Two years ago today I entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I remember that day, very, very clearly.
I remember putting duct tape on my luggage, waiting for 11:30 am, when we would drive out of our garage--all of us, my entire family in our big, green van--to drop me off at the MTC.
I remember that my mom was crying--everyone was crying. My mom, dad, sisters, brothers . . . I was leaving, and, in many respects, it felt like I was going away and never coming back.
It was all so surreal.
I was dressed as a sister missionary, without my name tag. I felt vulnerable, out-of-place, but excited.
The drop-off was tearful, of course. The first missionary in our family, so no one knew what to expect. But I was ready and eager . . . even if I had no clue what I was doing. I followed my host sister as faithfully as a puppy, and was excited as a school-girl when I picked up my Russian books and finally got my missionary tag:
"CECTPA ARMKNECHT," it read. Sestra Armknecht.
Then, I met these wonderful people:
(All I have is the goofy picture . . . but I think it's fitting. Still, if anyone wants to send me the picture where we look like nice and formal, you're more than welcome to.)
A group of ten. Six elders, four sisters, and then three amazing teachers. God knows who you need in your life. They say that who ends up in your district and the person who you get as your companion is a matter of logistics; of timing.
I say that God is a master of logistics. He is a master at timing.
And He knew that we needed each other.
He knew the struggles we would face. The bonds we would form. The times when we would go absolutely crazy from being in the same room all day long.
And He knew that we would end up loving each other.
Memories flood back. Tuesday Devotionals. Sunday Firesides. Singing hymns in Russian for the first time--singing the words so slowly while our teachers laughed at us. Raising Ebenezers. Bouncy balls and letters from friends. Packages from girlfriends, cupcakes from moms. Singing in the General Conference choir. Listening as an elder gave his first priesthood blessing ever when I was in need of comfort. Feeling the sacredness of that moment. Testimony meetings. Teasing each other. Books. Gym time.
You become a family through those moments.
It's been an extraordinary two years. We're all back now. We've changed. Grown. I have yet to see all of them back, have yet to see just how we've all changed.
But thank you for starting the journey with me.
Thank you for being a part of my life.
I'm forever grateful for your influence and friendship.