The Party to Say Goodbye – Mormon Missionary Farewells – Meigi’s Going to Panama

Mormon* Missionary Farewells. They really aren’t supposed to be a thing anymore, but I haven’t figured out how you are supposed to tell all your extended family and friends that they can’t come wish a loved one well before he or she embarks on a self-paid journey of service for 18 months or two years. And although I’m certain that Meigi would like to be able to quietly fade away into the land of Panama for the next 18 months, I’m equally certain that it’s good for everyone to occasionally be reminded of the fact that we each are significant in the lives of others. Meigi thought about six people outside the immediate family would reply to her Facebook Event invitation, but she’s had over 50. It’s been quite a shock to her. I think when she was much younger she felt like she mostly just had borrowed friends, because she and her sisters had so many friends in common, but now she’s realizing how much that’s changed, especially since she and her sisters have begun on their separate journeys in life.

Today Meigi gives her “farewell talk.” Actually she’s giving two of them (because she loves speaking in church so much – not), one in her singles’ ward (congregation), and one in our “home/family” ward. She realized that if she didn’t speak in her singles’ ward, the entire Relief Society meeting there (ladies auxiliary meeting) would end up relocating to our home ward for the Sacrament meeting (worship service) so they could hear her speak. Thinking that may not be the best situation, she went to the brand-newly-called bishop of the singles’ ward and offered to speak there as well.

ScripturesThere’s a lot that leads in to preparing to send a missionary out. Of course the real work and preparation are done in the years beforehand, with family and personal devotional time every day, as well as regularly engaging in service to others and learning some self-sufficiency skills such as cooking, laundry, budgeting time and money, and learning how to live away from home with for extended periods of time. Generally speaking no one is ever completely prepared, especially for the live away from home part. Meigi’s had plenty of practice living on her own (with roommates) in foreign countries, so hopefully that will not be too challenging to do again.

Still, in the past, we’ve been able to Skype or Google Chat whenever we desired, and one of our favorite things was getting surprise calls in the middle of the night asking for help to prepare a church lesson or better understand something she was reading in the scriptures. This time communication is limited to weekly emails and twice-a-year phone calls on Mother’s Day and Christmas. My guess is that we will have two phone calls with her while she’s gone, since she will still be in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) on Mother’s Day, and they don’t really have the facilities to handle thousands of missionaries calling out at the same time. There is sometimes one other phone call they are allowed to make, and that is from the airport just before they leave the MTC to go to their designated place of service. This will be quite near to Mother’s Day, so hopefully we’ll still hear from her.

She’ll be set apart for her calling as a missionary (given a special blessing by a priesthood leader) on Tuesday night. Writing those words just now made my stomach clench a little. I avoid count-downs – for me they prolong the anxiety associated with some events. Now I’m forced to face just now soon all this really is happening.

Last night we had family portraits taken and a big family feast at Saffron Valley Indian Street Foods restaurant in Sandy, UT, near-ish to where we had the photos done. It’s a tiny little place, and when we showed up, all 10 of us, with no advance notice, and saw how tiny it actually was, we were worried that they wouldn’t be able to accommodate us. One of the employees saw us outside and came out and said, just a moment and he’d make a place for us. About 60 seconds later we were shown into a downstairs room with two banquet folding tables and chairs and they were taking orders for our drinks. By the way, they make one of the best salty lassis I’ve ever had (it’s never on the menus, you have to ask). I was told the mango lassi was also very good. The food was fantastic and they accommodated everyone’s special diet restrictions – gluten-free, as well as vegan. I loved that they made it so easy that way. It was the last time Meigi will see some of her siblings before she leaves, so the hugs as we left were long and tight.

The day is soon to dawn, though as I write this the moon is dangling brightly out my window. Today we will listen, and laugh, and talk, and eat together with friends and family. Once again, the hugs will be long and tight when we part, but oh, what joy to have children who desire to serve others enough to work to earn the money to leave current family and friends for many months to make new friends and give of themselves to others, both spiritually and physically.

I hope I have enough paper cups and plates. And Kleenex.


*Mormon: A nickname given to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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