We were even more thrilled to hear that all our children were coming to Provo to see and support their little brother off on his mission. This is no small task -- Kevin from San Antonio, Amy from Philadelphia, Shannon from Los Angeles, Tyler from Ruby Valley, Nevada and Kendra from New York. Fortunately, Kirk (Heber City) and Heidi (Springville) live relatively close, but the others had long trips at significant expense to come. Marsha couldn't bear the thought of all the 8 children being together for several days, and her not being there. Well, we were even more thrilled when the church leaders gave her permission to make a short, quick, and quiet trip back to Provo to be with the eight and see Drew into the MTC.
Here's Mom putting the missionary badge on Drew.
Now we're equal -- Mom's badge is in French and Drew's in Spanish -- but don't these two missionaries look great together? Mom's a little bleary from her 24 hour flight from the Congo back to Provo, and maybe a little teary about this great blessing for our family. The next day she was on the plane back to the Congo: she had a 24 hour layover in Paris and had some time to catch up on her sleep, and was I ever glad to see her walk out of the terminal?? here in Kinshasa.
Fortunately while we were gone, Drew had some wonderful support. Our bishop, Brian Snelson was marvelous to work with Drew and their family welcomed Drew to stay with them for the last three weeks before he entered the MTC.
Another great "mom" to Drew while we were gone is Debbie Christensen. While she and her husband, Elder Craig Christensen served in Mexico City four years for the church, we had the privilege of having their son Ben live with us for two years. Ben is now just finishing his mission in the Chile Santiago North Mission, so Drew and Ben will be in the same city (but different missions) for several months before Ben comes home. Debbie and Craig have been marvelous in their support and love for Drew and we thank them so much.
Part of the MTC entering experience is being there with family. We don't have space for all the pictures, but here's Drew with his niece, Mae Edwards. Mae's dad, Jay, has been a special friend for Drew, often playing golf together, and Drew worked in Jay's very successful business, J-Dawgs, for many months. (See j-dawgs.com for the best dawg in Provo and some interesting articles about J-Dawgs.) Well, why not get some pub for J-Dawgs while we can -- I may be working there myself, slinging dawgs if this crazy economic decline keeps on happening!!
Another special set of friends are Kirk and Tricia's children -- here's Sarah Kiley and Jake. Jake is a little emotional to see his uncle head off for two years. It's OK Jake, I've shed many tears in the MTC as we've said Goodbye to our children for their missions.
For years we lived across the back fence from great neighbors, Dee and Gayle Bailey. They had the cutest girl, Josee, who was just a little older than Drew. Josee loved to jump on their trampoline, and we would see her flying in the air like a "jack in the box", disappearing behind the fence and then reappearing. She grew up to be a beautiful young lady, and to Marsha's great joy, Josee and her parents were there as Josee was entering the MTC the same day as Drew to start serving her mission in Hawaii. Here's Gayle doing the "badge honors" for Josee.
Missions are wonderful blessings for many. Those who serve learn so much about themselves and are blessed as they serve others. Missions are not easy -- in fact they are very challenging. But that is how we grow. The missionary's family receives great blessings for the sacrifices of giving up their loved ones and the financial sacrifice of supporting their missionary. But the greatest blessings are for those whom receive the message of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and enter into the Church. How grateful we are that Drew will have this wonderful privilege.