Monday, May 12, 2014
How We Got Here
This should have been one of my very first posts because it is the beginning of our experience in Rio Gallegos. It is a story that we have shared with many people here. Some of you may not have heard it, so I have decided to share it here as well.
For those of you who may not know (or remember) my wife and I are active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am Mormon. It is one the of the things that defines me; just like being a husband, a father, and an engineer. Being Mormon is a critical portion of this story.
At the start of the 2012 school year my wife Gwen and I started looking at our lives. Matthew, our youngest child, was starting his senior year and we felt like it was time to make some changes. One of the things we have always wanted to do was to remodel our kitchen. Gwen enjoys cooking and our kitchen is just not very efficient. Gwen has managed our budget to the penny and she had saved up enough that she felt that even with Matthew going to school and his upcoming LDS church mission we could afford to finally do the remodel.
She talked to one of our friends, and he agreed to do the contracting and after Christmas we started to try to pick out counters, tile, cabinets, appliances and to take care of all the other things that need to happen in a remodel. This process was not going well. The choices were overwhelming, and at times information that we obtained seemed contradictory. We just weren't making much progress with the decisions required so that the work could start. Gwen finally told the contractor that we would make the necessary decisions so that work could start mid February.
In the middle of February 2013, I was sitting in a church meeting on a Sunday morning when suddenly the thought came to me, "You know, the money that you are going to spend on that remodel would pay for a mission." My first reaction was, "Where did that come from?" My second thought was, "Really, Lord? You're going to ask that from us? You know, you really should talk to my wife because it's her kitchen!" As a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I believe in a loving, personal God. I believe that He can and does reveal His will to us. I have had that experience a few times in my life but it is still a little unnerving when it occurs.
I will be honest and admit I was more than a little bit scared to mention this possibility to my wife. It took me a while to figure out how I was going to break this to her, and finally I just asked her, "What would you think about serving a mission sooner, rather than later?" Her off the cuff response was, "Sure," and she walked away thinking I meant maybe in 10 years instead of 15 when we could maybe actually retire. However, she said that this "sooner, rather than later" comment kept haunting her all week long. It was her turn to be a little bit frightened when she finally got around to asking me what I had meant by "sooner rather than later." I looked at her and said, "I think we are supposed to serve a mission when Matthew leaves on his mission. "But don't worry," I continued, "Matthew is planning on going to school for a year before his mission so we have a little bit of time to figure things out." Gwen looked at me and replied, "You don't know this, but Matthew changed his mind this week. He wants to leave this summer."
My immediate thought was, once again, "Really, Lord? You're going to ask this too?" But we knew without a doubt that He was asking us to drop everything else to serve him.
I had a scheduled trip to Japan and I was gone for the next two weeks. During that time Gwen scheduled doctors appointments, dentist appointments, and everything else that was required for us to prepare to serve as missionaries. The day after my trip, we had an appointment with our bishop (our local lay ecclesiastical leader) and told him of our desire. I think he was a little stunned. He is approximately my age and he had an understanding of the sacrifice that this was going to require. He was very supportive and set up the process so that we could begin to fill out the paperwork.
During this time, we did not tell anyone of our plans except for our children, and we told them that they were forbidden to tell anyone else! We finished the paperwork and scheduled an appointment with our Stake President (the lay supervisor of a group of bishops). He, too, was a little stunned but very pleased that we were in the position to make this decision. When he finally reviewed and submitted all the paperwork (which really is only a Send button on a computer screen), I looked at Gwen and told her that this was real now and that we needed to start telling people. One of the people that I felt strongly that I needed to tell was Mark Rogers. He had been our former stake president and had been called to preside over a new mission that was being formed in Patagonia in the southern tip of Argentina.
When we received our mission call it indicated that we had been called to serve in the Argentina, Comodoro Rivadavia Mission. I tell people sometimes that I think President Rogers prayed us here. Sometimes I also feel that my mother, who served four missions and passed away the summer of 2012, is on the other side of the veil pushing us on. The one thing that I do know is that we are here because this is where the Lord wants us. The Savior told his disciples, "and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20) We are in Rio Gallegos, in Patagonia, the place they call "The End of the World," and I testify that indeed, the Savior is with us here.