Today was a great day! The kids got to say goodbye to Ian before they left for school. I ran to work for a few hours while John stayed home as Ian's "companion." We then loaded up the car to head for breakfast together before heading to the MTC.
We went to Cracker Barrel where there was another hugely extended family with their missionary (who was heading to the Philippines). After an amazingly delicious breakfast and a chance to be selfish and have him all to ourselves, we started the drive back to Provo. The only problem was that we had a lot of time to kill before his check-in time. We stopped by a local store, the Vacuum Vendor, to visit with one of our friends for a few minutes.
Having taken up some time, we continued our drive towards the MTC and decided to stop by the temple to take our last few pictures.
Being unable to stand it any more, we decided that it was close enough, even though it was 20 minutes before his official check-in time. Having driven past the MTC earlier, however, things were already in place for receiving the new missionaries, so we loaded back in the van for the inevitable parting.
Since H1N1, the procedure for welcoming new missionaries has changed. Although I have never been part of the former orientation process, I thought this was excellent and very moving. As you pull into the parking lot, elders with bright yellow vests start directing the incoming cars. Stopped and asked if we had a missionary with us (what are we going to say, um, "No, we're just out driving around and this looked like a fun place to stop"), we were then directed down the road that surrounds the MTC. The sidewalks were lined with hundreds of missionaries, eager to help and welcome the new ones.
We pulled in where directed and were greeted by several eager missionaries who helped with luggage, introduced themselves, and took Ian off to his new home.
What impressed me the most was that as we continued to follow the road that led around the MTC, there were even more missionaries, waving at us as we drove past. This was a true life Army of Helaman. It was so moving to see all of these young men, dedicating their lives to serve the Lord and share the gospel around the world. It was actually the only time I shed a tear the whole day.
Ian will be a great missionary and I sure hope he gets a chance to be the same welcoming face that greeted him today to another family, waving and smiling as he ushers another servant of the Lord into the fold.