Saturday, December 26, 2015

Missionary Phone Calls

Remember when Skyping and emailing didn't exist and missionaries had to write actual letters home to their families and drop quarters into phones to talk to their parents twice a year?  I thought about that yesterday morning when we were talking to Savannah all the way in Austria...on a life size screen right in our dining room with absolutely no delays or connection issues.  I felt floods of gratitude for the blessings of technology.

Here are the things I want to remember about the conversation we had with Savannah yesterday...she has gained a remarkable amount of wisdom in the 8 weeks she's been gone.  

1.  "I don't want my grumpiness when I'm hungry to define me for the rest of my life." 
It's been interesting for Savannah to get used to a different culture.  They eat late in Austria. and one day, after three lengthy appointments that didn't involve food, Savannah said she felt herself starting to get irritable and impatient with her companion.   As her hunger increased, the pace of their search for food seemed to decrease.  So Savannah said a little prayer that she could remain patient and calm, and also that they would find a place to eat quickly.  They eventually found a cute place to eat, and the grumpiness was kept at bay.  No one tossed out casual words and no one's feelings were hurt.  I love that she prayed for help with that little weakness of hers, and I love that she considers it a miracle that help came.  

2.  Stickers.
Of all the things I included in that box of stuff I sent for Christmas, do you know what she was most grateful for?  The stickers.  Apparently the tiniest things make a big impact when the days are long and sometimes monotonous.  

3.  Journaling.
Savannah has never been much of a writer or a journal keeper.  I've given all the kids journals their whole lives in an effort to instill in them the desire to record memorable things.  But except for Megan, no one has really caught my love of journaling.  Until Savannah's mission.  Since leaving the MTC, Savannah said her journal has become the thing she treasures most at the end of a day.  It's filled with thoughts and concerns and church programs and train tickets and stories of miraculous things like the "hangry-ness" that was kept at bay.  I'm so grateful that she is writing all these things down.  

4.  European Chocolate.
I'm not a chocolate fan, but Savannah sent a tiny little Christmas package home that had some English chocolate in it.  And you know what?! It's actually pretty dang good!   In Austria, apparently Christmas Eve is the bigger celebration than Christmas Day, and everyone gives out chocolate.  Savannah and her companion left all their appointments with huge bags of chocolate!  So on Christmas morning, they gave it out to the all the homeless people on the streets with a little Christmas message attached.  

5.  Tracting.  
They don't really knock on doors in Vienna because everyone lives in apartments and you have to ring the apartment from outside, be invited into the building, visit the person you came to see, and then go back outside to ring the next person.  Missionaries are not allowed to just randomly knock on apartment doors.  So Savannah and her companion spend a LOT of time traveling on busses and trains and talking to everyone they see.  I would not have ever imagined my reserved daughter bus-hopping in Europe and striking up conversations with random people about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Miraculous. 

6.  Emails from Home.
In the MTC, the missionaries only had once a week access to their emails.  They had just about 45 minutes each week to read and respond to everything they received.  So we tried to make our family emails to Savannah brief.  We coordinated information so we weren't duplicating reports on events that had happened at home that week.  We limited ourselves to one email per week, usually on Sunday or Monday so they would be waiting for her on Wednesday afternoons.  In Vienna, though, she has an iPad.  And even though she can only respond once a week, she has wifi access at some point in every day, and she LOVES when there's a happy surprise in her inbox.  She asked us (begged is more like it) to please email as often as possible and to send pictures.  She has said that before in previous p-day emails, but I thought it would be too distracting for her to get little messages from home every day, and frustrating not to be able to respond to them.  But it's not.  It's uplifting and motivating for her.  And she's a detail girl, like I am.  

I am shocked over and over again at how Heavenly Father teaches all of us through trial and challenge and sorrow, and at how very close He is in each of our lives.  I am so grateful for the blessing of technology, for the sound of my daughter's voice, for her happy glow, and for the lessons she teaches me every time I hear from her.  

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