Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Final Gathering in Atlanta

Today was a fun day.  Austin called early early this morning to say goodbye from the Salt Lake City Airport.  He knew I would be at the Atlanta Airport and advised us that it was against mission rules to see friends or family, so he did not disclose his flight information.  But much to his surprise, I was at his arrival gate in Atlanta and he was not the least bit surprised when he saw me.  He was traveling with 11 other missionaries: 8 going to Panama and 4 to Honduras.  From all the pictures I sent Austin, his entire district knew who I was and immediately came to me when they exited the plane, Austin being the last to exit.  After some introductions and light teasing with one another, we decided to have lunch together at Blimpies, my treat of course.

I spent the whole afternoon with him talking about his MTC experience.  He was indeed a changed man.  He spoke confidently of the gospel, expressed excitement for the work, and we even spent time talking about some ideas for doing missionary work.  I actually felt 'important' and flattered all of a sudden to hear him ask about some of my experiences.  All the while, the other missionaries were quick to engage in missionary work with passengers waiting for their flight to Panama.  It was great to see them engaged in the work and doing it with eagerness and enthusiasm.  I couldn't help but wonder if that spiritual fire would be the same several months from now.  I was especially impressed with their ability to converse in Spanish, having only completed 8 weeks of training at the MTC.  Their MTC instructors (Sister Dezzeo and Elder Rivera) would have been proud of their pupils to witness them at work, as Sister Dezzeo magnificently described them, as the "Sons of Mosiah" in the service of their Heavenly Father. 

Finally, it was time to say goodbye.  As I reached out to shake their hands individually, they each came forward with a warm embrace as we bid farewell for the next 22 months.  We met at the airport as strangers, realized each other as Brethren of the Priesthood, and parted our separate ways as family.  It was great to visit with Austin for the first time as a newly trained missionary.  I was sad to say goodbye again, although the experience was not as painful this time around.  Austin's eyes and stature displayed a grown man with character and determination, and armed with a mighty testimony and an intense desire to serve his Heavenly Father.  He was determined to serve with all his heart, might, mind, and strength, for as he said, this could possibly be the last time he would ever serve in this capacity, and he wanted to do it right!  It was time to let him go.  Below are some pictures of his MTC experience.  They truly looked like a band of brothers.


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