They show that you've been out on the streets. They show that you've put in some time walking. They show that you have been laboring in the Lord's work.
We belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In our faith, young men leave to serve a full-time mission for 2 years when they turn 19. Here in Chile, the age for departure is 18 due to various reasons that I won't delve into here. Young women who are desirous to serve the Lord, can also serve full-time missions at age 21.
My oldest is 16 1/2. We are only a few short years away from that launch date. If we remain here in Chile, that date just becomes that much closer.
As a mother, you want more than anything for your children to serve the Lord in this capacity. It is an opportunity for them to grow and learn. It is an opportunity for them to devote 100% of their life to doing the work of our Heavenly Father without any distractions from the world. To walk in His shoes, doing His work. It makes young boys become men. Through blessing the lives of others, they receive so much in return. They become stronger in their faith. They understand how to rely on the Lord for daily decisions. They learn independence and become confident that they can do whatever the Lord lays out for them. *That doesn't mean that as mothers, we aren't completely terrified to send them off. It takes just as much faith on OUR part. We have to trust in the Lord and in His plan, too!
Preparing to serve a full-time mission is a life-long process, but as you get closer and closer, the preparations take on new meaning. At 16 years of age, these young boys have the opportunity to go on "splits" with the full-time missionaries. Missionaries are always in twos. Always. You may have seen them on the streets, walking or biking, white shirts and ties with the recognizable black name tag on their chest. However, sometimes, they need to be in two places at once. So they invite other men from the ward to go as their companion for the night.
Andrew was invited along last Friday night.
I took him over to the church building at 8pm where he met the missionaries outside. The Elders, which is how we refer to the male missionaries, in our area don't have a car. Many areas do not.
There are a few things to note at this point. When we first drove to the area in which our church building is located, where I am dropping my baby off at 8:00 at night, my kids thought it was "pretty sketch". It is more of a traditional Chilean neighborhood. It resembles more of an area that you would think you would find in Latin America. It doesn't look that different than a main street in Mexico.
All night and day, there are lots of people out walking in this downtown area of Lo Barnechea. Dogs wandering around. Homes that are much more humble in comparison than those we are used to seeing. People carrying their groceries. I love everything about it. My kids feel very "gringo" when we are in the area. There, we stick out like sore thumbs. Around the city, there are quite a few "european faces". In these more humble areas, it's mostly dark hair and olive skin.
I was surprisingly calm dropping my son off on the corner in the middle of this unknown area of town. But there was peace that came with placing him in the care of the Lord. He was paired with Elder Reiber. I like to call him "Justin Beiber". He's a blonde guy from Utah with a great sense of humor. Absolutely, NOT Chilean. His companion fits in a little better. He's from the US too, Texas, but his mother is Mexican, so his dark hair and darker skin sticks out a little less. The other two elders from our ward are from Chile and Nigera, but the two of them do not speak any english. So Andrew was paired with Reiber.
They went to three appointments. The first was with a family that was very humble. They lived in a lean-to type home. Andrew said that it was one big room with a fire in the middle. He talked about how warm and inviting their home was. Andrew explained it as a lean-to version of a town home, as there were three homes connected by adjoining walls. Other members of their family lived in the other two adjoining sections.
Andrew immediately loved these people. He said that they really wanted to know about him. They spoke in very simple, slow spanish and he was able to understand and answer them "with one and two words". They had a great visit with this family and then headed up the mountain to another appointment. He said at each place they fed them. The final appointment was back at the same lean-to, just at the opposite end. This place fed them homemade pizza.
He had such a positive experience. Elder Reiber's enthusiasm is contagious and Andrew caught the missionary bug. They've asked if he would be available this week and he was eager to join them again.
What a great experience this move to Chile has been for him. At home, in Arizona, we have one pair of missionaries for our entire stake. This means that they come to our home for dinner about once a year, if we're lucky. Here, we have them at least every-other week. My boys have a personal relationship with these Elders. They are there in the Sunday school class to translate for them so that they can understand the lessons taught. What an amazing service these missionaries have given to our family. They talk to my boys about the joy that they feel serving the Lord. They encourage them to take advantage of this time in Chile and what an amazing opportunity it is. They are still 19-20, so they're not too much older than my boys and for some reason, that opinion sometimes means a little more.
They talk to my boys about how you think you have priorities and a plan for your life, but then when you go on your mission, you find out that none of that really matters. Serving a mission helps you to KNOW what direction your life should go. "Prepare yourself now" they say. "Don't worry about those little things" they say. "Serving the Lord will bless your life in more ways than you can count" they say. What a great influence they are and have been in the lives of my teenage boys.
My future missionary: