Early in my teens, my mother and her sister got the idea that they should take ship to England and pick up my aunt’s daughter who was serving a mission in Scotland. I got drafted as guardian, being a robust youth. Not really. I think Mom worried about my fate in the hands of my brothers and father in her absence. Wise woman. There are many tales of this trip and I won’t bore you with most of them, but I will offer you a few.
We were not a well-off bunch (my aunt was in a somewhat higher tax bracket) and we took the economy route. No jet planes for us – they were all afraid to fly. Trains to New York via Chicago, then 7 days at sea (that *was a blast*). I spent time following the officers around, sitting in the engine room, or on the bridge. The food was amazing, I didn’t know a steak could be heaven. My mother, child of the depression that she was, felt steak deserved severe punishment and decreed death by fire to our 1/4 inch cuts.
Landing in Southampton, we headed north by train to Scotland where we met my cousin. Wonderful members, no doubt much poorer than we were put us up in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. I was introduced to some hearty Scottish women who kept the home fires burning for men who made a living at sea. Those cold smoggy days come to mind, the Olympic training pool where I foolishly jumped off the top platform, risking future children, and the singing of familiar hymns in rented rooms. Then off to the continent by ferry where everyone was seasick but me and then on tour — one of those rapid things that blasted through everything west of the then “iron curtain.”
On the return leg, my mother discovered that we were broke and my aunt wasn’t kicking in any cash. So she contacted the Church’s European mission headquarters. The Church owned a wonderful residence (if memory serves, not too far from the London temple) and they put us up there for a week until my dad finally got our letter and wired some funds.
I’ve never forgotten the generosity of the General Authority who took care of us off the books. And it was there that I developed a life-long love of the English countryside. Every morning I’d open the window of my room, climb down into the backyard garden and wend my way into the fields beyond. It was something like walking into an Impressionist painting that occasionally transitioned to fine realism. The smells, sounds, colors, light and clouds still stay with me. I have some suspicion that the spirit world will be like this. If it’s not, I’d like a refund.
Now I do have a question and request that goes with it. Have you ever been involved in one of these “missionary retrieval” operations? Perhaps you were left behind while parents ventured to some exotic place, or maybe you were the subject being retrieved. Care to share?
 On our return sea journey, our transport was an about-to-be-retired liner that lacked the stabilizers of modern ships – and we had stormy seas. Everyone was puking their guts out but me again. I sat alone at breakfast, lunch, evening meal. It was great wandering the ship and the foredeck getting pounded with spray. I bunked with three American guys in their 20s. They were men of the world, but they were kind enough to me. “Their” Europe made my hair curl however.