Almost five weeks into home MTC and it’s going far too quickly.

My son Gabriel, received his call to the Germany Berlin Mission on March 10th, just before the world shut down. As he watched all the events of his senior year of high school fall away—concerts, games, awards nights, prom, graduation—he clung to his mission call.

As the months passed, it became clear Gabe’s expectation of reporting to the Provo, UT Missionary Training Center like his four brothers before him, would be replaced by a home MTC.

Rather than a disappointment, home MTC is a blessing.

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Gabe has his schedule: 6:30 AM wake up, workout (I run with him, unless he’s lifting weights with another missionary in the neighborhood), personal study, 9 AM class over Zoom, a five-minute break when he comes and finds me for a hug. At noon, Grandpa Fritz arrives for personal German tutoring with Gabe. They read scriptures, Grandpa explains grammar, he tells stories.

Oh, the stories!

Fritz tells Gabe all the stories of his childhood in Berlin. The summer they wore nothing but swimsuits because his only shirt and shorts were reserved for church, worrying about his Jewish friends, seeking refuge in bomb shelters, the first time he tasted chocolate, coming home to find their apartment occupied by Russians, watching his sister eat a whole onion because she was so hungry….

And through these stories, he’s teaching Gabe the German language, one word, one phrase, one story at a time.

It’s an extraordinary gift.

Our friend, Elder Truman Pugsley, studies Spanish with his sister who also served in a Spanish speaking mission. In fact, every missionary in his district has someone in their home who speaks Spanish fluently.

Elder Steven Blodgett, doesn’t have a Russian speaker in his home, so he’s calling my son Stefan and other Russian speakers to hone his skills. He’s reaching out in a way he’d never been able to in the typical MTC experience.

The afternoons are filled with companion study and personal study, practicing the piano and memorizing vocabulary. His siblings sit on the floor with him, quizzing flash cards out loud, until Gabe goes back to class at 5:45 PM. He sits in his bedroom in front of my husband’s old laptop with headphones, a plate of sliced peppers and a grin that can’t be wiped off his face.

At 8:45 PM he waltzes downstairs to recruit family members to go on a walk. We joke, “You wanted a missionary, now you have to walk him every night,” while we scramble for shoes and head out into the dark. Sometimes we simply circle the block, other nights, the entire neighborhood.

Our strolls are leisurely and chatty, not just with each other as we share all the news of the day, but with friends and neighbors who we inevitably meet on the way.

Every walk, every story, every hug, every meal, every flashcard, is a gift. Everything we thought might be hard about home MTC– not swimming, avoiding movies, music and TV, deactivating his phone and his social life, leaving him for a vacation– was resolved effortlessly. He’s with us for home church, to admire baby Fritz, to go on cookouts in the canyon on P-days. He’s here.

The night he was set apart, Gabe made a clear distinction from his past life to his missionary life. He’s embraced it wholeheartedly with enthusiasm and determination.

At the end of each day (around 9:57 PM), we kneel and pray and say good night. And every night, I’m grateful for one more night at home with my sweet boy.

All over the world, missionaries are adjusting to home MTC, to reassignments, to teaching on Zoom while in quarantine, to mowing lawns and pulling weeds rather than teaching about Jesus. They’re serving any and every way they can with grace and humor and gratitude. The future of the world may seem frightening right now, but watch the youth, we are in good hands.