I Want to Be A Missionary Now

On Friday my little brother Cody opened up his mission call!  I can’t believe he’s old enough to be going on a mission but I’m very excited for him.  Since missions are obviously a topic that gets discussed a lot around our house right now I wanted to make it the topic of a Family Home Evening lesson for my kids.

I looked around the internet to see if I could find a lesson that was like what I wanted to do, but nothing quite fit the bill.  What I really wanted to do was discuss how mission calls are made and talk about what missionaries really do.  Since we have really young children this seemed like a good building block to have.  Most of the lessons I saw were about sharing the gospel, which is awesome just not what I wanted to do.  So I decided to make my own.

I put together a lesson plan but what I really wanted was to have a flannel board story to go along with it (that format works really well for our kiddos).  I searched high and low to find the type of clip art graphics that I wanted but really didn’t come up with anything.  I found one picture that I really liked but nothing that matched it.  So I decided to take the picture I’d found and use it to create my own clip art to fill in the rest.

(P.S. – I spent a lot of time coming up with the clip art so I feel the need to share the whole story, if you just want the fruits of my labors the lesson plan and graphics links are at the end of the post, feel free to skip the whole story 🙂 )

This is what I started with:

Bike Missionaries by Arie Van De Graff

I decided the missionary on the right would be the easiest to work with since he didn’t have a helmet on and already had hair.  So I cut him out, stole the other missionary’s left arm, took off his backpack and his tag and… 

Voila!  Now I have a pre-missionary who is ready to meet with his bishop.  Of course, that means that next I’ll need a bishop.  So I doubled that missionary, turned one copy of him to face the other way, added a door in the background and got to work editing one of the copies so that he could look like a different person than the original missionary (a little weird for him to interview himself to go on a mission).  I changed his skin tone a little, got rid of the Mormon wave, smooshed his head, changed his mouth, added a jacket (that was definitely the hardest part), and tried to make them look like they’re shaking hands.  I got pretty far through this process and then realized I had a problem –

I had accidentally amputated the bishop’s left hand!  Crap.  Eric also pointed out that I was having them shake hands very awkwardly, the Bishop’s hand should be on top instead of the prospective Elder’s.  A few more changes and…

Tah-dah!  Now he looks like he’s ready to give out mission calls.  This whole process was HARD (I’m not very artistically inclined, if you can’t tell from my Photoshopping efforts).  So I decided to dig a little more for some clip art that might match.  I found the original picture at MormonShare.com and it indicated that it had been submitted by Jenny Smith, but a perusal of Jenny’s site seemed to be a mirror effort of what was on MormonShare.  I had left a comment with Jenny to see if she could help me find more similar clip art, but I wasn’t too hopeful.  Then I noticed that while the image had been *submitted* by Jenny Smith, the artist listed was Arie Van De Graaff.  A quick Googling of that name led me to his website – The Mormon Cartoonist.  Jackpot!  I emailed Brother Van De Graff to check if it was ok if I posted my finished product on my website (it was) and if he had any ideas on where I could find some of the other pieces I was looking for.

While I waited for a response I went to Google Images and now that I had an artist name for the pictures in question I had a lot more success.  The next thing I wanted to make was a picture of an apostle reviewing the prospective missionary’s papers and issuing a call.  Not an easy bill to fill, mostly I was interested in finding someone sitting in an office chair since that was a piece I wasn’t keen on creating myself.  I found this –

Which I actually only just realized is not by Arie Van De Graff, but by Kevin Beckstrom, but he mentions Arie on his blog post so it came up in my search.  Anyways, I took the adult trekkie, turned him around to face the computer screen, shaved his head, put him in a suit, gave him a smile, and put the missionary’s information on the computer screen and…

Tah dah!  Our Trekkie is now an apostle!  The funny thing was I was having a hard time finding a scribble that I could use for the writing on the computer screen.  I didn’t want to have to come up with actual text, and drawing scribble text with a mouse is harder than you might think!  I had to go and find that scribble on someone’s MySpace page, and then I shrunk it and pasted it over and over 😛  Go figure.

My next step was to make a picture of our missionary receiving his mission call.  This is where I struck gold!  I found this digital coloring book which had almost all the rest of the images that I needed.  Plus, it was illustrated by none other than Brother Van De Graaff himself, so the theme fit perfectly.  Strangely enough the picture for the MTC actually came from the coloring book for The Proclamation on the Family, but it worked.  I put my missionary into all of the pictures and got the rest of my pictures –

So, if you survived through my long story of how I got all my graphics you definitely deserve to have a copy of this lesson.  I don’t promise that it’s the most amazing and life changing lesson, but I’m excited to do it with my boys next week (obviously I kinda missed getting it done for this week, even though I started on Monday with that intention 😛 )  I think it’s probably good if you have very little boys like I do.  I got some of my ideas from this FHE Lesson at A Year of FHE and I plan on printing out her map as well as the missionary tags to go along with the lesson.  So without further ado –

Let me know what you guys think of the finished results!  I’d love to know if there are things you think I ought to fix or change!


The Flag in Our Yard

Dear Sam & Daniel,

Today there’s a flag in our yard that isn’t there most days.  Do you know why?  Our neighborhood’s Boy Scout troop has a fundraiser every year where they will display a flag in our yard to commemorate special days.  But what makes today special?  What is different about today, Tuesday, September 11th that makes it a day when we want to display a flag in our yard?

