Tuesday evening, President Tanner and Bishop Johns came to our house to set Andy apart. It was a very special experience for everyone, but Andy was especially touched...he said on Wednesday that it was the most amazing experience of his life.
President Tanner said a few words, had the rest of us say a few words and by the the time everyone had said what they wanted, Andy was just totally overwhelmed and asked if we could pause in the proceedings for a minute to have a group hug. It was definitely one of the most significant events we've ever experienced as a family. After the group hug and a couple more words of counsel from President Tanner, Andy was set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (this point was emphasized to him...he's representing the Church...not just serving in our ward, our stake, etc.)
It was really just an amazing night...
On Wednesday, we were all up at 4 to head to the airport...after a last minute change of plans due to some unrelated events, I ended up travelling with Andy to SLC...so at about 5:30 in the morning, Mark and Andy shared their last love, hugs and kisses, Andy gave Madison a hug and a note to read later on, and Andy and I headed to the gate. As we went through security, one of the security officers complimented Andy on how sharp and clean cut he looked...we explained to him what Andy was about to go do and the man was so nice and said the world needs more people like Andy!
At the gate, Andy found 3 more missionaries - all of whom were called to Joao Pessoa too! They also had not received their visas and were travelling to Provo. Andy got to sit by one of them...an Elder Hutchinson. It was good to see more young men going on this big adventure! The guys weren't wearing their missionary badges yet since they would get them at the MTC, but the man who took our boarding passes recognized them as missionaries anyway and asked the four guys where their badges were!
In SLC, Grandpa and Grandma Howell met us at the airport and drove us to Provo where we picked up Marcus and went to Red Robin for lunch...Andy and I shared a bunch of the experiences from the past few days with everyone while we ate. Andy was just so happy and was pretty much glowing.
After lunch we went to the Provo temple for just a quick sec of photos and hugs and last words...then we pulled into the MTC where they literally direct you to a spot on the curb...at each spot, there were two "HOST" missionaries waiting for new arrivals. We pulled up, Andy's two hosts came over, one grabbed his bags from the car and the other spoke with Andy and Grandma and everyone...then after one or two more hugs and a quick pic, one of the hosts turned with Andy and headed inside...it was like summer camp...everyone was happy and smiling...very welcoming...very friendly and Andy immediately had arms wrapped around him welcoming him in...for those of us that were tense and dreading the big good-bye, this was a peaceful, happy, joyful experience and we left Andy in great spirits!
Can't wait to hear from him for the first time!
Andy and new pal Elder Hutchinson