Elder Brendan Nicholes entered the MTC on January 21, 2015. He is the fourth missionary from our family and shares a unique story with his older sister who also served a mission. Both Brendan and his older sister were called to serve in Canada. Brendan was called to the Winnipeg mission and his older sister was called to the Edmonton mission. Both of these missions cover a rather large portion of Canada and they also share a border. But that is only where their missionary story begins.
Brendan's older sister started her mission just 18 months ago. If you do the math, that means that she was due to return home at about the same time that Brendan was supposed to enter the MTC. Unfortunately, the original dates of his sister's return from the Edmonton mission and Brendan's departure for the MTC had them missing each other by 10 days. However, when we talked to Brendan's sister at Christmas time, she really wanted to be home so that she could be with Brendan at the time when he was set apart as a full time missionary. Things worked out and Brendan's sister was able to move her release date up. As it turned out, she would return home on the Monday before Brendan would enter the MTC. This gave our whole family one full day to spend together. The timing also worked out so that both Brendan and his sister would be set apart and released as full time missionaries on the same day at the same time. To celebrate this event, Brendan's mother came up with a unique poster that hung outside of our house during this special time for our family. The poster said "It's Transfer Day!". Our family was literally exchanging one Canadian called missionary for another.
The night before Brendan was to enter the MTC, we all visited with the 1st Councilor in our Stake Presidency at his office. That night in the same meeting, Brendan was set apart is a full time missionary to serve in the Winnipeg, Canada mission and Brendan's sister was released as a full time missionary from the Edmonton, Canada mission. The next day, Brendan entered the MTC with all of the usual fanfare, which if you have ever dropped off a missionary at the MTC, it is literally pulling up to the curb, saying some quick goodbye's and off they go for the next 2 years. With Brendan it was no different. However, we did go out for lunch before with our whole family and spent a little bit of time taking some final family pictures across the street from the MTC.
It was a little over a week later that we finally received an email from Brendan. Brendan was assigned to a trio of Elders. Both he and one of the other missionaries in the trio were called to be the Zone Leaders while they were at the MTC. The other Elder in their trio was called to be the District Leader. As Brendan put it, they were the "Power Companionship". I'm not sure what power they really had during their 2 weeks in the MTC but they did have some responsibility for the other missionaries in their zone and district.
Brendan told us that his experience in the MTC was like being on a roller coaster. They were constantly on either highs or lows emotionally. There really wasn't much in between. He told us about one of the teaching experiences that they had. Needless to say, it didn't go very well. Brendan said that they rambled on a lot and the spirit just wasn't there. But fortunately, that was the worst of the experiences. Brendan said that as their time went on, their teaching experiences got much better. Along with that, he said that they have been memorizing a scripture a day as a companionship. Brendan also said that time goes by very slow but very fast at the same time. He had only been in the MTC for a week but it felt to him like it had been six weeks. With everything that a missionary has to learn in such a short time, you can imagine why he would say that. The MTC can be rather intense.
Finally the day came that Brendan would fly out to Winnipeg. We kept asking Brendan what his flight plans were so that we would know when to expect him to call home from the airport. He never really gave us any plans but we knew which day he would be leaving. Later that morning I got a call from Brendan as he was waiting at the airport to board his flight. If you know Brendan very well, one thing that he likes to do is keep up on current events. Being in the MTC for the previous two weeks, kind of left him without this type of information. So one of the first questions that he asked was about some of the current events that he had seen on the TV monitors at the airport. We also talked a lot about some of his experiences in the MTC. Everything from his teaching and learning experiences to filling out the evaluation forms for his MTC teachers (a Sister and Elder) and in the box where it asks for information about what the teachers could do better, Brendan asked them to please date his older brother and sister. They must have been some very impressive MTC teachers. :)
Another funny little story about Brendan during his time in the MTC actually started before he left. The missionary suits that he bought before he left on his mission were tailored leaving the pants very baggy. Wearing baggy pants really wasn't Brendan's style and the day that he left, his older brothers teased him about how the wind would catch his baggy pants and blow him away. So while he was in the MTC, he went to the MTC tailors to see if they would take his pants in a bit. He was a little frustrated to find out that the MTC tailors didn't think that fixing baggy pants was important enough for them to do, and they were probably right. The ironic thing is that once he hits Winnipeg and starts to experience the extreme cold temperatures there, he may be glad that his pants are a little baggy because he will probably be wearing several layers of thermal underwear underneath those baggy pants. With those extra layers, he may be grateful for the extra room.
Later that day we received an email from the Winnipeg, Canada mission office telling us that Brendan had arrived safely and they were taking good care of him. With Brendan's sister having just returned from a Canadian mission, she was describing to us exactly what Brendan's first day in the mission would be like. The orientations, meetings, interviews with the mission president and then being assigned is first real companion the next day. We are looking forward to hearing from Brendan on his first P-day in Canada. I'm sure that their will be lots more stories to tell.
Over the next 2 years we will try to update this blog as often as we can. Knowing Brendan and the kind of kid that he is, we are sure that their will be a lot of great stories to tell. We will try to share as many of those stories as we can on this blog.
Brendan with his district and zone companions
Finally getting a little bit of love from his family at home in the way of packages.