Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chapter 11: Makin' a List, Checkin' It Twice

No, it's not Santa Clause, it's me! Getting everything together for the ultimate Christmas.
Post-it notes and pieces of scratch paper with things to remember scribbled on them are taking over my bedroom, along with bins and boxes and blouses. I can barely walk in there, let alone make sense of the mad jumble. The time for preparation is coming to an end. Only six days before I'll be toting my 18-month supply of living essentials through three airports and setting up residence in....... Sao Paulo, Brazil!That's right. The long-awaited VISA finally came last week! And so, I will be flying straight to the training center in Brazil. And since I won't be able to receive any packages from home while I'm there, I darn well better have everything I need in my suitcase.
"What's that?" you may be asking right now. "Did I read that right? No packages to the CTM?" That's right. Any packages I receive will have to be sent to my mission office. I can only assume that means I won't get them until I'm out of the training center (about 9 weeks) and in my mission field. I will, however, be able to receive and send letters from the CTM! So, off to the side I've posted my CTM mailing address. ->
Also posted off to the side is my mission office mailing address, where letters and packages can be sent to me until I know the address of my first assignment in the mission field. Even then, this will always be a safe address to use, even though it's not quite as direct. ->

As for emails.... I know that some Mission Presidents allow missionaries to email friends, as well as family, but I don't know yet what MY Mission President will allow. So for now we're just going to assume that I can only email, and receive emails from, my family. Hurrah for snail mail!

Now that we've got all that out of the way, let's get back to my list!

- Contact info on blog? Check
- Ugly, but oh-so-comfy and durable sandals? Check (Thank you, Chaco!)
- Tea Tree Oil shampoo to ward off lice? Check (Thank you, Sunni!)
- Modest dresses made from climate-friendly materials (no polyester or nylon!) Check
- Microfiber towel (for quick drying and conserved space) Check (Thank you, Ammon!)
- Journals to record my missionary treasured moments? Check (Thank you, Ammon!)
- Photo albums, to remember what my friends and family look like? Check (Thank you, Ammon!)
- All the shots I need to cross the border? Check (Thank you, Phil Darrah!)
- Camera? Check (Thank you Blair and Rebecca!)
- Sunday shoes? ....Hmm....
- Second suitcase? .... Hmm....
- First aid/sewing kits? .... I know I've got those somewhere....
- Umbrella? .... I'm sure I've got one in some closet or another.....
- Scriptures in Portuguese? ................

Ok, so I'm not quite ready to hop on the plane yet. But so much of what I do have ready is a result of other people being so generous with their time, energy, and resources. My family has been so wonderful, driving me about, being patient with my pre-mission stress, and keeping me on task with what I need to do. I'm so grateful for all their support. My friends, too, have been so amazing. I just love you all! Thank you, thank you, thank you all a million times over for all your love and support! Only a few days more.....

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Chapter 10: A Guest Appearence by Rod Serling

Portrait of Railee Whitaker: a pampered girl from Beaverton who likes her rice with Yumm sauce and her oatmeal without sugar. But she finds herself perpetually hungry for a want of greatness in her diet; the kind of greatness found only in the selfless service and hard work of a full-time mission. What you're about to see is that hunger of the kind Railee feels can't be satisfied merely by a plane ride to an exotic beach on the humid coast of Bahia, Brazil, but by entering a portal to a dimension where reality is no longer defined by what is tangible. Railee Whitaker has crossed over the threshold of the physical world into... the Twilight Zone.

Cue spinning white door, blinking eye and eery music.

Thank you, Rod Serling, for your generous contribution to my humble blog! You're a real peach.

Anyone reading this post may think that Rod went a little overboard with his intro, but let me tell you-- his dramatics are spot on in this case! Some days I really do feel like I've kissed the "normal life" goodbye and I find myself in awe of what my new "normal is". By merely telling people (at work, on the MAX, at the park, etc) about what I'll be doing in the Fall, I end up making the bold statement that I know what I believe to be true so strongly that I'm willing to travel to a foreign country where I don't know anyone, learn another language, and go door-to-door every day to share it. As the time for my mission draws nearer, it's becoming more and more impossible to open my mouth without bearing my testimony in some way or another. The time for lukewarm neutrality has passed and I'm only just beginning to realize that what I will be for the next 18 months of my life is a walking, talking bold statement. I won't merely be a person who quietly believes in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ-- I'll be a representative of Jesus Christ, with His name on my chest, and there will be no stepping down or blending in to the crowd. For 18 straight months, nothing will be about me or what I want. It will all be 100% about the needs of the people I am called to serve. I won't be casually checking facebook or listening to the latest music. I won't be sleeping in or going out to the movies. I'll be focusing all my energy- everything I am and all that I have- on serving the Lord, my companion, and the people of Bahia.

The wait for a VISA is a strange limbo of sorts. After that phone call to the Church Travel Office, I heard nothing from anyone about my mission. My other friends who are also preparing to leave on their missions all received letters from their Mission Presidents, greeting them and telling them what to bring with them. I, however, wasn't sure until a few days ago that my Mission President even existed! In the packet I received with my mission call, there was a blank space where a picture of my President and his wife was supposed to be, and a brief explanation that no picture was available yet because he'd only recently been called and wouldn't be set apart as the new President until July 1. After July 1, I'm sure he was a very busy man, and so I tried not to get my hopes up that a letter would come from him anytime soon.

... But early this week, a letter from Missao Brasil Salvador Sul, addressed to "Sister Railee Whitaker" appeared in the mailbox just for me. President and Sister Andrezzo hadn't forgotten about me! They're alive! They're real! Still no picture of them, but at least I've got a signature!

The letter, along with its enclosed list of 'Important Recommendations', served to reawaken the dormant enthusiasm for my mission and my mind immediately started making lists of things to pack. I've spent the day organizing my room-- setting aside clothes I can wear on my mission, putting the ones I can't into storage bins, and tossing everything else into a bag for the Goodwill. It's suddenly dawned on me just how soon I'll be leaving. And just how unprepared I am! There's still so much to do, and so much to learn. This roller coaster has such a long climb to the top that, for a while, I became deaf to the monotonous clicking. But now that I'm almost to the peak, I'm aware of it again and even as I wonder, "Why did I get on this thing?!" I can't suppress the giddy anticipation in my stomach that makes me hold on tight and squeal in girlish delight.