So my sister Rachel, having graduated the MTC, has just had her first real transfer. After a few months in her greenie area, Rennes, she’s now a junior companion in Versailles, a lovely place, I hope, for her to pass the holidays. Rachel is different in temperament than any of her older siblings who have served missions—less voluble than I, less task-oriented than another, more guarded than still another—so her letters, delightful as they are, don’t yield much information. But from what I can cull, the shift in scene has been a bit rough on her.
The first real transfer of my mission occurred about this time of year, nine years ago. It was rough on me too, leaving a family of beloved converts in a tiny branch halting under the burden of a dysfunctional leadership and a disobedient elder. Here’s how it happened in my journal:
October 15: I was praying at about 7:15 AM when the phone rang and I instantly knew it must be about transfers. A tiny part of me had been expecting (hoping?) for a transfer, so it wasn’t a complete surprise when I heard that I’d be going to Coimbra II to be comps with Sister S., Elder B. would be going to Famalicao (coitado), and Sister D. and Elder H. would be coming to take our places. The next two days were a blur of saying goodbye to people and packing my things and trying to take care of my sick companion, hardly worth going into. … A difficult moment came late Wednesday night after an exhausting session of saying goodbye we went over to C.’s. [a recent convert I had taught], where I wanted a loving, gratifying, comforting, satisfying ending to my time with them. It went somewhat worse than that. As we walked out the door she was yelling at [the branch president's wife] with more anger than I’d ever heard in her voice. I was desolate. Then we got home, I was signing [a teenage girl's] book, and I found an incredibly inappropriate entry to her from Elder X [which I then reported]. I hope she doesn’t leave the church. That kind of stuff simply cannot happen.
October 17: My first transfer! I got up early and got to the bus station by 7:00 AM, and boarded the bus safely. Turned out C. was going to Coimbra by the same bus, so I had three more hours to talk with her and try to resolve her concerns. … I think I was able to do some good in those three hours—at least I hope and pray every day that I did. Anyway, we finally got to Coimbra and after a very very long and very tearful goodbye with C., I was off to my new house. I was met by Elder W., the new zone leader here with whom I am very impressed, because the sisters had just moved house and I didn’t have the new address. We drove through the rain through lovely Coimbra (how excited I am to serve here!) to our little house right at the foot of the university, got my bags into the house and myself collapsed securely onto my new bed, and so my time in Coimbra began. …
I like Sister S. a lot, and I think we’ll have a good companionship. she works differently than Sister R. [my trainer]—we spend more time in the house, and are a little more lax on lunch hours and the like—which is a little distressing to me. But she’s a good misionary and I think she really does want to do good work, so I’m not worried. But when I’m senior I do want to be quite rigorous with my schedule—I don’t want to get tired—and I hope that during this time with her I don’t forget how it used to be. But don’t get me wrong—I like her very very much and am excited to serve with her. …
I’ve been struggling a little bit with who I am and how I act when I’m suddenly thrust into this missionary mecca—there are TWELVE missionaries in Coimbra alone! I was born in Castelo Branco, and this new situation is confusing and difficult for me, and I’m never happy with how I am around the missionaries. The elders from Porto came to give the much-talked-about serao musical [musical fireside] on Sunday night, which proved to be a grand success. I was very impressed with their musical jeito—apparently Elder Bell and Elder Griggs are quite talented. I suffered from the usual stupid side effects of feeling jealous when somebody else is better at something than me, but I’m trying to get over that. I’ve NEVER seen so many missionaries gathered at one time and place. I like it, and liked getting to know some of them, but like I said I have a hard time knowing how to act around elders especially, still. I really enjoyed talking to Elder Bell afterwards—he’s extremely cool, in my judgement.
So that was my first real transfer, and my last regular one: all the rest of my mission transfers occured to address some exigency. I was transferred away from Coimbra five months later to preempt a personal situation with the Elder W. above, and over the next chaotic six weeks or so I was transferred many times in an ongoing effort to protect the mental health of my new (and much beloved) companion. I then finished out my mission with five more months in Matosinhos by the sea.
Transfers were difficult: reconfiguring the companionship, mastering the geography and demography and choreography of the new area, these were all hard things. And yet every transfer morning there was that tiny part of me—a weak part of me, I think—that hoped for a new scene and a new start on the other end of the telephone line.
So let’s hear about your first transfer, or your best one, from your journal or from memory. What were the transfer rituals in your mission?