Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu, working nearly 2600 years ago, affirmed that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”* Today our Loquita takes the first step on a journey of 18 months, a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Her journey from home to her mission area will be much longer than a thousand miles,† but the physical distance is the least of it. The journey from being a sleep-loving college student and an artist intent on hand-crafting felt figures, spending time with her spinning wheel and designing a giant three-dimensional dream catcher to becoming a full-time representative of Jesus Christ is a significant one. I’m confident that along this road she will learn much, love much, suffer some, and rejoice greatly.
The single step that begins this long journey will take her through the front door of the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah today, where she’ll spend 6 weeks learning Spanish, among other things, before she heads to Tucson, Arizona.
In the olden days, like when I went, parents and missionaries all met in a giant auditorium for an introductory meeting, and at the end of it, the wide-eyed missionaries left through one door and their bereft parents departed through another.
These days the process is streamlined–my parents will drive her up to the curb, pull her suitcases out, give her a good squeeze and send her on her way. As soon as they drive off, another car will pull up, and another family will say goodbye. There are almost 4000 missionaries at the Provo MTC at any given time, so it is a beehive of activity.
Much of that activity centers around language learning: Provo’s MTC, the mother ship, has instruction in fifty languages. The fourteen other MTCs around the world vary in their offerings: in Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru it’s all Spanish all the time, as you might imagine. It makes sense that the MTC in São Paolo is only Portuguese, and that speakers of Creole are likely to be assigned to the Dominican Republic.
Other combinations were interesting to me: People called to German-speaking Europe could go to the MTC in England. Those needing to learn French could be assigned to Accra, Ghana. Missionaries who speak Urdu, Mongolian, Cebuano, Cambodian, Vietnamese or Tagalog will very likely find themselves in Manila.
My niece who served in Siberia (which she adored, by the way), did some of her language training in Madrid. Missionaries bound for Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa or Zimbabwe are likely to be instructed in Johannesburg.
There’s a lot going on at all of these facilities, to get young people ready for their service. In some ways it’s similar to military boot camp, but without the swearing and after-hours drinking.
As with any long journey, news from friends at home is treasured. If you’d like to send her a line of encouragement, you can email her or send an actual letter–let me know in comments if you need details about getting that done.
The adventure begins!
*The quotations page adds this note: Although this is the popular form of this quotation, a more correct translation from the original Chinese would be “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” Rather than emphasizing the first step, Lau Tzu regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness. Another potential phrasing would be “Even the longest journey must begin where you stand.” (Michael Moncur) I’m working on getting my head around this.
†It’s an interesting coincidence that Lao Tzu wrote around 2600 years ago, and that the distance from home to mission is about 2600 miles. Whether there’s meaning involved is quite another matter. There may be a word for when you see meaning in patterns when there really is none–I think I may have read about it once. The word I’m looking for might be “statistics,” or “probability.” In any event, Loquita’s mission will be plenty meaningful, even if the number 2600 is not.
[Images: Wikipedia, sweetistheworkmtc.blogspot.com, Flickr commons, mtc.byu.edu]