The Wednesday Curb at the MTC

“I remember how scared I was when I arrived,” says Elder Taylor, a host missionary.  “When you’re new, it helps to meet other missionaries first thing at the curb.”

Elder Taylor is standing at one of the twenty-five, white-washed and numbered stands that are placed every Wednesday morning along the sloping sidewalk going down and around the southeast corner of the L.D.S. Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

These stands are spaced just farther apart than the length of a vehicle with an open trunk.  Three thermal drink containers are strategically placed for relief from weather or thirst.  Resident missionaries with white “HOST” badges stuck below their black missionary nametags congregate in small groups around each stand.

Some fifteen adult volunteers gather noonish for a short prayer meeting.  On windy and cold days these middle-aged people are wrapped in heavier clothing.  On sunny, warmer days they are in their Sunday best.  But no matter the weather, they are always wearing their maroon volunteer MTC nametags and showy lemon-lime netted vests to set them apart from the crowd.

These host missionaries and adult volunteers are part of a large contingent of assistants that welcome new missionaries and their families at the training center fifty Wednesdays each year between noon and two p.m.  It is one of the more interesting spots for drama, emotions, and excitement in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Shortly after 12:15 p.m., the cars begin to come.  They are usually rather full of people, sometimes dressed in Sunday best, but more often in casual clothes.  This offsets the new suit and excited countenance of the new missionary who is sitting among his or her siblings, friends, and/or parents.  Sometimes a father is absent.  Sometimes a mother does not come.  Occasionally, grandparents will drop off the missionary and once in a while roommates are also in the car.  But always, always, there is a new missionary.

Occasionally, there are two and more missionaries from one family in the same car.  It might be a set of twins or an older sister coming on the same day as her younger brother.  Sometimes, even a set of triplets shows up.

Cars are directed towards the curb and invited to stop at one of the stations.  The host elders, who are current residents of the MTC, work two by two at each station along the curb.  One host missionary welcomes the mother and family members.  The second host missionary helps the father move the new missionary’s luggage to the curb.

“It’s a hard moment for me,” said Sister Wright, a recent missionary mother, as her family piled out of their van.  “He’s our first missionary.”

The host missionaries number between 100-125 depending upon the “new” missionary count for the week.  Most often, they are foreign language students who welcome a respite from the confines of the classroom for the two hours they serve.  Sister missionaries also help, but they are not easily seen from the curb, as they begin their interaction with new sister missionaries at the entrance of a nearby residence hall.

After hugs, goodbyes, and occasionally a last-minute photo, one of the host missionaries accompanies the new Elder through his first minutes at the MTC.  He asks his name, where he is from, and where he will be serving as they climb the hill to their first stop, the main building of the MTC.

While the new missionary is formally welcomed and receives his own name tag, keys, and paperwork, the host missionary waits with new missionary’s luggage.  Together they will go to the new missionary’s room in an assigned resident’s hall, walk through the bookstore to pick up language and religious materials, and eventually proceed to an allocated classroom.  The new missionary is dropped off and the host missionary returns to the curb to begin the process again.

If a new sister is dropped off, two host elders accompany her to the sister’s residence hall where a host sister missionary accompanies the new sister through the same process.

Brother and Sister Hadley are the current supervisors that coordinate the volunteers serving on the curb.  Their responsibilities include sending reminder emails each weekend about the upcoming weather, the number of missionaries expected on Wednesday, and the time of prayer meeting.

A typical email reads, “Every week is a new adventure for us.  We have 320 missionaries coming in Wednesday.  It looks like our cold weather is arriving, so dress accordingly.  Prayer meeting at noon.”

“What a blessing for us to witness this miracle unfold each week as parents, after many years of training, hope and prayers, drop off their precious sons and daughters, ” Brother Hadley recently expressed.

Sister Hadley’s observation is a bit more direct as she thanks the volunteers.  “I have surely seen you glow at the end of the shift.  Your service never goes without being noticed by Him on high.”

Soon two hours are gone and most of the new missionaries have arrived as scheduled.  The 25 stands are moved to the inside of the sidewalk and the host missionaries return to their studies.  The adult volunteers remove their lime yellow vests, wave their goodbyes to each other, and return to their normal routines.

They will meet again in one week to welcome another large group of missionaries preparing to serve the Lord.  It was another good Wednesday on the MTC curb.

Photos from  Used with permission.

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