18 May 2015

Guest Post:TMFKATB Reflects on His First Eight Months of Service

It had never dawned on me to offer up the opportunity for a guest post here in the Den. Then The Missionary Formerly Known As The Boy (TMFKATB) returned home to heal a bit. While he is progressing, we are eagerly awaiting some test results which will give us definitive insight into what's next. In the week he's been home now, he has shared some stories from his experiences as a missionary in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico. As he was telling us a story one night, I realized I needed to have him share a bit here in the Den and in his mission blog. What follows are his reflections, in his own words:

First, I would like to talk about my time in Mexico. The 8 months while being away were the best 8 months I could have asked for. Since the moment I landed in Mexico, my love for the country and its people began to grow. I started my time in Mexico with the best trainer I could have asked for. Before entering the field, many people told me i should pray to receive a good trainer because they can really start the feeling of a mission. My trainer was definitely an answer to many prayers. We hit it off from the beginning and we both just had a huge desire to work. My first area was one of the harder areas in the mission that hasn't seen "success" in a very long time. When i arrived, my companion told me we were going to leave the area better than we found it. Thanks to the grace of god, i think we were able to do that. That area will always be my favorite and something i will never forget. The lessons i learned there were incredible. I learned the power of obedience and the miracles that come from it. Some of my favorite families came from that area. Following my short training with my trainer, I was called to train and be a district leader. I felt so incapable of doing those two things, for i had not had a full grip on the language yet, let alone much experience in the field and the ability to motivate my district of missionaries. I ended up opening a new area and training a brand new missionary from Guatemala. I was forced to open my mouth and talk to everyone in my new area. This speeded up my learning of spanish ten fold. I had to do everything, just as my first companion had to do everything when i arrived in my first area. In this area i saw the power yet again of miracles. I began to get super sick again and as a companionship, we saw lots of trials in our area. We weren't seeing lots of "success" but we decided we would change some things and we just went to work. By the end of my time there we saw miracles. I learned patience and the power of prayer in my time there. I was often getting switched around with other missionaries that transfer due to my companion getting sick as well as myself. I saw so many things i would never have seen if i weren't in that situation. The lord was preparing me in so many ways. I was able to do a lot in those 8 months in Mexico. The things i learned there will only prepare me for my next phase ahead of me. as i got home, there were a lot of different things i am still getting used to again. A hot shower feels foreign to me still and it burnt me pretty good the first time. the amount of things we have in the states still shocks me. the support i have felt from my family principally and then from all my friends and people i don't even know has been wonderful. I know that this next phase will be incredible. I know that the lord needed me in mexico for the short time i was there. he prepared me in many ways for my next mission and i am positive i will see the reasons for why a lot of things happened while in mexico in my next mission. I love missionary service and i am itching to get back out there. The only thing i do is trust in the lord because if i do anything else, this would all be not worth it and i would be pretty upset. The fact is that i needed to be in mexcio for while i was there and i know there is things i will only be able to learn in my next area. for that reason i am going there. the lord does not get confused or make errors. i can't wait to see the reasons of all these events in these upcoming 16 months!

So there you have it. Many of you don't know TMFKATB personally but he, as he said, has felt your support. We have too, and I can't say it enough, but thank you again.

16 May 2015

Progress

Kind of home (baggage claim doesn't really count)
It was funny how time seemed to sail by in between our weekly communications as TMFKATB served in Mexico. When we learned about ten days ago that he would be returning home for medical reasons, time all but came to a standstill.

Since his return this past Monday night, time marches on, albeit slowly. His return was an understated affair. None of the over-the-top shenanigans any of you who have passed through the Salt Lake City International Airport have most certainly seen. No videographer, no posters or balloons, no play-in music, no throngs of acolytes. Just two mildly anxious parents waiting to see their son walk through the Curtain of Incompetence (aka airport security). He walked through alone and into  our arms. Given the amount of weight he'd lost, it was easy to wrap him up in our collective embrace. His belt was doing the same, given that it could nearly wrap around him twice. Tears freely flowed from all of us.

We knew he didn't want to be here. His heart is with the people he was serving. As he walked around our kitchen when he got home, he marveled that our kitchen floor was not made of dirt. He opened our refrigerator and said, "We have so much." Ironically, we'd barely filled it in advance of his return as we did not know if he was going to be on a normal diet or throwing back Ensure like a 78 year old geriatric patient. The emotional adjustment was looking tougher than the physical at that point.

