|Loaded up for the M.T.C.|
Just after my nineteenth birthday I leave for the Missionary Training Center (MTC) for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Provo, Utah. I've been called to serve in the Albuquerque, New Mexico Mission. Part of me wonders what's in New Mexico.
I know my Uncle Blaine and Aunt Margaret live there... but that's about it. And isn't it a desert? One big litter box? Why didn't I go some place cool like London?
The MTC is awesome and inspirational. I'm put in a dorm room with three other guys that are heading to Albuquerque too. We learn how to teach and meet people. For someone shy like me, it's an important lesson. The food is non-stop and I gain eight pounds in three weeks. I better slow down or I'm not going to fit in my suits.
Arriving in Albuquerque
|Leaving Salt Lake City|
While we're waiting for our food, a cute, well-toned girl comes in and gets in line. Darkly tanned skin, straight black hair, black leather mini-skirt that can't go any higher, and a black tank-top with no bra. Since missionaries can't date and we're taught to be modest... this girl makes me think it's going to be a long two years.
|City of Rocks near Deming|
Areas of Service
I serve in three areas my first year: Deming, Belen, and El Paso, Texas.
Deming was hot, but awesome. They have pure water and fast ducks (just ask). The people there are my kind of folks. We get to know a lot of the rural farmers and even get to help them out on the farms and ranches. There is so much history and scenery to New Mexico that I never knew about and I'm... in the Land of Enchantment. (New Mexico state slogan... who knew?)
|Photo Credit: Augusta Wind Press|
I get to Belen in time for fall and winter. I have some very spiritual experiences there and love the members. They make being away from home for Christmas as painless as possible, but I'm still homesick. The phone call home makes it better, but like Dino says, "There's no place like home for the holidays."
|Making tortillas with mi familia, Leo & Vivian|
In February, I'm sent to serve in El Paso, Texas. At that time, it's part of the Albuquerque mission, but I hear now that it's part of the Tucson mission. El Paso quickly becomes one of my favorite areas, although I think I've said that about all of them. I get to see softball sized hail and some of the greatest people I'll ever know.
In May, I get Dear Johned by my girlfriend back home. She tells me that it was just a physical relationship and that I'll get over her. She says she's met someone else. I toss her blond headed picture into my trunk.
Getting a Dear John Critique Form from another missionary who's recently been dumped, I take her letter around to people I know and read it to them. They critique the letter and I mail all the forms to her. I use extra postage because the envelope is STUFFED.
She calls me on Mother's Day.
I answered the phone, expecting to hear my mom. "Hello?"
Her voice is excited. "Hi!"
I realize who it is and my voice drops to a monotone. "Hi."
"How's it going?"
"In case you're wondering, I'm getting married in August."
"Do you think I really want to hear that?"
"Well what do you want to hear?"
"I just want you to turn around and walk away. And don't look back, because I won't."
"Okay... Goodbye, Tony Dutson."
"Goodbye." And I hung up the phone.
It hurt worse than anything I'd ever experience. Humiliation and betrayal. And it was the gift that kept on giving too. When I got home I had lots of friends concerned that I'd called her all these terrible names on the phone. I'd laugh and say, "Yeah... that didn't happen."
"I didn't think that sounded like you," a friend replied.
If you're going to break someones heart, why be cruel? Isn't it more decent to make it as painless as possible?
But after it happened, I was more than despondent. For weeks everything hurt and I didn't care about anything. I couldn't feel lower. One night I stayed up and prayed to God that he would show me something so I could know things would get better.
That night I had a dream. In it, I was walking through the hall of a hospital and I came to a room. As I stepped inside, I saw a brunette woman laying in the bed. I was so happy to see her and filled with a rush of love for her. Then a nurse stepped up to me and handed me a swaddled baby. I knew that it was my son and my heart nearly burst as the love doubled.
The next morning, while some of the heartache remained, I felt significantly improved. I knew I would get through this and someone better was on the horizon. I just needed to be patient.
I do get one great thing out of my Dear John. When my mission companion and I go bowling one week, he tells me to imagine my girlfriends face in the pins sweet-spot and suddenly I can't miss. For the first time in my life I bowl a turkey (3+ consecutive strikes).