From the moment we arrived at the Mission Training Center we realized this was no ordinary place. In an instant the man who greeted us had young missionaries (aka elders) grabbing our bags and escorting us to the senior missionary housing, which is comparable to a nice hotel. We are on the upper floors of the building and the mailroom, bookstore, health services and travel offices are on the other floors. Everywhere we go the young elders hold the doors for us, ask us where we're headed and in general are super fun to be around. The young missionaries from other countries wear distinct tags, as do the really new ones, so they get extra care and attention. Returned missionaries teach our classes with tremendous enthusiasm and deep spiritual insight. The whole place runs like a well oiled machine, which is incredible, given there are about 2500 young missionaries and probably 80 senior missionaries. Today was our p day, so we had time off for study, laundry and an opportunity to sleep a little later than our usual 6:00 AM wake-up. From Monday until Friday the only time off we had was about 45 minutes to unpack. Our class time was from 8 AM to 8 PM with time off for lunch and dinner. By the time we got to our Spanish tutor at 6:00 PM we were having to work hard to concentrate on our irregular verbs.
The senior missionaries were divided into districts. We thoroughly enjoyed our group, who were heading to Russia, northern California, a Texas military base, Finland and Guatemala. Our young instructor served her mission in Quetzaltenango (Xela) and was delightful.
This has been a surreal Christmas, without any of the usual hustle and bustle. It caught me by surprise the first evening we were walking the campus and saw these beautiful Christmas lights. I simply can't say enough good about what we've experienced. It has been an unusual combination of exhaustion and food for the spirit.
While we were in class on Dec. 1st, I received a text from our son Jon, saying Jess had just delivered little Camden Francis, 6 lb. 14 oz. He's healthy and adorable, as later email photos proved. We couldn't be more grateful.