Picture this....it is 5:23 A.M. and you are tired beyond extreme. You have stayed up until 12:30 A.M. with your mother packing two large blue suitcases (that cannot exceed 50 lbs.) with everything you wardrobe possesses and that you will need to serve a mission for 18 months. You are stressed to the point that you have made yourself sick, and the only thing keeping you going is a single dosage of a nasal decongestant. It hurts just to speak, and you know that anything that comes out of that open hole you call a mouth will sound like a squeaky mouse, maybe venture closer to imitating Kronk's chipmunk language off of Emperor's New Groove. Squeak, squeak-ed-in, squeaker, squeak.
I had arranged with my parents to carry-on everything I would need for two days and all of my toiletries. Since the Church Mission Services arranged for me to take Frontier Airlines which charges for each luggage checked in, and my parents were taking Southwest, they could bring my suitcases without charge. Next thing I know, it is 5:23 A.M. with seven minutes before boarding my flight and the lady at the security check-in is forcing me to throw away close to $50 worth of toiletries, including a pretty expensive Mary Kay cleanser that was so beneficial to clearing acne from my stubborn face. I did have the option to go and check my bag into the ticket counter, but I was worried about missing my flight. My father's practical-minded advice kept ringing in my head like my own personal Pinocchio conscience, "Melanie, do not miss this plane. It is the only one that you can take that will get you out to Utah." (He was referring to the fact that he didn't want to have to buy a ticket for another flight when the Church paid for this plane ticket). "Alright, Dad, but the replaced toiletries are coming out of your money." Not really, but that was my thoughts that early in the morning. It was a small price to pay for the satisfaction and peace of mind I could give my parents that I am finally in Utah and one step closer to entering the MTC (Missionary Training Center).
For everyone reading this blog that does not understand the journey I am about to embark upon, or maybe even think I am crazy to go on a "mission trip" for eighteen months to a country so close to the drug cartels of Columbia or become kidnapped like that girl from Ecuador who made Dateline headlines, allow me to ease your troubled minds. I assure you that the Lord is looking over me and will keep me safe. In a passage of scriptures that we teach from called the Doctrine and Covenants, section 84, verse 88, it reads, "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." I know that the Lord will keep that promise to me because my stake president made that same promise to me as I was set apart as a missionary. I am his representative as I serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The mission that has been set up down in the southern coastal part of Guayaquil, in the province of Guayas, is very secure and organized. I report to a mission president who assesses the needs of the mission and assigns men missionaries called "Elders" and women missionaries like me called "Sisters" to areas in companionships to meet those needs. You will always find myself with a person of the same gender day and night. She never leaves my side and I never leave her's. Well, maybe if I need to go to the restroom, that would hail me some privacy.
Talking with an alumni, Ellen Chamberlain, who served in the Ecuador Guayaquil South Mission, she mentioned that President Montalti, my mission president, has taken all the sisters out of the mountainous regions and placed them in the coastal areas to proselyte and serve because that is where the sister missionaries have the most effectiveness in baptizing. My mission while here is to be the first sister missionary to serve in the Galapagos Islands where the huge tortoises crawl like a snail and the tame seals who come up to you with pure curiosity about your species. Of course, that will probably not happen because it is very expensive to send missionaries out there; also, the Elders who have to be there would need to be present with Sister missionaries there as well. There is only a small branch there (you can read about it in the August or September Ensign).
Well, I am sitting in the Salt Lake aiport at 10:52 awaiting the arrival of my father at 4:00 P.M. It will be a long wait, but now I have set up a blog that will keep everyone updated on my mission. This will probably be the last one I write. My mother will be updating it each week with letters and emails that I send home. I will train her how to use one. Hopefully, you will get some great pictures as well. Thank you for reading. I will look forward to hearing from you. Outside of family, I can only receive letters via snail mail. However, it only costs 44 cents to send because the Church sends pouch mail to my mission office. That is where you send the mail to the Church headquarters, and they send the mail via a private courier down to Ecuador. I will post my addresses and instructions about how to send pouch mail later on so you have the information. Thanks again!