Bri-i-ing! went the alarm clock, breaking into the stillness of the dark room. Brad groaned and, pulling his pillow over his head to shut out the noise, burrowed deeper under the covers of his nice warm bed. It was much too early to get up. The sun wasn’t even up yet.
Suddenly Brad sat up. Today was going to be an important day for his big brother, Andy. He was going to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah.
What a wonderful time this was for the family! Just last night everyone had gathered in the living room, and Dad had given Andy a father’s blessing. Brad was glad that Dad honored his priesthood. Many times he had laid his hands on Brad’s head and asked Heavenly Father to guide him or to protect him or to bless him with health. Last night he had blessed Andy with those same great blessings for his mission.
Brad dressed in his Sunday clothes and hurried downstairs. The rest of the family was already in the brightly lit, cozy kitchen. Dad was making pancakes, and Andy was looking tall and a little awkward in his new dark blue suit. When Dad saw Brad, he shut off the stove, and the family knelt around the table for prayer. As they seated themselves, Brad felt sad for a moment because this would be the last meal they would all have together for a long time.
Andy reached over and ruffled Brad’s hair. “C’mon, Brad, smile. I don’t want to remember you all full of frowns. Shall I help you smile like Dad does?”
Just thinking about Dad’s way to get smiles brought grins to the entire family. Dad would turn a frowning child upside down and hold him by his ankles if he wouldn’t smile. When he was little, Brad would frown, suppressing a giggle, just to get Dad to turn him upside down.
“I’m much too big for that anymore,” said Brad.
“You’re certainly growing fast, all right,” Dad remarked. “By the time Andy gets home, you’ll probably be able to turn me upside down. You’d better hurry and finish your breakfast now, though. The bishop and Brother Terry will be here soon, and Grandma and Grandpa are on their way.”
A moment later the doorbell rang, and Bishop Maxwell and Brother Terry, their home teacher, were at the door, stomping the snow off their feet. As Brad started to close the door behind them, he saw another car pull into the driveway—and another one pulled in right behind that one. “It’s Grandma and Grandpa!” shouted Brad as he ran to greet them.
Between hugs and introductions, the group entered the house. President Cox, the stake president, was in the third car. He had come to set Andy apart for his mission.
President Cox began by talking to us about Andy’s mission and about how important it was to support him with prayers and letters. Then he laid his hands on Andy’s head and set Andy—no, Elder Andrew Spencer Brown—apart as a missionary to the New Zealand Christchurch Mission. Andy was now an official fulltime missionary!
The bishop, Brother Terry, and President Cox all shock hands with Andy and clapped him on the back. Then they had to leave to go to work.
Looking at the clock, Dad urged everyone to hurry: “Andy has to be at the MTC by 8:30.”
Finally everything and everybody was jammed into the car, and off they went. Andy looked back over his shoulder until the house was long out of sight.
As Dad pulled into the parking lot of the long, low brick Mission Training Center, the Provo Temple up the street shone in the early morning light. Mom and Dad had gone with Andy to the temple the week before. Andy had come home different somehow, a little more serious and more determined to be the best missionary he could be.
Entering the large lounge area of the MTC, they were met by a smiling brother who directed them to put Andy’s luggage in a room that had the appearance of a baggage terminal. Suitcases and garment bags were everywhere. What a large group of missionaries must be arriving!
Andy’s name was checked off a list, and they were directed to a room filled with young men and women, mothers, fathers, and other family members and friends. Most missionaries seemed to be in the middle of a group, hugging someone. Brad thought he’d never seen so many hugs in his life. He’d settle for a handshake!
A tall distinguished brother entered the room and asked everyone to be seated. He introduced himself as President Bishop, the president of the MTC, and told them a little about the MTC and missionary life.
Brad had thought that while Andy was on his mission, his brother would only knock on doors and teach discussions all day. But President Bishop explained that letter writing, journal writing, laundry, and exercise were part of the program too. A large gym at the MTC provided a place for exercise for the missionaries while they were there. They needed to keep in good shape for the hours of missionary work.
President Bishop talked to the missionaries about living within their budgets. And he hoped that all of them had learned to cook and to mend and wash their clothes. Brad knew that Andy had learned to cook—a little, anyway. The night that he’d baked a casserole with tomatoes, cabbage, and macaroni, Brad had managed to wangle an invitation to a friend’s house. But Andy did make pretty good omelets and hamburgers.
Andy had also learned how to mend his clothes and to sort, wash, and dry them. Mother had been giving them all lessons in housekeeping since they were little. She said that they didn’t have time to learn those things in the mission field.
After President Bishop finished his talk, they saw a film about the MTC. When the film was over, the missionaries were to say good-bye to their families and friends; then they were to leave through a door at the front of the room. Andy shook Brad’s hand and told him to take good care of things while he was gone. Brad blinked rapidly as he watched Andy walk up the aisle. It would be eighteen long months before he would see him again!
Forgetting that he was too big for hugging and stuff, Brad ran down the aisle and threw his arms around his brother. “Be the best missionary ever, Andy—at least till it’s my turn.”
“I’ll do my best, Brad. Don’t grow too much while I’m away. I want to be able to recognize you when I get back.” Turning, Andy quickly walked to the door, gave a last wave, and was gone.