This past weekend marked a rather important milestone in my tenure as a member of the church. The last of the missionaries to introduce me to the church said "goodbye" to full-time missionary work and "hello" to the post-mission experience. Their going home leaves them -as well as myself-at a interesting crossroads. To me they are more than missionaries, they are my friends and now life here in the city without them seems unimaginable.
We'll start at the very beginning. I met Elder's Marshall and Bailey almost a year ago and I credit them with actually getting me to church. I didn't get to know them well because 5 days after I met them they were transferred. Then entered the sister missionaries; Sister's Beames and Lafollette. I credit them with actually getting me to the baptismal font, but beyond that they became my best friends and my sisters. After a few months Sister Lafollette went back to Temple Square, Utah to continue serving her mission. Who would take her spot? None other than the amazing Sister Drennan, and from the start we also had a strong bond. Before I go further something happened between the time the first set of elders left and the sisters arrived. With the arrival of the sisters, another companionship of elders entered the fold and Elder Bromley was one-half of it. We also had a strong bond from the start.
And that's how it would be for months, and it was great. But eventually all good things must come to an end. After Sister Lafollete, Elder Bromley was the next to get transferred, then the time would come for Sister Beames to leave, followed by Sister Drennan. But those were just transfers, they were still in the same mission area and there would be times where I would still see some of them and interact with others via postal mail. Essentially, it was like they never left. Then it became time for them to go home. The first with that honor was Sister Lafollete, then in the last 2 weeks Sister's Beames and Drennan followed by Elder Bromley, all made their way back to Utah.
When missionaries go home it's the end of an era. They remain the same person, but they change literally overnight. They don't have to be in missionary dress anymore, they can go to school or work, they can even begin dating with the prospect of marriage. I don't have to call them elder or sister anymore, instead I can call them Becky or Sydney or Amy or Cody. But all this change makes me uneasy. I want them to remain missionaries, I miss the spiritual high I felt everytime I was in their presence, I miss going to teach with them or going to teach them, even. Gone are the days of "Hey, you wanna come with us to teach....?", instead they've been replaced with "Hey, you wanna come with us to the movies?"
Why does this bother me so? I know they say that the post-mission experience is weird for the missionaries, but does it also apply to the recent convert? Will their impressions of me change now that the name tag is off? Of course not, mission or no-mission, I love them and they love me. I guess I'm afraid that now that they have "normal" lives, I might become a distant memory. We've all promised one another that we would remain friends no matter what, so I shouldn't worry.
Knowing that in a few weeks I'll be reunited with most of them in Utah does provide some solace. I have to remember that I can do so much more with them now that they aren't on missions anymore, but will we do the same things we used to do when they were on missions? Only time will tell, but the days until I get to Utah seem to only grow longer knowing that then there were none.