Back in July of 2013 one young 17 year old boy requested of the Lord "I am ready to serve you. Where shall I go?" In August the Call came and it was The Ecuador Guayaquil West Mission where the Lord would have Brian serve. Before he could serve he first would have to learn Spanish and learn the teaching of the Gospel in the newly opened Mexico City Missionary Training Center. Oh and he will need to leave his family the week before Christmas. Brian prepared for the next several months by studying and teaching with the full time missionaries serving in our home ward. He worked hard at our family store to do what he could before he had to leave. He tried to get in as much adventure before his service began.
Then it was time to leave his family. It was sad but very exciting to start serving the Lord. The new training center was spacious and beautiful but not as integrated as we had thought. It was like an off-site American MTC. But Brian spent six weeks with a good group of Elders and Sisters. He quickly grew to love those he was serving with. Including some fond memories of Ultimate Frisbee, wrestle mania, soccer jerseys and Krispy Kream donuts.
Then it was time to leave the training center and leave his new family. None of the other missionaries were going to Ecuador with Brian. So he left his family in December and yesterday he left his MTC/CCM family too. He talked about these friends like they were family even though they had only known each other for a few weeks. He will forever hold these friendships near.
Monday night at about 10pm his district headed to the airport for their 1am flight to Columbia. Brian was so hoping to fly back into the states to get some good American food before he continued on to South America, but Columbia it was. (I was not very happy about that option either). After a scary bus ride to the airport the missionaries made it through security and found a pay phone. We got our call just after 11pm our time, just as we were giving up and going to bed. It was awesome to talk with him. Brian was crying to begin with. He couldn't figure out the pay phone at first and so he thought he wasn't going to be able to call us. His emotions were so raw. The call connection was terrible. Brian had a long delay hearing us and we had to hear ourselves repeated before he could hear us. Because of the connection it made telling longer stories harder. So short and sweet it had to be. It was still GREAT to hear his voice. I could tell he has grown up already. We had him speak in Spanish and he did an amazing job. He has lots to learn in confidence of speaking, but he will get it as he speaks it more.
We talked until he had to board his plane. It was so great to hear from him and to know that he was safe. He wanted to call us from Columbia too so we slept with the cell phones close to the bed last night, but no phone call. He later said that he traveled to Columbia and then had to say goodbye to his district and venture onto Ecuador alone. He did connect with some Columbia natives missionaries to travel with. Yep. Elder Luke is now the token white boy of the group. I'm sure quite the culture shock from Boise Idaho and even from the off-site American MTC. Swimming in the deep end now, as Brian once said.
He was to arrive in Ecuador sometime around 10am. But still no second phone call or email to confirm his arrival. I even though that if so much time had gone by since his expected arrival time that if something had gone wrong, I'm sure someone would have notified us by then. But I did finally get a message around 4pm our time. Great sigh of relief.
His mission president's wife has a blog set up for the mission and has previously posted pictures when the missionaries arrive. The other missionaries were all treated to a nice meal at the really nice mission home and then a day of training. I'm just hoping that they let them sleep sometime.
The following is the email we received this afternoon:
Hey mom. I arrived safely in Ecuador. I split up with the rest of my district in Columbia and I found a missionary that is a Columbian Native and then more came after. So I am here. I am the only white guy here. The only one who doesn't know Spanish. Thankfully the secretary to the President is from Utah and speaks English. He has been helping me out. It was really nice to talk to you. I was a little sad that it was so short and that the connection was bad. Pero. It filled my heart. I really miss you. Its hard to think that the next time I get to hear your voice is in a year (actually in May for Mother's Day). But on my flight into Ecuador I told Heavenly Father that I am gonna put my all and that I am His. I am good and I will be better. Mom, I love you. I love you Dad. I love you all. I miss you. But I will return with honor. I will make you Proud. I will try and take a butt load of pictures.