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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Christian's Mission Call

As many of you know, my biggest little brother Christian (also affectionately known as "Kiken") recently left on a two-year mission for our church. I'm a slacker of a sister who never posted about when he received his mission call, and since it was a funny little story, I figure it's about time I share.
It was the day before Thanksgiving, and a group of about forty family and friends had gathered to hear where Christian would be serving for two entire years. Missions are assigned at church headquarters, and prospective missionaries have no idea where in the world they will live and teach the gospel until their "mission call" comes via a letter in the mail. Therefore, opening that letter is a really exciting event in the lives of the missionary and their loved ones. Christian had insisted that he be the one to pick up the mail that day and had confiscated all mail keys before going to work so no one would be tempted to spoil his surprise.

As we waited for everyone to arrive, we all ate treats and made guesses as to where Christian would be sent. We wrote domestic and foreign guesses on post-its and placed corresponding stickers on the map. The dots were scattered all over the globe! Since Christian took Chinese in high school and did very well, Taiwan had the most guesses. (Proselyting missionaries aren't allowed in mainland China.) A lot of the domestic guesses were big cities that also have large Chinese-speaking populations. And then, of course, every returned missionary in the room put in a guess for the mission where they had served. Matt was really pulling for Germany.

At last, the time came to open the call. Our family members that couldn't be there were skyping in or listening over the phone as Christian opened the envelope and pulled out the letter. "Dear Elder Graf," he began to read. "You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Utah Salt Lake South Mission."

The room filled with tentative applause and yay's as Christian continued on to read that he would be speaking the Spanish language and so on. But inside, our hearts dropped because we knew Christian had hoped to serve literally anywhere but Utah -- let alone twenty minutes from his home! He had a friend from Utah who was recently called to that mission, so we knew it could happen. But how hard would that be to live so close to home for two years without being able to interact with your family or friends or anything else from your regular life?

Earlier that day, my mom had asked me whether I thought Christian would say the wrong mission to tease us. I responded that Christian would totally do something like that -- he's nothing if not a brother who likes to tease -- but that I didn't think he would that time. Still, when we heard Utah we doubted, so my mom stood up to look at the letter to verify. Sure enough, there it was: Utah Salt Lake South. "It's true!," she exclaimed. And then we all put a little more effort into our cheering. But Christian just stood there. And then he spoke. "I'm not going there ..." he began to say, and then paused. And I swear, in that two second pause, my mom's heart stopped beating. He continued, "Because that's not my real call!" And then burst out laughing as the room erupted.

Christian continued to explain that he had written up multiple fake calls and made them look exactly like the real deal. (He'd taken a picture of his cousin's call awhile back so he could make it perfect.) Then, when he picked up the envelope from the mail, he placed it in the basement freezer to break the seal. Meanwhile, he put a decoy magazine in a manila envelope which he labeled "Christian's call -- Do Not Touch!" and then placed on the mantle. When no one was paying attention during dinner, he slid the fake letter into the envelope in the freezer, resealed it, and then put it in that manila folder. So elaborate, right? We had no clue. And when he rehearsed all of these steps, we were all dying, we were laughing so hard.

We were also dying to find out where he was really going, and so was he! So at last, he moved the fake letter aside, took a deep breath, and began to read for real. And if the applause was faked before, it certainly wasn't this time. We heard "Korea" and the room went crazy with cheers. Korea! So exciting! We all made guesses as to how to pronounce the mission's main city's name: Daejeon. (Apparently, it is most commonly pronounced Tay-john.) He would be leaving on March 6, which seemed so soon. The twins had a friend who had just barely returned from that same mission in Korea, so he came right over and told us all about it, which made everyone even more excited. It is such a cool place! And so perfect for Christian.

And so the countdown until March 6 began.
The fake call:
The real call:
Trying to pronounce "Daejeon"
His good friend Ashley guessed it!

1 comment:

  1. When he said, "I'm not going..." I thought, "Oh dear, party over! We all need to make a quick exit!" But luckily that awkward silence turned into hilarious laughter.


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