Five days later, I can report progress is being made. TMFKATB has seen multiple doctors and has had multiple tests. For whatever reason, I've decided to exercise a modicum of restraint and NOT describe a few of them. I can tell you that after his GI doctor reviewed the notes from the doctor in Mexico, confirming that it was a good thing that he came home when he did,  as well as after his initial exam, we are cautiously optimistic. The test results, expected early next week, will confirm that optimism. It looks like this is entirely manageable. This means a new assignment to serve will not be too far off.

In the meantime, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I are working to get a little more meat on him. He wears a hoodie everywhere to stay warm. May I remind you that it's spring here? Everyone else is in shorts and he is freezing. Nothing a couple of extra sandwiches can't fix, right?

Yes, this week which went a little bit slower can be summed up in one word: progress. Our son is making progress in getting back to full health. He is making progress on his goals to stay focused on missionary service. We, as his parents, are progressing, too. This has been a time of learning for us. It's been a time of learning to become more willing to accept the kindness of others. The outpouring of support from all of you has been awe-inspiring. Your words, offers of assistance, your prayers have been felt and appreciated. For many of you who spend time here in the Den, this LDS mission experience is completely foreign and perhaps a tad peculiar, but you have been so kind in your expressions of concern and offer of prayer. We are grateful for all of that and can tell you, those prayers have been felt and heard. We thank you and are in your debt.

So. progress. Here's to more of it this upcoming week! We recognize this is a unique opportunity to have our son home, but we know he'd rather be back out, serving in the mission field. We'll do our best to get him there.

10 May 2015

Coming Home

If you've been following the adventures of our son, TMFKATB, of late in his missionary service, you'll know that his gastrointestinal system has gone into full angry rebellion. That's never a good thing and things have escalated quickly.

When your key operating systems/defenses go into rebellion, what do you do? You pull out the big guns and throw all your resources at it to quell the insurgence. At least that's what you do according to the "Hunger Games" and "Divergent" series, right, Katniss and Tris? To that end, our missionary son will be returning home tomorrow so that the big guns, AKA GI docs and their ilk, can get a full picture of what's going on, quell the insurgence and get him better.

This coming home is an extremely difficult thing for him. He does not want to come home. He wants nothing more than to stay among the people he has grown to love in their country. He has the presence of mind though to understand that whatever is afflicting him is not going to relent if he stays where he is, so he knows that a change in plans is what is best at this time. He wants nothing more than to get better and serve once again, even if that means he can't return to Mexico. In the last couple of days, his mission president told him, "You were called by God to serve and that's what matters; where you serve is the assignment, not the calling." That counsel will no doubt serve him well in the coming days.

Since this escalated so quickly over the last 48 hours or so, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I have been fraught with a slew of emotions. We are so proud of our son. We are hurting for his ongoing physical challenges and for the pain of having to leave his mission and the people he has grown to love in the time that he has been there.  We are humbled by the love shown us by our Church family. Our bishop (local lay clergy leader) stood before our congregation this morning and with genuine care and concern, announced our son's impending return and solicited the prayers of our church family on his behalf. It was a beautiful moment, marred by the muffled sobs of some ugly crier in one of the pews. Oh, wait, that ugly crier was me. Well played, sir, well played.

While we can't be certain what the coming days will bring, we are confident in the knowledge that it is all a part of the greater plan God has for our son and us. Truth be told, a 'sneak preview' of what's in store as far as that plan is concerned would be nice. In saying that though, I know it's not going to happen. Instead, we'll take comfort in the peace we felt as we talked to our boy yesterday. We'll take comfort in the peace we felt with our church family today.

We know this will all work out in the end.

09 May 2015

A gift given a day early

So this just happened...
For the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, Mothers Day came a day early. We just got off a joyous Skype session with our daughters, our grandson, our nearly twerking son-in-law, and TMFKATB, our missionary son! As he is currently in the mission office, Sunday is pretty much a work day, so he was able to call his Mom and family today. It was, in a word, sweet.

Delighted to report that he is still The Boy. He, along with four other missionaries, kicked the call off serenading his mother in Spanish with a song dedicated to moms. One of them was even playing a guitar. I can assure you that they will not be replacing One Direction or their ilk any time soon, but they were number one in the heart of TMFKATB's mom. She loved it. His spirits are good as is his attitude and outlook. He had us laughing with his singsongy accented English and his inability to remember certain English phrases. His Spanish is quite good. He has declared my Spanish, well, bad. Apparently, my Cuban Spanish and its delightful dropping of certain consonants with abandon is an offense to his Mexican-infused ears. I see a language showdown in our future.

Suffice to say, it was so good to have us all on and able to see and hear him. He is at peace. He said that time and again. We needed to know that more than words can express right now. Knowing that he is at peace, he has given his mother the best Mothers Day gift and he doesn't even realize it. It's one of those tender mercies that we are sometimes given unexpectedly. I'm going to cherish it.