In our church, young people have the opportunity to serve full-time missions. For young men, it is required. For young women, it is an option for those who have the desire to serve a mission. Young men can serve at age 18 and young women can serve at age 19. Previously, the ages young people could serve were older (boys at 19 and girls at 21), but a somewhat shocking announcement was made 6 months ago by our church leaders, lowering the age limits.
My sister, Camille, is 21. She has been planning on serving a full-time mission for several years now. Because my family has all girls and Mitch has one little brother and two little sisters, we really didn't know how many missionary siblings we'd have. Mitch served a full-time mission for our church from 2006-2008 at age 19-21. His brother is also preparing to serve a full-time mission right now.
Full-time missions mean a lot of sacrifice for these young people. Girls serve for 18 months and boys serve for 2 years. This means 18 mo - 2 yrs away from their family, living with a missionary companion somewhere in the world. They do not pick where they serve; they are assigned a "mission call" somewhere around the world (of course, disabilities, health restrictions, and other factors are all considered). These missionaries do missionary work 24/7. They do not watch tv, read magazines (outside of church magazines), read books (outside of scriptures), or have much leisure time. It is all work, all day, all for the Lord. They call home twice a year, on Mother's Day and on Christmas. Other than that, emails can be sent to anyone they wish, but computer time is very restricted. Written letters are, of course, always allowed as well. Missionaries hope to eliminate as many distractions as possible, so they formally defer from college (or serve a mission before they start), and most aren't involved in long-distance romantic relationships.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we got a chance to drop Camille off at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, UT, where she will spend 2 weeks learning how to be a missionary. She'll take classes, adopt a full-time missionary's schedule, and develop habits of daily healthy eating, exercise, and personal scripture study that will help her for the next 18 months. After that, she will leave for her mission. She was called to serve in Charlotte, North Carolina and will be there by the end of the month!
I had never seen the MTC before; Camille and other BYU students have access to it to volunteer there since it is so close to their campus, and Camille has volunteered there many times, so new missionaries have people to practice teaching to. Because of this announcement regarding missionary age six months ago, a surge of missionary applications and mission calls have been received and sent out. Camille is 21, so she's not one of the 19 year-old missionaries, but she is still caught up in this huge surge of new missionaries with everyone else!
Because my parents live so far from Utah, they sent her off at the Kansas City airport, and that was the last time they'll see her in 18 months. She had a friend pick her up at the Salt Lake City airport and was with her until we could drive from Idaho to pick her up. We spent the day doing last-minute errands and shopping that she needed, as well as just enjoying time together. We got together with friends from home that we hadn't seen in a long time, which was really fun! Poor Nathan was SO antsy after several hours in the car; he was kind of a banshee at the restaurant! Our friends who'd never met him definitely didn't see his fun side!
|We ALL look terrible in this picture...Camille had stayed up all night packing, then caught a 6 am flight. Mitch and I had been up early, gone to classes, and then drove to Provo. It was a long day for all of us!|
On Wednesday morning, we did some more last-minute shopping and went to lunch. Then we said our goodbyes across the street from the MTC and got ready to go drop her off. It was a madhouse, but the people working were very well-organized, so it was busy, but it all ran very smoothly.
There were a few rules to follow, like saying goodbyes across the street in a big field and parking lot, so the MTC parking lot and circle drive won't get too congested. Only the car with the missionary in it is allowed in the MTC parking lot; not their car and their families' five other cars with extended family. You only get 2 1/2 minutes to say goodbye to your missionary, just to keep things flowing smoothly. So, we had a very well-orchestrated plan to get her unloaded and say goodbye quickly; we even got a "nice job, guys!" from the missionaries that helped unload and that were directing traffic!
These pictures are kind of repetitive, but I know my parents really wished they could be there, so I just took enough pictures to help them feel like they were there. Enjoy!
|Playing around in the field across from the MTC. Camille's drop-off time was 1:15, so the sun was in my least favorite spot...|
|There was tons of construction going on to expand the street in front of the MTC, to make dropping off easier. The famous hot spot for pictures, the "Missionary Training Center" sign isn't even there anymore.|
|We loved throwing mulch at the tree :o)|
|Last-minute bonding time with the auntie who won't see him again until he's FOUR!|
We made Camille pose for pictures across the street from the MTC. Anyone who knows Camille knows she hates pictures more than most anything else, but we didn't give her a choice :o) She always just throws her hand on her hip and calls it good, haha.
|Not only was the sun directly overhead, but there were ugly orange cones everywhere! I took them out in some pictures.|
Last picture before she grabbed her bags and went with the "host missionaries", who are in the MTC themselves, and assigned to curb duty to help missionaries part with their families. We did NOT want to be (1) the slow ones holding everything up, or (2) asked to please hurry and say goodbye. So, we were super efficient :o)
|I just had the thought, "wouldn't it be funny if she and that random missionary met up later at BYU after their missions and got married, and I had this picture of them?" haha...|
Camille will be awesome. She is now "Sister Larson" and will probably not say her first name more than 3 or 4 times over the next year and a half. She is more prepared than most people I know that go on missions because it's been her goal for so long. Farewell, Sister Larson!