Drop Off #1: Like the Stripling Warriors’ Mothers and Hannah of the Old Testament
We dropped off our first missionary at the MTC on July 24th, promptly at 12.35pm. Looking back on it, the month leading up to his report date passed in a whirlwind of preparation. Picking him up from college at UCSD, taking him through the beautiful San Diego temple, creating a tremendous pile of supplies to be packed into two huge suitcases in our front living room, family pictures at the beach and the endless online search for affordable thermal underwear in the middle of summer! I expressed my anxiety mostly by cooking him one of his favorite meals every night, which he greatly appreciated (and by taking the kids on crazy adventures in SF which he probably appreciated less.) The Sunday before his report date, he spoke in church in front of our ward (congregation), with many special visitors including some of his closest friends and former teachers and leaders about what it means to be a pioneer. Several of his youth leaders and our bishop gave him their tie to wear on his mission, a special tradition in our ward. That evening, we hosted an open house at our home with cupcakes decorated with miniature Romanian flags and a large Romanian flag suspended in the hallway! (Sure, it was tacky all the way and I loved it!)
The next morning, Sebastian had to say good-bye to his younger brothers and sisters, who were off to scout camp, cheerleading camp or staying home with a babysitter. Lots of hugs—and an unsuccessful attempt by little Rachel to stow away inside the suitcase. Two years is a long time, but for a 10 year old little sister who adores her big brother, it truly seems forever! Following a 12 hour drive through Nevada (funnest road trip ever), we arrived in Utah to complete a 14 hour shopping marathon for most of his clothing in 112 degree heat. His last day before his mission ended with a lively all you can eat pizza dinner generously hosted by our extended family (during which Sebastian quietly insisted on refilling my water glass and serving me, which brought me to tears) and a private final father’s blessing.
Before we knew it, the day and time had come. Fortified with pie shakes from Sammy’s (there’s a lot of food in this post, I know, but Sebastian loves to eat), we were headed to the MTC with Sarah and Sebastian in the back seat, Todd driving and me holding the camera in the passenger seat. The road in front of the MTC was completely torn up by construction, blocking the regular entrance. But from several blocks away, signs and senior missionaries pointed out the correct path: Keep going up the hill and enter the MTC through the loading dock area. The signs read: “New missionaries this way” From beginning to end, the drop off proceeded in an orderly manner, with missionaries there to help each step of the way. Entering the MTC grounds, we joined a seemingly endless line of vehicles. I have been told, 800 new missionaries arrived within two hours. An older brother approached our car and asked “Elder or sister?” to which we replied “Elder this time, sister next time.” He was so kind and funny, he had all of us laughing. He also asked which mission and based on Sebastian’s answer, place a colored sticker on our windshield. We were then directed to a drop-off area based on our sticker color.
Coming around the corner to the front of the MTC, we were met with the most amazing sight: Hundreds of missionaries lined up to greet us. Most of them were sisters! They were all smiling and calling out, “Welcome to the MTC!” I couldn’t help but smile and wave back. We felt like riding in a parade as we slowly made our way all the way down and around the corner. Our drop off point was marked with the number 20, almost at the very end. As soon as we pulled up to the curb, a missionary host stepped up and opened my door. He then proceeded to help Todd unload the luggage. He gave us plenty of time to hug Sebastian good-bye. And I didn’t cry, both my children asked me repeatedly not to cry. “No tears, Mom!” Since I didn’t want them to remember me as a blubbering mess and worry about me, I smiled my bravest smile, watching Sebastian walk off with the backpack casually slung over one shoulder. He was engaged in conversation by the host, who was pulling his suitcases. But before he reached the front doors, he looked around one more time, smiling at me! And that was that. We climbed back into the car, while some of the sisters on the curb called, “See you again soon!”
This is what I felt (yes, I am allowed one melodramatic post on this blog): I thought of the mothers of the stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon. I wondered, as they were standing on a dirt road, somewhere in the jungle and watched their sons march off to war, did one of them turn around, with a shield casually over his shoulder, sword in hand and smile at his mother as if to say, “I love you, don’t worry, I will be ok”? I feel that some of the examples of righteous parents and children are included in our scriptures precisely so we can learn to model ourselves after them in the latter days, but also so we can take comfort from their experiences. I’m purposefully saying parents, not only mothers. I know this was just as hard, if not harder on my husband. (On a sidenote: We always talk about the stripling warriors’ devotion to their mothers and rightly so, but we often overlook that they also had supportive and faithful fathers. This was pointed out to me by a post on one of my favorite blogs on father’s day this year. Their fathers supported and provided for them, see Alma 56:27!) But not one of my children told their father that he couldn’t cry which was patently unfair, if you ask me!
The night before, I read from the book of Samuel in the Old Testament, reviewing the story of Hannah, who also sent off her first born son far away from home to serve the Lord in the temple. Her words, spoken thousands of years ago, perfectly expressed my emotions on this day, “For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:27-28 (Well, for the next two years anyway) She continues, “My heart rejoiceth in the Lord,” 1 Samuel 2:1 and so does mine. We raised a son who loves the Lord and wants to serve Him as a missionary! How great is our joy!