Saturday, August 9th found our family pulling into the New Tribes Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Camdenton, Missouri. Jared drove a moving truck loaded with most of our worldly possessions, while the boys and I followed in the minivan. We had been warned ahead of time that we would experience a “cultural event” upon arrival, which could take up to two hours.
Our first clue as to the nature of this event was the paperwork we had to fill out before we left Michigan–very specific entry paperwork for “The Republic of Camden.” The information, spelling, weight of the paper, and dimensions were all required to be exact.
Our next clue was a forbidding sign posted at the entrance gate. In Spanish, it read, “Cellular phones are not allowed!”
The MTC welcoming committee consisted of four border patrolmen strutting around in camo, carrying pretty convincing “machine guns,” and all speaking different languages. We watched from our vehicles as they searched through the belongings of some unlucky travelers ahead of us. The boys started to squirm…it was hot…”Where’s Daddy? Who are those guys? Are they bad guys??” were a few of the questions I answered over and over.
Soon we moved forward in line. I watched as Jared was made to unload a quarter of our moving truck. Seriously? Do you know how carefully we packed that? Two guards carefully searched my 5-gallon pails of wheat berries and oats by prodding them with the long handle of a broom. Oh, well. We can cook the germs off later. Noticing large quantities of canning jars, one guard decided to swipe a quart of maple syrup for himself. Good thing this is only a drill, I thought. I’ll be hunting him down later.
Finally, they finished with Jared and beckoned me forward into a roped-off area. “Let me see your license!” “Where are your entry papers?” “Record all valuable items your are carrying on this sheet.” “Open your hood!” “Are these your children?” “Was that your husband?” Each question was fired in a foreign language with much gesticulating to get the point across. It was hard to remember this was only a mock border crossing, especially while I tried to fill out paperwork, hold a screaming infant, and reassure a frightened three-year-old all at the same time.
And those guys were good–they never cracked a smile!
After an hour or so at the border crossing, we were ushered on to immigration services. More paperwork, more foreign languages. Identification pictures had to be taken (“Please to remove all jewelry.”) Next question: “And how will you pay? Cash or check?” Thankfully, this was accompanied by a wink. Meanwhile, our stir-crazy kids ran in circles around the waiting area, wondering where in the world Mom and Dad had brought them!
This was our official welcome to the MTC.
“So,” they ask us, “you want to be a missionary? Get ready for a whole lot more than this!”