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Friday, October 14, 2011


Come to the edge. 
We might fall. 

Come to the edge. 
It's too high! 

And we came, 
and they PUSHED -
And we flew.   - Christopher Logue

On October 3, we were delivered to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah.  Our luggage was handled by some generous young missionaries-in-training who stood by the curb and asked for our room number, which we had been given even before we had time to get out of the car.  We took the obligatory “We have arrived” photo, and then walked through the main classroom building, wide-eyed and clueless.  We were handed a binder with a lot of materials that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to us, and were told to be in a certain room at one o’clock for our first meeting.  Little did we know what was awaiting us – a truly overwhelming experience.

The past ten days have been maddening, wonderful, and bittersweet.   We are truly fledglings, nearly ready to leave the nest.  There have been long days filled with meetings that have challenged our thinking, stretched our estimations of our own abilities, and filled our hearts with repeated confirmations that we are doing the Lord’s work.  We are filled with hope that we can find ways to complete our assignments in a manner that will satisfy the needs of those who serve, and will please our Father in Heaven.

One of the most unexpected pleasures has been making connections with some of the other missionaries here.  We knew that we would find Marissa Hinchcliff here, sister of our son Kai’s friend Clark, but we looked for her unsuccessfully for five days.  Finally at Saturday dinner, we saw her in the cafeteria.  Both Marissa and Bea wept; their emotions simply spilled over.  Marissa said it was like seeing her own parents again, and that was a wonderful compliment.  We felt rather like she was family, also, since she has been part of Kai’s circle for so long.  And we have seen her a couple of times since; it is comforting to know that someone familiar is going through the same learning curve!

Sister Hinchcliff and her companion, with their French nametags.

But finding Marissa was not the only happy connection we made.  We have found a young sister from Alamosa, couples who know former members of our ward in Monte Vista, former members of Bea’s childhood ward in northern Virginia, couples who know our good friends the Herds in Kaysville, Utah, and couples who have simply struck chords in our hearts.   Connections like these have made our time here even more enjoyable, and have shown us how easy it is to love those we serve.

 We have had remarkable social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual experiences here.  The spiritual ones have been highly personal, but here is a note we wrote to ourselves following one of those experiences:

 This note will be stuck to our refrigerator door for a long while.

Jim with two graduates of Liahona High School - class of 2009.
During our ten days here, we have seen an extraordinary outpouring of love.  And that goes for people we have gotten to know, and even some we haven’t.  We have talked with some of the young Tongan missionaries who are here for six weeks, training for their missions.  They will serve not only in Tonga, but Canada, South Carolina, the Philippines, and other places.  Their enthusiasm, their positive attitudes, and their joy at meeting us has been a magnificent experience.  

Sister Kesaia Havea and her mother-in-law, Sister Lili Havea
And learning the Tongan language has provided us a lot of amusement and entertainment.  We know we won’t ever be very good at Tongan, because we will only use it when we are away from school, which will only be on Saturdays.  But we have lived enough places to know that learning your host nation’s language is never time wasted.  We are fully aware that we have had divine help in learning to speak what little we can express.  But we have also had excellent visible help:  we have had a tutor and two native volunteers help us create phrases we want to learn, teach us some of the vocabulary we might use to introduce ourselves and use in the markets, and find out a little more about the recent history and culture of Tonga.  We have laughed every evening, as we work together to create the correct sounds and inflections – and most of the laughter is at our own mistakes!  And our final evening we got to meet Lili Havea, a past principal at Liahona Middle School.  She gave us some valuable information and important perspectives. 

We’ve done way too much walking, but my foot and Jim’s back are handling it pretty well.  Our biggest challenge has been the fact that the weather turned chilly for a few days, and we packed for the tropics!  Jim was okay in his wool suit, but I threatened to wrap myself in an extra blanket from our room!
 Our view out the parking lot.  Last snow we'll see for a couple of years!

We have been very busy; we’ve trained to work with “less active” Mormons, non-Mormons, students in the Seminary and Institute programs (religion classes), and young adults in need of help to find jobs and training for those jobs, through a program called the Perpetual Education Fund.  We’ve eaten too much (the food has been pretty good here, actually), we’ve slept too little, and we’ve hardly had time to realize how short our time in the U.S. really is.  Tomorrow we check out of here and board a plane for New Zealand, for three more days’ training there, then by Friday the 21st, we will be in Tonga, to begin our service.  Wow!

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