From the Parent of a Missionary
American Airline flight 1980 out of Salt Lake City took my son to Guatemala City today. Leaving at 12:20 PM and passing through Dallas/Fort Worth, he was on the ground by 7:00 PM Central Time.
As a frequent traveler, I have seen many missionaries in the SLC airport, both coming and going. Coming in to SLC always causes crowds on the baggage claim areas, but I have not seen the missionaries in the numbers that you do when they leave.
On departure days, the airport is full of young men and women in suits headed off to various world wide destinations. They gather in one of two locations, either in groups that are traveling on the same flights to their common destinations; Hong Kong ; Bangkok, Thailand; London, England; or Boise, Idaho, or they are in line at the pay phones. The SLC airport does not have enough pay phones.
Each missionary is told they can have 10 minutes to make a call home to their parents. Not because 10 minutes is enough, but because the line is too long. I would phone calls were born out of the new TSA rules not allowing non-travelers past security. Way back when, family and friends would meet the missionary in the airport to send them off. That was great for families that could make it to SLC, not so fun for those missionaries who had no family to send them off. Now, everyone gets 10 minutes on the phone.
We got our call today. Justin had emailed us saying he would call us some time between 9 and 11 AM. I believe my son will someday be the cable man, cause he called right at 11. It was great to hear his voice. We covered a few “business items,’” like did he get his package, did the shirts fit, thanks for the Rubik’s cube. Then we talked about how things were going, his companions and thanks for letters. Then Justin says, “I have one minutes left, what do you want to talk about now?” What kind of question is that and was he timing the call or the next missionary in line giving him the eye? I was really happy and excited to be on the call until he so abruptly announced that it was almost over, then I had to hold back the tears.
I realized later that I should not complain. While in my day of serving a mission families could meet their missionary at the airport, they were not allowed phone calls. During his time away from home, Justin will be able to call us twice a year; once on Mother’s Day, and once on Christmas. When I was on a mission, my mother and father had to hope that I would write to them, for that was the only communication they were allowed. And I, a very slow hand writer, did not like writing, so they might have gotten one letter a month from me. How bad was that?
I will not get to talk to Justin until December 25th, 2012. 168 days from today. My parents went 18 months without speaking to me. The amazing thing to me: My mother’s brother lived in Los Angeles where I was serving and my parents visited him while I was serving. I did not know they were there until after I got home. I asked her why she had not visited and she said, “The mission president had asked us not to contact you, so we didn’t.” Just like that. I wonder; if I have reason to be in Guatemala over the next two years, would I stay away from my son. That would be hard, especially if I was not be allowed to talk to him twice a year.
I love my mother and father for their support of me. The older I get and the more experiences I have, the more turn about comes to me and I come to understand the sacrifices they have made for me. That is all part of the plan of eternal families though, building bonds over decades that cannot be broken, here or in heaven.
I love you son. Work hard, obey all the rules, don’t stop praying, and let the Spirit guide you daily and you will find greater joy than you have ever known, though it will not be as great as the joy you will have as a father.