A year ago on this day we were all a nervous wreck. The previous evening the Stake President and Bishop came to our house and you were set apart as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
When you were set apart you needed a companion to be with you until your flight left the following day for Salt Lake City Utah where you travel to Provo and the Mission Training Center. I had the privilege of being your first companion on your mission. It is an honor I will never forget even if it was for just 12 hours.
We didn’t go tracting nor were we a typical companionship. I suppose I was the senior companion a fact that pointed more to me being much older than having more experience in the mission field. Looking back, I may be your worst companion on your mission.
I had very little pearls of wisdom to share and my personal prayers and scripture study are unorthodox to say the least. The only thing I could stress is something your mother taught me long ago. If you have faith in your Heavenly Father and diligently try to keep all of his commandments you will be blessed. Not only will the Lord bless you but your family and those you are teaching.
Early in your life you made the decision to go on a mission. You worked hard to do what was right and to be prepared in every way to serve. You have been a tremendous example for all who you come in contact with.
I was amazed at how well you were prepared that morning when it was time to go to the airport. The countless classes and personal study you went through hoped to give you confidence in going to teach the word of God. You were much more prepared than mom or I were in letting you go.
I’ve often wondered why the church does not have a missionary prep class for parents. There were so many things we had no idea about. We were clueless about what exactly went on at a P-Day or the logistics of transfers. We weren’t sure the protocol of what should or should not be included in letters and emails. We were so afraid of being a distraction on your mission but were also worried that you would feel neglected if we didn’t tell you what was going on.
We weren’t even sure what exactly to do when taking you to the airport. None of us wanted to say good-bye and no one wanted to shed the first tear. It seemed silly to be so emotional about a plane ride or you going to do the right thing but we love you so much and did not want to let you go even it if meant others would find their Heavenly parents because of your service.
Mom and I kept telling ourselves that two years is not that long and will go by quickly. That is probably more wishful thinking than reality. Thinking back, it feels as though we said good-bye forever ago and your return seems so distant in the future.
But we somehow kept it together at least until you were out of sight. The ride home from the airport without you was the longest drive of my life. I kept reminding myself that you are on the Lord’s errand now and he would protect you as we did.
Mom monitored your flight by the minute and we waited for a call saying you had arrived safely. That began a weekly occurrence. We would eagerly send you emails hoping we were saying the right things to encourage you and offer our help and guidance anyway we could. We (mostly mom) would fret whether you were eating well, sleeping, if you needed anything, and in general worry about you the way she does all of her children.
I tried to be more pragmatic and walk a fine line between telling you about things at home and offer ideas and suggestions that could help smooth out any rough spots you were going through.
We would devour your emails each week and dissect each word and sentence trying to understand how you were really doing or if there was something we needed to say, some clue of how you were doing.
Your time away has been hard both on you as well as the family. Things are constantly changing and as such we have had our share of joyful moments and sorrow.
The most devastating part was last December when I had to write and tell you about the passing of your grandmother. She loved you so much and was always asking about you. She would read your weekly emails to grandpa. Your mission was as much a part of teaching them as the people in Georgia.
We’ve followed along with you in each area praying for the people of Georgia that they would be receptive to your teachings and that you would touch the lives of everyone you meet. We were filled with joy as you taught the Brazeal family and were excited as they were baptized.
We’ve come to know and love each of your companions and pray for them and their families as well.
For the past year, you have hiked the mountain of your mission and today marks the day you have reached the peak. From there you can look around and recount each step it took to make it to where you are today. Starting tomorrow is the decent. Each step brings you closer and closer to your return.
That is both positive and negative. You can dwell on the trials and each rock in your path or you can look beyond that and instead see how far you have traveled and what sights you have seen along the journey.
For part of that journey you have probably felt as though you were walking alone carrying the weight of the world on your back but you were never alone. You have your Savior with you and you have your earthly family. We may not be able to shoulder the physical load of your mission but you have all of our love and support to make the journey seem lighter.
Starting today you have an opportunity to start a new path; one that will be filled with joy and wonder as you meet people who have been praying for you to arrive. You will have companions who will look to you for guidance and advice and pray that you will be the person that makes their mission remarkable.
You are an example to all whom you meet and you are clothed in the love of your family on earth and in heaven. We are all eager to see you succeed and return with honor.
I’d love to say the first half of your mission went by quickly but I’m not sure that is accurate. The year has been hard and the struggles have been great but the joy that fills our hearts with each new experience you have has made it worth it not just here but in heaven.
Dad & Mom