Let me tell you about a different Tuesday, September 11th, the one that happened 11 years ago. That day there wasn’t a flag in our yard, I was 15 years old and it was a school day just like any other.  I woke up very early that morning for seminary and I was probably late as usual.  It was pretty early in the school year and we were still excited for the year ahead.  After seminary I carpooled with some friends to the school.  Because I was in the early seminary class, but didn’t have a first period class I wandered over to the cafeteria where I would hang out with some of my friends before school and usually try to catch up on some homework.  When I walked in I saw my friend Whitney and I bounced over and cheerfully asked her how she was doing. When she looked at me her face was shell shocked and blank, I could tell immediately that something had happened that had caused her mood to be much different from my own.  She told me, “They bombed the World Trade Center.”

At the time those words didn’t mean much to me.  I didn’t even know what the World Trade Center was or who “they” were or anything.  As she tried to explain some of what was going on we decided to walk over to the library to see if the librarian, a lady we also happened to know from church, would let us watch some of the news coverage from there.  It was a little while before she got there but when she got in we turned on the news to see this –

At 8:46 am EDT an airplane that had been hijacked by terrorists had been crashed into this tower in New York City.  At the time there were two towers side by side that were the tallest buildings in the city where many people worked every day.  It was totally stunning to see.  Since I lived on the west coast this had happened at 5:46am my time, so all this had happened while I was on my way to seminary.  While I was beginning my day other people were ending their lives.  Then while I was sitting in seminary that morning another plane had been hijacked and crashed into the second of those two towers.  At 9:37am EDT, while we were wrapping up our seminary lesson for the morning, yet another plane had been intentionally crashed into the Pentagon.  At 10:03 am EDT, while I was on my way to the cafeteria to talk to Whitney, yet one more plane had crashed, this time, due to the bravery of some civilian passengers, it crashed in a field rather than into a high profile target.

By the time I was even hearing about what had happened, the whole attack was over.  But at the time we didn’t know this.  I was worried, where I lived was close to the big city of Los Angeles.  If these things were happening in New York City I wondered what might happen much closer to home.  That day in school, most of our classes suspended instruction in favor of watching the coverage on these attacks.  We watched as they worked their best to evacuate as many people from those buildings as possible, and we watched as the buildings then came crashing down trapping many people inside and pushing the debris out for a long ways around.  The story was vastly significant.  New York City is one of the biggest cities in our country and almost everyone knows someone there.  My dad had done business in the World Trade Center on many occasions.  Your dad stood at the top of one of those buildings only a month before this happened.  One of my best friends had returned from New York City only the night before.  Across the nation people were concerned about loved ones and what might have happened to them in these awful events.

The FAA decided to ground all air traffic for the next few days while they sorted out what happened.  One of my best friend’s parents were stranded in Utah and couldn’t come back because of the flight cancellations, so she ended up coming over to our house that afternoon.  I don’t think you will ever truly be able to comprehend what happened in the following days unless another event of similar magnitude happens within your lifetime.  I pray you won’t have to endure such an awful experience, but actually it wasn’t all terrible.

Yes, the people that we lost and the sense of security that was lost were horrific, and not the sort of thing you would ever wish upon anybody ever.  However, there was a silver lining to it as well.  In the days and weeks that followed everyone seemed a lot more caring of one another.  I remember being in check out lines and seeing cashiers ask how people were doing, and truly were wondering if they were withstanding these events well and how they were holding up.  “How are you” became not just a rote question that we asked each other out of politeness, but out of a genuine caring for our friends and neighbors well-being.  We all went home that night and hugged our families a little bit tighter, and thanked God for those in our lives who we were so privileged to love and still have with us.  People were more humble and the churches found higher attendance than they’d seen in a long time.   But at the same time, we were proud as a nation.  The American flag was hung from every door and we were proud to be Americans.  Our president said we would find those responsible for the attacks and bring them to justice.  President Bush gave this speech to our nation and even reading it today I’m moved by the words because I remember from whence they sprang.

In the weeks that followed there was lots of coverage given to the heroes of that day.  In the hours between the impact of the airplanes and when the towers fell down, hundreds of firefighters went into the twin towers and rescued many people from the buildings collapse.  Medical personnel showed up on the scene to treat those with injuries.  Policemen did their part to close off the area and help get people out of harm’s way.  The passengers on Flight 93 heard about the catastrophic events that had unfolded that day and bravely stood up to the armed hijackers preventing further harm.  Nationwide people were trying to find ways they could help.  There were many blood drives and candle light vigils.  It was a time of tragedy, but also a time when we were proud to be part of this great American nation.

Our school held a fundraiser for the families of firefighters who had been killed in the collapse of the twin towers.  I bought a metal bracelet  that had the words “We Will Never Forget” on it that I wore for the next several years. And it’s true, I will never forget the events of that day.  My 15 year old mind was given a lot to think about that day and in the days to follow.  Thoughts about mortality, safety, care for our fellow man and what it means to be an American.  However, you cannot ever truly remember the events of that day.  However convincingly I word my thoughts on that day, you weren’t there and therefore cannot fully understand what these things meant to those of us who were there.  You won’t really understand why we have to take off our shoes in the airport, or why we can’t bring liquids on airplanes.  You don’t understand the relief that it brought when we heard that SEAL Team Six had *finally* gotten Osama bin Laden.  You can’t comprehend exactly why we allowed things like the Patriot Act to come into existence.  I won’t say that all of these things were the right thing to do, but I will say that I understand why we did them.  There was once a Tuesday that should have been exactly like any other Tuesday, just like the Tuesday we’re having today, but that day the whole world changed.

I hope that one day you can understand the pride of being an American citizen and feel the gratitude we have for the men and women who defend the rights we have as a nation.  We are blessed beyond measure to have the freedoms that we enjoy and we should be grateful for it every day.  That is why we have an American flag in our yard today.