As soon as I’m over this annoying cold I’ve managed to catch, I’m shopping for a tie for our good friend Mitchell. On March 6th, Mitchell becomes Elder Garey, called to serve in the Spanish-speaking Florida Tampa Mission. Both Akemi and I congratulate him on his call and are so proud of his preparation to serve this mission.
We also are having a hard time processing the reality that we both are at the age when Akemi’s contemporaries are serving missions for our church. The young men typically embark on two-year missions after they turn 19. Young women, if they opt for a mission, serve 18-month missions after they turn 21.
For me, our young friends who are going off to the far corners of the earth were babies born just yesterday, it seems. For Akemi, the missionary farewells represent the inexorable march towards adulthood. Going off to college was one thing, but yikes! having your friends on missions – that’s serious sign of growing up.
Elder Garey is the latest addition to an impressive roster of our young friends out “in the field,” as we say. Currently serving are:
Elder Rudy Becerra, Iowa Des Moines Mission
Elder Chris Buffum, Chile Viña Del Mar Mission
Elder Erik Hansen, Denmark Copenhagen Mission
Elder Doug Muhlestein, Taiwan Taichung Mission
Sister Whitney Muhlestein, Russia Yekaturinburg Mission
Elder Philip Ngo, Singapore Mission
Elder Cory Roberts, Paraguay Asunción Mission
Elder Jack Spencer, Mexico Hermosillo Mission
Elder Derek Standing, Idaho Pocatello Mission
Many people think of our white-shirt-and-name-badge missionaries when they think of our church. I think of how worn their suits and skirts, shirts and blouses, and shoes get as they serve in all kinds of weather, often on foot or on bikes, living in circumstances very different from home. Mothers have a list of clothes and supplies they check off as they prepare to send off their missionary – two suits, five slacks, ten shirts!
Our Pasadena Ward has had a tradition started a number of years ago by Michael, the father of Elder Erik Hansen, when he was himself the young bishop here. One young man in our ward getting ready to leave on his mission (I think it was Taylor S.) kept admiring a particular tie of Bishop Hansen’s. On the day of the departing elder’s farewell, Bishop Hansen surprised the missionary by taking off that tie while standing at the podium and giving it to him, saying he hoped the missionary would wear it knowing of the love and support from not only the giver, but from the entire ward. Bishop Hansen continued this practice for other departing missionaries on his watch. Bishop Hansen’s successor, Monte Harrick, continued this custom, as well.
Bing was really looking forward to sending off at least three missionaries during the time he anticipated being bishop. He got to send off Shannon S., but died before Tim Y.’s call. On the day of Tim’s farewell, Bishop McAlister gave him a tie I had saved of Bing’s (one of his few “regular” ties, as Bing almost exclusively wore bow ties). One of Bing’s ties made it into the mission field after all.
I haven’t been as consistent as I would have liked about getting ties out to our young departing elders, but Akemi reminded me we must do this for Mitchell. Whether it’s with a tie, or through an occasional letter, or most importantly by our prayers, we want our friends to know we think of them and support them in the sacrifices and efforts they are making. And we look forward to welcoming them home, eager to hear of their experiences.