Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 99: Fields of Gold, Chapter 8

In small-town Utah, when your mission call comes in that distinctive white envelope, the post office will call you first thing in the morning and tell you to come and get it. I had been hoping and hoping that my call would come, but--for some reason--I had given up on it coming for that week. They sent calls out on Tuesday from Salt Lake, so it would've made the 50 mile south migration by Wednesday or Thursday, I figured. When Thursday came and went with no call, I put on my patience and geared up for another week of waiting.

I worked, those days, at the Missionary Training Center at 5:00 in the morning. I went about my work that day, and then--as I went to check out--was greeted by one of my friends in the office, holding a hand written note: Your mom says to call home. Your call is there.

I collapsed into a chair. It was there. The decision was made. And my honest to goodness first thought was "Please not Nebraska, Please not Nebraska, Please not Nebraska."

Unlike people who are more righteous than me, who always say that they'll go "Wherever the Lord wants to send me", I had never been hesitant in expressing that I hoped to serve OUTSIDE the United States. I spoke German, so I dreamed of Europe, but would've been happy with any crazy destination. Thailand sounded awesome. Maybe Fiji. Chile, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan--so many places had crossed my mind. Now, it seemed obvious that I would be sent to the Arizona, Phoenix Mission or the Ohio, Columbus Mission. Not that there was anything wrong with that...for other people.

I drove slowly to my mom's office, where she had the envelope. I took my time. Now that fate was decided, I was a little hesitant to meet it. Arriving there, she had it propped against a south facing window, hoping to see something--anything--of the contents. It had been arranged that my whole family would meet at home at 6:30 that night, where I would open my call. (Whole family excluding my younger brother that was serving a mission in Washington state.) I stared at the envelope and talked to my mom. She finally said "Aren't you even going to hold it???"

I crossed over and picked it up. It was light. Too light to contain papers for visa applications. My heart plunged. I flipped it over and started wiggling the flap, trying to peek inside. I saw "Provo, Utah on Wednesday"... this meant that I was going to the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center and not the training center in Brazil or England. My mom told me not to open it, and I shooed her off. "I'm not. I'm just..." I counted two lines up and saw "w i t z". Witz. Witz. And it dawned on me, slowly--like a glorious sunrise. Switzerland.

Without another thought, I tore open the envelope and extracted the letter. I had to know if I was right. I had to see the words for myself. There it was--I had been called to serve for 18 months as a missionary, assigned to serve in the Switzerland, Zurich Mission. I would be speaking German. I was to report 11 weeks from that date.

In those moments, reading that letter, I don't think my feet were touching the ground. I had dreamed of every place on the planet, but even I had not considered Switzerland. No one went to Switzerland. I did not dream, then, of the incredible challenges that I would face. I could not have comprehended the enormous task in front of me, or how it would shape my life forever.

For the next 11 weeks, I bought shirts and skirts and pantyhose. I brushed up on my German, and learned all that I could about Switzerland. I put my whole life, like a puzzle, into a big blue suitcase.

On the night before I left, Dave came to my house. We sat in my room, and we talked for hours and hours. He sat in a rocking chair, and I sat at his feet. We talked about school, his family, and his girlfriend Mary, and how things were going between them. I watched him as he spoke and I wondered where he would be, in 18 months. He would graduate college while I was gone. I asked him to write to me, and he said that he would. I promised to write him back.

As we shook hands goodbye (I was already set-apart as a missionary, so no hugs) and I watched him walk away to his car, I wondered if I would ever see him again. I wondered if he would care if I didn't.


Denise said...

So good. When you're up to current in life you're gonna have to start making things up to keep us all happy!

Carly said...

What's wrong with NEBRASKA!????

Just kidding. That's why I left when I was 18.

: )