Thursday, September 16, 2010
After what felt like a very long nine-and-half-weeks in the Missionary Training center, I remember stepping off the plane in Cali, Colombia in early February of 1987 to complete my 18 month assignment as a missionary. It was really warm--and breezy and humid, which was a bit of a shock, having come from a North American winter-y climate just hours before. I felt a little awkward, climbing down the steps from the plane and onto the tarmac. The realization that I had just entered a new culture and my new life was just as shocking as breathing in the warmth and humidity. I knew that the perspiration beading on my upper lip and forehead was not from heat, but rather, nerves and a hard lump of anxiety: Was I ready? Would I be the kind of missionary that I pictured in my mind, confidently speaking a new language and sharing the gospel without hesitation or trepidation? I already knew the pink linen suit I was wearing, wrinkly from travel was not going to cut it. I felt a surge of relief when I saw my mission president, flanked by two young assistants, salute a brief hello through the glass customs window that separated us. That relief washed quickly into humiliation as my over-packed suitcases exploded with all manner of un-packaged soaps, razors and feminine hygiene products at the touch of the customs agent's finger to the release on the suitcase I had closed the day before (using my full weight and a part of my companion's as well). I saw the President shake his head, and later as he was driving the car mutter under his breath something like "when are they going to start telling these missionaries that we're not living in a third-world country down here?" We were off to a great start--I could just feel it. The rest of my first afternoon/evening and the next day are kind of foggy now. I remember waking in the plush mission home to Sister Mickelson (my mission president's wife) sitting on my bed, telling me I could stay in shape by doing sit-ups right in my bed before I even got up. (huh?) And then probably some breakfast and instructions followed by the picture to prove to my parents that I had arrived, before they
fed me to the wolves sent me off with my non-English-speaking Colombian companion who had a heart of stone.