I started to include this in the other post I wrote about Christmas, but it sort of requires it's own space.
I have a special place in my heart for missionaries. I don't know if it's because I love that 18-21 year old age. Or if it's because I know so many people who have children serving missions. Or if it's because I can feel the impending departure of my own little missionaries in a few short years. But whatever it is, I am drawn to these amazing kids. I love having them in our home. I love watching them bring the Spirit into places where it has not been before. And I love watching them mature and change in the short time we have them in our ward.
We don't always get as attached to missionaries as we have become with this particular companionship, but we always include our house on their regular dinner calendar. The two currently serving in our ward are Elder Christensen (from Utah) and Elder Saenger (from Oregon.) We discovered Elder Christensen in September just after school started. His companion at the time was Elder Wilbur (also from Utah.) We instantly connected with both of those missionaries and soon became a regular stop for them at least a couple of times a week. Elder Wilbur was transferred to East Texas at the beginning of November and replaced with Elder Saenger. We love him as much as we loved Elder Wilbur. These two boys have totally become part of our family.
Missionaries in our Church serve for 18 months if they are girls, or 2 years if they are boys, with very little contact with their families. They are asked to leave home, forget themselves, and work daily to teach the gospel to people who have not had a chance to hear it yet. Most of these missionaries are called to serve in places far from where they live, where they may or may not have ever traveled or even heard of before, and sometimes to speak a foreign language. They get to email their families once a week, and Skype (or call if they are serving in a remote area) twice a year (Mother's Day and Christmas.)
That's why we put ourselves on the missionary calendar in October! There is nothing like being a tiny part of that reunion between a missionary and his or her family. It makes me cry every single time I think about those sweet families who anxiously await their semi-annual phone call from their missionaries. I cannot even imagine how difficult it would be to not get to hear my children's voices on a daily basis, and only communicate with them via weekly email. I am in awe of the parents who send their children out and the sacrifices they make so that their kids can be successful missionaries. And I'm so happy to connect in just a small way with the families of these two amazing missionaries.
After we carved out a little personal space for each of them and got them connected on two different iPads, they talked to their families for almost 2 1/2 hours (which was probably a lot longer than they were advised, but we didn't really enforce a time limit.) We snuck these pictures just after we had given them a 10 minute warning for dinner. That's Elder Christensen in what used to be Emma's room but is being transformed (slowly) into McKay's room.
And this is Elder Saegner trying to be patient with the constant flow of girls into Craig's office reminding him that dinner was happening soon. :)
When they emerged out of the little spaces we gave them, those two missionaries were absolutely glowy! One of them has been out for 18 months and the other has only been out for 6, so it was interesting to talk to each of them about how they felt talking to their families. Both were so uplifted and encouraged. Both were unbelievably relieved and happy to have connected almost face to face with their families. And both were motivated to get back out and work hard to do what their families sent them out to do! I loved that we got to experience that from behind the scenes. It was a little bit like inviting their sweet families into our home for a few hours. We love Elder Christensen and Elder Saenger and we are so grateful for all that they do and all that their families have done to make it possible for them to be here.
We could not have asked for a better Christmas opportunity than to have these two missionaries in our home talking to their families on Christmas Day.