Being a mission president is a wonderful experience! The immediate challenge when you first arrive, is to figure out how to climb aboard the missionary train that is already moving at about 130mph. In two and a half weeks I have managed to put 2500 miles on my car, interview 206 missionaries (including the senior missionaries assigned to the mission), attended two mission conferences, held a three day training meeting for all the trainers in the mission, and managed to hold a few hands along the way.
Virginia is very beautiful and is known for her trees. This is what makes Virginia so deceptive. All the highways are lined with trees giving the appearance of a small town atmosphere, knowing however, that 8 million people live behind the trees. The names of the highways are familiar historical figures who have graced the green state including, Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Pocahontas, Jefferson Davis etc.
Virginia beach is a vacation destination to many on the Eastern seaboard and home to the Atlantic fleet. You can put your feet into the ocean and see an aircraft carrier or ten, some helicopters practicing maneuvers, a few jets fly over and observe the 2 million tourists in various stages of red and tan.
No matter where you are in Virginia, you can't go two feet without finding yourself on some sacred ground where a battle was fought in the revolutionary or civil war. There are plaques and markers everywhere to enlighten your mind to the number of men and women that gave their lives for the cause of liberty; its very sobering.
The economy is doing well generally speaking. The department of defense and special ops are very prevalent, everywhere. All branches of the military are here. Phillip Morris and Anheuser Bush are big names here as well. Additionally, high tech has a presence here and many commute to Washington DC from Northern Virginia every day.
We have been to DC, Charlottesville, Waynesboro, Mechanicsville, Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Virginia beach, Newport News, and Elizabeth city, NC among the many cities and towns that grace the state. You can go from the buzz of the city to the country in the blink of an eye. It is a very charming state with plenty of good food and a very diverse group of people from the North and South. Hospitality is a staple here and strangers waive at you while passing by on foot or in a car.
Note of interest: I have made some visits to the local hospital and discovered they have a McDonald's restaurant in the lobby... Is that one one the great ironies?
The missionaries are remarkable and come from many places including Mexico and Tonga. We have an office staff of very capable women and men with very diverse talents, that help us figure out how to keep missionaries housed, healthy, safe (we have a huge compliment of automobiles) and keep cell phones up to date for communication, etc. There are more administrative responsibilities than I assumed but Sara and I are learning quickly.
I'm in awe of how many missionaries we have that have deferred a scholarship or have put their lives back home, on hold, so they can serve for two years. The fruit of their labors is that they become less selfish individuals and their capacity to love their fellow man increases dramatically as they serve in various communities. Many learn a new language and experience and view society from a very different prism from the life they left behind. Ultimately, they mature much more rapidly (in my estimation) both emotionally and spiritually.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve and be back on the front lines of compassion, hopefully, making a difference in the lives of many. We are busy and happy. We love you and miss you all!