This week has been a deviation from the schedule we have become accustomed to. While at the Missionary Training Center, Elder Summers has had a “preparation day” on Thursdays. This meant that he would be able to read any email sent to him on that day and reply. This meant that we would hear from him, normally in the early afternoon.
It was therefore somewhat of a surprise that we received an email on Monday this week. Rather than an email telling us about how his week had gone and what lay ahead, it was instead sent just to his parents with a brief (and I mean very brief) description of what his week would be like.
Elder Summers left for the Mission Training Center (MTC) on May 25, 2016. The plan would be for him to spend three weeks there preparing before going to Georgia. We were not given an exact date of when he would leave Utah. In his email, Elder Summers explained that he would fly out of Salt Lake City Utah on Tuesday June 14, 2016 and that his flight would leave at 7:05 AM.
His travel plans would mean he and his companion missionaries would board a bus from the MTC at 3:30 AM to go to the airport. At the airport they would check in their baggage and go through security then wait at the gate to board the plane. During that wait at the gate, each of the missionaries would be given a few minutes to call home and talk to the family. Elder Summers estimated that would be at approximately 5:00 AM Utah time or 4:00 AM Arizona time.
Needless to say, the house was electric at the thoughts that we would actually be hearing from Elder Summers in person. Typically missionaries are only allowed to contact home via mail or email for most of the year. There are two times where they are able to video chat – once for Mother’s Day and the other on Christmas. So this was an unexpected treat especially just a few days before Father’s Day.
For the remainder of Monday we talked about nothing but the upcoming phone call and what we wanted to say. It’s funny how much you take for granted talking to each of your children. It is only when they are away and without contact that you realize what a blessing it is to be able to reach out to them to see how they are doing, give a little encouragement, or sympathize with the struggles they may have.
All of these emotions can only be magnified by our Heavenly Father. I am sure he knows each of us personally and loves hearing from us whether it is to ask for help with a challenge we are facing or just to call home and tell Him how much we love Him and our Heavenly Mother. In that light I am very humbled that I don’t pray more often. He needs to hear from us and we definitely need to keep Him close to us.
We tried to go to sleep Monday night but I don’t think anyone closed their eyes. We were all too afraid that we might sleep through the phone ringing and miss the call from Elder Summers. I finally couldn’t stand laying in bed any longer and went downstairs around 3 AM thinking I would just sit up and wait.
I made my way downstairs to find that Tiffany had come over to be here for the call. She was laying on the couch but she couldn’t sleep either. We sat and talked about Elder Summers and how much we missed him. A few minutes later Trina joined us downstairs and before long Whitney was there as well. We talked but everyone continued to stare at the phone willing it to ring.
Finally the phone came alive and we gathered around it to once again hear Elder Summers voice. I cannot tell you how much joy we felt for this young man. Although he has only been gone three weeks he has changed. Before leaving he was hesitant to speak and while he had a testimony of Jesus Christ he was not forceful. Now though he has had personal experience of the great Plan of Salvation and knows how much our Savior loves us and cares for us.
It was amazing to hear about the experiences he has had and how much he is looking forward to getting to Georgia to meet the people there. He has so much love for them even though he has never met any of them.
Trina of course played the part of mother beautifully making sure he was eating properly and that he had enough shampoo and toothpaste to last him until she could send him a box. There is nothing more genuine than the love a mother has for her child. Elder Summers did ask for a new long-sleeved white shirt since he washed a blue paper in his while at the MTC and there was now a bright blue stain on the pocket. He just threw the shirt away rather than packing it so he was short a shirt. This was typical of Dakota and reminded us that he hadn’t changed too much.
The telephone call was way too short. In the end we said our good byes and prayed that he would travel safely and be in good spirits until we meet again. It was less traumatic letting go this time. Maybe it was the fact that we didn’t watch him walk down the jetway knowing it would be 24 months before we saw him again. Maybe it was the Spirit’s way of letting us know that he is being watched over and is where he needs to be.
For the remainder of Tuesday Trina tracked the progress of the flight watching the airplane icon travel across her screen adding distance between her and her son. When the plane arrived in Atlanta Georgia there was a small sigh of relief followed by a tear of joy that was quickly wiped away.
Elder Summers is now in Georgia where he will remain for another 23 months doing the work of the Lord. He will spend the first night at the mission home where there will be a dinner welcoming all of the new missionaries followed by a testimony meeting where they can share what the gospel means to them.
The following day will be busy as the Elders receive their bicycles and get trained on taking care of their transportation. They will also be assigned areas and a new companion at which point they will begin settling into the work.
Going forward Elder Summers will have a P-Day (preparation day) on Mondays meaning that we should hear from him on Monday and update the blog accordingly. We will continue to pray for him and for all of those reading this message.
Elder Summers has become such an important part of all of our lives and I know that each of us have been touched by this young man. Please continue to stay in touch with him whether by email, letter, or through comments to this blog.
At this moment we do not yet have his mailing address in Georgia. You can send him letters in care of the Mission Home which has been updated on the web site. All packages should be sent to the Mission Home for the duration of his mission but letters can be sent to an address he will provide.
May the Lord continue to bless us and Elder Summers so that he is able to touch the lives of those he meets and share this message with him. So many people are looking for answers and if they turn to the Lord with an open heart He will hear their prayers and give them light and knowledge that they need.