned on using public transportation, but with all our suitcases it would have been a nightmare of awkwardness to get from point A to point B!

Since arriving here we have been staying in a condo just four blocks from Temple Square – so appreciative of our friends from Boise, Robert and Merrylyn Chandler , for hosting us.   They have a place on the 20th floor of the American Towers.   It’s a lovely home and they have made us feel  very welcome.  It has been incredibly convenient for us to get to where we need to be each day.

Salt Lake is all decked out with lights, decorations and music for the holidays, but has been having unseasonably warm weather   (30’s at night and high 50’s during the day) with no snow at all so we’ve been very comfortable walking all over, with no need for boots or big coats.  Sometimes we walk, sometimes we jump on the Trax trains which have a stop just around the corner from the condo, so it has been smooth sailing

Our classes here have focused more on the nuts and bolts of serving in a Family History mission and we’ve had briefings on details of the places where we will serve.  We’ve talked a lot about the difference between Genealogy and Family History.  Genealogy deals with the names and dates, charts and research.   Family history deals with the stories, the memories and the feelings.  Where we are going there will be very little genealogy.  There will be some.  But for the most part,  we will focus on living memory rather than research.    We were told “This will be a mission of telling stories and listening to stories, focus on Hearts rather than Charts”.   I like that.
Tomorrow we will go to Orem to visit with good friends Jeff & Alice Walker and then tomorrow night we will all come back to SLC to hear their son Josh perform in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas show which should be lots of fun.   Then on Saturday after winding up our visit with the Walkers, we will take the Front Runner train back to SLC to finish up our final prep for the grand exit.

We fly to Los Angeles about 6:00 PM on Monday,  and will leave on the Air New Zealand flight for Auckland around 9:00 PM from there.   It is a 13 hour direct flight, but since we cross the international date line we will not arrive until Wednesday morning.   On the way back, however, we should get here right BEFORE our departure time.   How strange is that?

We are excited about getting there and getting started with our assignment.  We are eager to meet the people we will be working with and to discover our community and the culture that will be our home for the next two years.   However, the reality that we are leaving behind all we know and love is hitting like sledgehammer.    The huge homesickness I had in the first weeks after we left is now mostly passed, but I still have moments when I think of my family and close friends who I will miss (and of course, our dear dog!)  and tears will come.  Overall though, I just so appreciate the love and support  that so many have extended as we have prepared for this.
One kind of odd thing that happened….yesterday during our classes I got a voicemail from  the president of the National AHEC organization who apparently hadn’t gotten the word that I had left my job as director of the Idaho AHEC.  She was calling to tell me I had been nominated for some leadership committee with the national organization and she was looking forward to having me take part in some upcoming things that were kind of a big deal.  I just smiled and called her back to let her know I would not be available to accept that nomination since I had moved on to do other things.    I honestly felt  happy to tell her about my current plans and didn’t feel one bit of reservation about having left my job. It was a great position that was an excellent fit for me both personally and professionally.  I learned a lot and made some good friends.  I feel proud of the things I was able to accomplish in that role during the time I was there. But I’m able to completely let go of it now, and that feels good.  

As Christmas approaches this year, both Larry and I are feeling
  very humbled that we get to be chosen representatives of Jesus Christ as full time missionaries in the far away land of New Zealand for the next two years.   While I have long had a testimony of the Savior, putting my whole life into service is giving me a whole new perspective of my faith.  

We have had several experiences since we left home that have powerfully affirmed that our prayers are heard and answered.   We have had numerous things occur which have demonstrated to us that God is aware of us personally and He knows our needs.   Just because we believe in God and are trying to serve Him with all we have does not mean everything will turn out wonderful.  There will still be problems and difficulties to face.   But I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that our lives are not random.  They have meaning and purpose.  And I know that as we put our trust in Him, we will be given the strength and resilience to face whatever challenges may come.   

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