Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Packing Monster

The Packing Monster
Weather -- High overcast warming
Temp -- +60F Wind 15-25 mph

Packing to go home is a monster. It haunts you for weeks and then you finally have to face it. How can I defeat this monster? Is it possible? Can I actually get my clothes, shoes, coats, books, music, nesting dolls, wooden shot glass, paintings, love gifts from members, cosmetics, bathing suit (which I never wore), white shirts that are now two sized too big, two year old suits that I love but hang like a gunnysack on me, two years worth of YSA Fireside lessons and Sacrament Meeting talks, DVD's, alfalfa seeds I didn't sprout, sprouting trays, Porterhouse Seasoning Sister Cindy didn't consume, Levies and three casual shirts I never wore, six backup name tags I never wore, twenty pair of shoes sister Cindy never wore, etc.

How do you plan your needs for two years in a place you have never even heard of let alone have been to? And now, what do you take home of what you never used because "It's still good and we might need it, some day"? It was a daunting challenge to guess and then pack, ship, or ask from home things you imagine you will need, or thought you still needed? The truth is, and I hope that we have learned to some degree, that we don't need ALL THIS STUFF!!!! However, you DO need a stain-stick once in a while and a band-aide or two, but come on, we are leaving several suitcases of stuff to the locals because we just can't take it home.

Whether here in Novosibirsk or in Sacramento, we really don't need most of the stuff we have. We have lived for 18 of the 23 months with the knowledge that you just don't need much stuff. A couple pair of shoes, warm-weather clothes, cold weather clothes, and your scriptures; that's it. Well, maybe a bit of an overstatement, but truly, we didn't need most of what we brought, shipped, or had shipped to us here. For those of you planning a mission, leave most of your stuff at home. You won't need or have time to use most of what you bring. You need your sweats and apron for watching General Conference two week late on the DVD, you need
 a warm coat so you can make the trip out to the dumpster on the street without suffering frostbite, but mostly you need to bring with you your life-long skills, a little of what you learned in Primary and Sunday School, and a genuine love for people. I brought my love for music, in spite of my lack of technical skills, and was appreciated for what I DID have.

People are the best part of every mission. Well, I haven't been on every mission, I haven't even been on any mission away from home but this one, but I have a deep sense of love and loss at leaving the people here and I suspect that the people (missionaries and members) are the core of every missionary service experience. Our replacements, the McCauleys from Eagle Idaho are already learning this. Sure, there are cultural clashes and outright disappointments, but as a whole, it is a great experience.

If you want to be really loved, serve a mission. If you want to really love, deeply love, serve a mission.  If you are lonely, serve a mission. If you think that no one knows you exist and you could suffer spontaneous combustion at your local mall in total anonymity, serve a mission. If you think no one needs what you know or have, serve a mission.

It is the most enveloping, consuming, loving thing that I have ever done and after I say hi to my children and grand-kids, tell some stories to my friends, and we decide what to do with our house, I am ready to go again. OK, I will enjoy one season of really ripe tomatoes and peas picked fresh, but trust me, you don't need all that stuff and the place to put your stuff, and the locks to protect your stuff, and the dog to guard your stuff, and the insurance to replace your stuff. Dump it all and come serve missions.

Most of the people you know will miss you only when they get your emails. Once you are gone, they will go on with their lives and do whatever is in front of them; even your family. You are a nice memory and they are happy to see you again when you return, but not like the people that you left in the mission. Of course, it is very cool to have your grandparents on a mission somewhere, but the people in the mission, THEY ACTUALLY NEED YOU. They actually benefit from your being there. They don't have 26 other things they could and should be doing while they are with you; they NEED you.

Don't get me wrong, please. I love my friends and my family. They are a great treasure. I love the time I have, and will again, spend with them. The point is, they don't need me. In the mission field, the new friends, the missionaries, the members, the investigators, the mission leadership, even the people you can't talk to; they need me (us) and I feel that love that comes from a met need.

Yes, even those that cannot talk to us, nor we to them, have come up at church with tears in their eyes and thanked us for being here and expressed their love. Babushkas with a long history in the Church here try to thank us for just being here. They have seen missionary couples come and go, but they actually value us. They need our example, our experience, and our support. We have not had many of them in our home and can only say a brief hello at church to most of them, but they value our being here. Families like the Drachyov family give us all they have and we feel filled. When we think that our apartment is a little (well a lot) shabby, we visit a family like this and appreciate what we have, even here. What they have they value and what they value they share.

So, now what? Well, we will try to vanquish the packing monster and get each of our two 50 lb checked bags to actually weigh 50 lbs, well, maybe 70 lbs for one of them. We will get the matryoshka dolls and the scarves, and the pictures, and the unused alfalfa seeds into the luggage and we will go home for a while; but not for ever. Maybe I will get soft and comfortable at home and forget these feelings. Maybe I will lose these memories of those we have learned to love and forget how it felt, maybe, but right now I don't think so. I intend to print these two years of blogs into a book and keep it out to remind me. I guess we will just have to see.

What an experience. What a country.


Shannon said...

Oh the memories. This post made me nostalgic. And no, you will NEVER forget the feelings you have about your mission. In the 6 and a half years I have been home - rarely has a day passed where I dont think about my mission. It has affected the direction of my life and the way I live my life. It is true - you dont need much besides some basic necessities and a love for Gods children - service is incredible and I am so happy that you two were able to do the work. It will be nice to see you, but I will be excited to have you serve another mission - you have a lot to share and God knows that! Love you! Your bed here in DC is waiting:)

samnarene said...

We can relate to your feelings expressed in this blog posting. How grateful we are for the opportunity we had to serve a mission in Russia. We will soon have been home one year, and we cherish the communications we continue to have with the people we grew to love during our mission.

We have enjoyed your blog and will miss your postings when you return home. Our association in Russia was brief and mainly with Sister Simmons over the phone related to the FHE manuals, but we are glad we got to meet you in person when you stopped by our office in Moscow on one of your visa renewal trips.

We send you our love and best wishes and hope our relationship can find a way to continue after your mission. I have started a different blog after coming home; and I hope you will do so, too.

Andrea S said...

Packing and having too much stuff wasn't really a problem for me. Of course, getting transferred every 3 or 4 mothns helps with that. I can relate to loving and missing the people from my mission. That is what you will miss most.

Rene Weston-Eborn said...

Thanks for you this nice post! You are so right. Stuff is stuff. I loved reading your advice to people who feel lonely, depressed, etc. It is so true, if you serve others those feelings soon fall away.

I hope the folks from Eagle start a blog like this, it was so nice for me to be able to follow your adventures and for our family to prepare for our Siberian Elder to be there.

I wish you the best in all.

Sister Eborn

ps. Tell those Idaho how folks hi for us! We use to live in Meridian Idaho.

Emily said...

I'm sure it is a daunting task. I hate to pester you about the coat but it will be well used by an elder in the Vancouver mission if there is a way to get it to the DC area. If it makes your bags overweight or if it is possible to mail it we will pay the fee. Safe travels!