In case you're wondering what happens when you drop off a missionary at the MTC, it goes something like this.
1. You park your car and navigate the family and the missionary's luggage through a sea of other missionaries, their families and luggage, across the street to the front of the MTC.
2. At that point, a friendly volunteer directs you down a sidewalk where you drop off the missionary's luggage. That first volunteer and others stationed along the sidewalk instruct the missionary to remember the letter or number where they left their luggage because they will not be coming back to get it for a few hours.
3. You notice everyone is calling your son "Elder" and "Elder" isn't really used to his new title yet, so you have to keep telling him "Elder Evans, they're talking to you."
4. The family heads back around to the front entrance, where you see two doors. One is labeled "New Missionary Entrance." The other is labeled "Friends and Family entrance." You try to take a picture of a semi-impatient-looking Elder Evans in front of said "New Missionary Entrance." However, the entrance is in bright sunlight, so the exposure is completely blown... Oh well...You and the rest of the family enter the "Friends and Family of New Missionaries Entrance."
5. While Elder Evans checks in, you and the family wait. He comes over to where you are in a couple of minutes with this new name tag and a white card containing his MTC address. It's traditional for Mom to place the tag on the missionary's suitcoat. With that little formality, you suddenly realize, "He's a missionary now!" The nametag reads, "Elder Evans The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
6.You take a few pictures...looking at them later you realize everyone has that deer in the headlights look about them. I guess we were really nervous!
7. You head to the chapel, where the official orientation will take place. You sit down and nervously wait. You pass tissues down the row. Even Elder Evans asks for one.
8. The orientation begins with a welcome, a congregational hymn, "Called to Serve" and a prayer. You discover during "Called to Serve" that nothing comes out when you try to sing. The sound can't get past that big lump in your throat.
9. Following short talks by the MTC president and his wife, you watch a short movie about missionaries, appropriately named, "Called to Serve." This is followed by the closing prayer.
10. The moment of truth arrives. You've known this was coming, but it doesn't make it any easier. Gulp! Families are instructed that it is now time to say goodbye. The person conducting the meeting jokes about the "Bandaid Analogy". Just like removing a bandaid, the goodbye is a lot less painful is it's done quickly. HMMM. Not so sure about that one! But anyway...
11. Everyone stands up. You can hear the sobs of people all around you. You try to breathe in and breathe out. Your whole family is in tears. It's almost more than you can take to see your children and husband tearfully say goodbye to Nate.
12. It's your turn, Mom. You grab your firstborn and give him the longest, tightest hug you possibly can, hoping it will tide him (and you) over for two years. He whispers in your ear, "Don't worry. I'm going to be okay Mom. It's the right thing." You reply, "I know it is. You will do great. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it." You tell him you love him. He tells you the same. You kiss his cheek, brush your hand across his face, then watch him walk away to the door marked "Missionary Exit."
13. He turns around just once, gives us a brave smile and then he's gone.
14. The rest of us hug each other and make our way to the exit marked "Family and Friends."
15. You and the family drive home -- now 5 instead of 6. You feel drained, like a towel someone has wrung and twisted over and over.
So, that's a summary of the MTC experience. It was the most difficult thing I've ever done as a mom, but I also know it is one of the most important and wonderful things I could do. I know Nate has been called to the Canada Edmonton mission for a reason. There are people there only he can touch. I know the Lord will watch over him and bless him and our family while he is away.
I got sort of a long-distance hug from Nate today. Before he left, he ordered two dozen roses to be delivered to me today. So sweet. I bawled like a baby when I opened the box.
If you've made it this far, would you like to see some pictures of our MTC experience?
My three sons waiting to cross the street with Nate's luggage.
Nate posing by the famous MTC sign.
I put on Nate's nametag for the first time.
The fam with Elder Evans. I'm thinking we all look just a bit apprehensive!
The sweet gift I received from my missionary today!
These flowers are going to make for some nice macro shots over the next few days!