In the greater Brisbane (Australia) city area, if there is a news report of a stabbing, armed robbery, police car chase or drug-related arrest, chances are it’s in the southern suburb of Logan. So, obviously, that’s where my sixteen year old son was called to serve for a week on his “mini-mission”.
Cue parental heart attack, anxieties and worry.
I dropped him off one Saturday morning to the missionary flat, where two elders came out to the car to help with his bike, his suitcase, backpack and groceries. A final “Bye Mum, love you” tossed over his shoulder and I was driving back home, an hour north of where I’d just abandoned my firstborn to the cruel uncaring world. The entire way home I was praying – pleading – with God to make sure Patrick would be well, and happy, and gain something positive out of his mini-mission (and not be mugged, or hurt, or…)
The week wandered past. My second child and I tried to adjust to it being just us in the house, while the dog wandered confused from room to room looking for the tall skinny one. Our family prayers focused more strongly on missionaries serving worldwide, especially those serving in … EVERYWHERE, I forced myself pray. I added prayers of calm and peace for the families of missionaries serving. My personal prayers scurried like ninjas through my day, leaping tall catastrophes (imagined but still possible!) and fighting monsters (potentially lurking where my missionary was) and still suggesting, asking, bargaining and pleading with Heavenly Father to be sure my son was safe and doing well.
Saturday finally came, and in preparation of all three of us being in the car I watched a YouTube clip on how to remove the back wheel of a mountain bike. Except, when I arrived back at the missionary flat, everything skittered out of my head.
My son walked differently.
He held his shoulders differently.
His voice had a weird cadence at times.
He’d put on a tiny bit of weight – he had a visible (if you squinted) little paunch (a miracle I’d been trying to perform for ages). One week, and there was obvious change.
“Don’t worry about putting the seat down,” he said, grinning “my bike got stolen on Monday, so, yeah.”
“Stolen?” I repeated, still drinking the sight of him in as he shoved his bags in the boot of the car.
“Yep, stolen” and I didn’t hear anything else about it as he and his companions were laughing and joking together. Companions who were similar in height to what he was. Real life missionaries serving the Lord, right there in the Logan area, who were only a year or two older than my son.
All of a sudden, it hit me. Next year, my blue eyed boy is going to go on a mission. Nobody warned me about that when I took the missionary discussions. I watched the Elders and Patrick joke and I counted back: sixteen years ago, I met Elders Nielson and Orth, and shortly afterwards was baptised – my baptismal photo has Patrick perched on my hip, a practically bald eleven month old. Those Elders taught me, played with Patrick, searched for and found four-leaf clovers as we discussed the gospel, agency and eternal salvation. They didn’t – to my searching memory – say anything about my baby serving a mission. Wait! I thought back through time, I have a doubt!
Except… on the way to the mini-mission fireside Patrick told me how he’d eaten scrambled egg (which he loathes) because someone cooked it for them, and how all the meal servings were so enormous it hurt to finish it all, but they had to else offend. How he hadn’t had enough money really, but bus drivers would let the missionaries travel for free sometimes so he had six cents left on his bus pass. How he wasn’t sorry his bike was stolen, even though he paid for it himself, because “If they hadn’t taken my bike, they would have taken one of the Elders’, and they need their bikes way more than I do.” How he saw someone who just five years ago was in Young Men’s with him half a country away, now serving his mission in Brisbane.
Then at the fireside, my son stood up and bore his testimony. I know he has a testimony, it burns vast and bright, but he very rarely stands up in front of people to share it. That day he let it burn forth, and again the next day during Sacrament meeting, and my bones and teeth and heart ached at the love I felt.
I don’t love anyone in the world enough to send my son to them. Not even my closest, most wonderful friends or family. Nobody loves him like I do, nobody has fought and giggled and sweated with, beside and for him like I have, and I don’t want to send him on a mission for a week, forget about two years.
I don’t want to send my son on a mission.
I find myself counting backwards still. Almost seventeen years since he was born, sixteen years ago he watched wide-eyed as I was baptised. Fourteen years ago he played toy cars with Elder Clayson (who I’m convinced was sent on his mission to convert my husband), so ten years ago we could be sealed together as a family. I can’t deny the countless blessings and joys that have come to my life as a result of young men going to serve God far away from their families and mothers.
I still don’t want to send my son on a mission.
But I will send him. I will send him with suitcases, prayers, kisses, my blessing and a wonky lipped smile. Because while there’s nobody in the world I love enough to send him to, he is the only person in the world I love enough to let go and do the things he wants to do on the Lord’s command.
How easy/difficult has it been for you to send your loved one off on a mission? How did you prepare yourself and your family? Any tips for an upcoming Missionary Mum?