Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chapter 8: The Eye of the Storm- Part 1/5 The Call, packing, and leaving.

Back in nineteen fifty something, a young John Groberg was called to be a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to a remote group of islands in the Pacific called Tonga.

He served there for like 3 years, teaching, building, baptizing, and doing great things.  He wrote a book on his experience called The Eye of the Storm, which ended up becoming a movie called The Other Side of Heaven (starring Christopher Gorham and Anne Hathaway). This is one of my favorite movies ever.

Every time I watch this movie it just about brings me to tears.  I can really relate to what this guy went through (minus a hurricane or complete starvation) but for the most part, I can relate.

The life of a missionary for God, although simple, is not an easy one. And it's not supposed to be easy.

I'll tell you a bit about my experience.

Chapter 8: The Eye of the Storm.  This is going to be really long, and probably broken up into several parts.

I got my mission call during the fall of 2007.  My 19th birthday was on September 12, and I don't think I had even finished submitting my mission papers by then.  I think I was kind of slacking on it.

At any rate, they ended up getting sent in.  I was working on Frontier rig 5 at the time, and everyone knew I was planning on leaving for my mission. In fact, since I was the 6th man on a five man crew, the tool pusher decided to only put me on daylights. This would mean I would actually be on 2 crews, alternating every other week, so that I only worked the daylight shift.

Well, I remember getting my mission call.  Reed opened his at my dad's office before I had even gotten there, and texted me where he was going. Chile, Vina del Mar.

I was immediately thinking, gosh, I hope I don't get some lame stateside mission.....

I was going to wait til we were at home, and for Lee to be there and the girls.  My call was to Chile, Concepcion South. I remember explaining the mission call and stuff to my crew on the rig. They were all excited for me and glad I was going.

They didn't make it to the farewell, because they had a rig move, but they wanted to be there.  One night, a week or two before I left, I drove out to the rig with my girlfriend and my dad to show them around. I think I might even have one of the pictures we took with the crew.

I bought all my clothes, and shoes, and other needed things.  My dad let me have his nice luggage, the ones he used to travel the world with the Army.  Amazingly enough, I still use them to this day. Most missionaries' luggage doesn't last through the mission.

Anyway, packed and ready to go. Reed and I spoke in church the Sunday before leaving.  Sam Taylor spoke after us.

We were to enter the MTC on Wednesday, December 5th.  The night before leaving, we had to run down to the steak center to be set apart as a missionary (this is kind of an ordinance that is done in the church by authorized priesthood leaders).  I think I spent most of that whole Tuesday with Lee.  We were really going to miss each other. Immensely.  We knew it was going to be hard.  I don't think we knew how hard.

One day in the previous weeks, we had been out to Salt Lake on a date.  I took her to McGrath's fish house at the Gateway I believe. We were supposed to go watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing a Christmas program, but we arrived a little late and couldn't get in. So we walked around Temple Square, looking at the pretty lights, and then went to dinner.

She had ordered New England Clam Chowder, I had ordered the chef's special, apricot grilled halibut.  I was wearing a green shirt that she said looked amazing on me.  Something about my dark skin against that color of green really got her. She was wearing a green skirt and black earrings. She looked so pretty.  We rubbed our ankles together under the table as we sat waiting for our food.

I remember this moment while we were waiting, laughing and talking.  We just both stopped mid sentence, looking at each other. I furled my eyebrows, with a pained look on my face.  It was like, it hit us both simultaneously, the realization that this would soon end. It was a realization that for the next two years of our lives, we would be on different continents, in different hemispheres, different time zones.  We would have completely separate lives, for the first time in 4 years.

I think we both just about started crying, but somehow held it together.  I took her by the hand, and forced a sad smile. She did too.  "I hope I don't start bawling in the middle of this restaurant." She said, wiping a tear away. I chuckled, and held my breath for a moment.

After a a few moments, just looking deeply into each other's eyes; it could have been an hour, or a whole lifetime- I whispered softly to her,

"I'll miss you." I spoke quietly, choking back tears. I said it as if I'd never see her again, as if I was about to die, and we had been together for as long as we had both existed in the universe.

"I'll miss you, too." She replied.

Back to the night I got set apart.....

Quick interview with President LeBaron.  Big room full of the stake leadership and my family, and Lee.

I gave Lee a quick kiss before going into that room.  That would be the last kiss for two years. And who knew if we would ever be together again. The probabilities were against us.

I got set apart. We all walked outside to the parking lot. I gave her hand a squeeze, told her I loved her, and then we parted ways. Rough.

We entered the MTC the next morning.  And what a place it was.  9 weeks of intensive language learning, all you can eat mediocre food, and competitive four square. But that's for part 2 of the chapter.

Chapter 8: The Eye of the storm- 2/5 A new prophet, a new world.

I went from being a cocky roughneck with lots of money and a beautiful girlfriend, to a lost and poor servant of God in a foreign country.  From having a big mouth, to not being able to put a sentence together in Spanish. I was humbled quickly, and I needed every bit of inspiration I could find.

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