In January 2019, my husband (Elder Sam McCollum) and I received our call to serve as full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We would be serving a member leadership mission for 18 months in the Canada Halifax Mission.
Missionary Preparation at the MTC
On February 11, we flew to Salt Lake and were driven to the Provo Missionary Training Centre (MTC). At the MTC we experienced four intensely spiritual and intellectually expanding days. Young returned missionaries taught us how to use the resources contained in the missionary handbook, Preach My Gospel. We were paired with another senior missionary couple, Elder and Sister Christensen of Utah. The objective of the pairing was to become acquainted as well as to practice-teach one other. We developed strong bonds of friendship in a very short time. As we prepared to begin our respective missions, we committed to on-going mutual support of each other by continuing to share experiences through texting.
We were also assigned to a MTC missionary district involving four couples called to different missions. Together we were trained in how we could use electronic devices (smart phones, iPads, tablets) to teach more effectively. All of this training helped us become better prepared to teach others about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Physical and Spiritual Preparation to Embark on Our Mission
Following our MTC experience, we took a flight from Salt Lake City back to Calgary, Alberta. We now began preparing for the 5200 km winter drive from Calgary to Halifax. We cram-packed our vehicle with four seasons of clothing and a Lazy-Boy recliner. For medical reasons, Elder McCollum requires a recliner to get a good night sleep.
Prior to the trip, we had worried, attended the temple, fasted, and prayed: asking the Lord to protect us during the six-day long (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily) winter drive. As we did so, the words of a familiar hymn came to our minds: “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord, Over mountain or plain or sea” (Hymns, no. 270). Initially, we had planned to head south at Winnipeg, travel around Lake Michigan, and re-enter Canada at Sarnia, Ontario. This travel route would allow us to visit family in southern Ontario and avoid the winter drive along the Trans-Canada Highway across the top of Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
During our frigid drive from Calgary, to Regina, and to Winnipeg, the temperature dropped to minus 20 degrees Celsius, but skies and highways were clear. At Winnipeg, the updated weather reports showed freezing rain for our intended southward route. The northern route along Lake Superior and Lake Huron remained clear. After a short prayer and a spiritual confirmation of our decision, we took the northern route.
The highway was lined with high mounds of snow. A few breaks in the clouds allowed us a view of the vast ocean-like and partially frozen waters of Lake Superior. At times the salt and sand treated roads were wet but never icy or slippery.
Turning south at Sudbury, Ontario, we arrived at the nation’s capital, Ottawa, with cloudy skies and bare roads. We had hoped to visit at least one museum or historical site in Ottawa, but the Spirit indicated the need to keep travelling in order to stay ahead of the storms that were following us. So, on we drove, into the province of Quebec. Just before reaching Montreal, we crossed the Saint Lawrence Seaway that was completely covered with ice.
We were able to drive on clear roads as we entered the borders of New Brunswick. We drove through the dark, finally stopping for the night in Edmundston. We noticed that most signage was still in French, although the agent in the motel could communicate with us in English. We had equipped ourselves with a phone app “English to French,” since our high school and university French was rather rusty. The next morning, before leaving the city to head to Nova Scotia, we came upon a much-needed car wash, ridding our vehicle of salt and sand.
The next morning, the skies were dark with heavy clouds, but the roads continued to be clear of snow and ice. We sent a text message ahead to the Mission Office and received a reply. President Low invited us to dinner, bed, and breakfast at the mission home in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. With thankful hearts, we gratefully accepted the invitation and thoroughly enjoyed our time with President Richard and Sister Gayle Low.
Safely Beginning to Serve Jesus Christ
A few days into our service in the Canada Halifax Mission, the weather showed us how blessed we had been on our six-day journey across the frozen lands of Canada. As we moved into our senior missionary accommodations in Halifax, we experienced our first “Nor’easter.” Thankfully, we were able to escape the cold strong frigid blasts of wind since we had heated underground parking at our new “home.” Two angels—young missionary elders—unloaded our vehicle for us.
One week later, another “Nor’easter” moved into the Halifax area, filling the roads with heavy wet snow, followed by snow pellets that felt like needles on bare skin. Near sunset, wind-driven freezing rain turned snow banks to icy mounds. We were so thankful that we could experience the power of winter weather from the safety of our apartment that overlooks the city. The storms that greeted us in Halifax reconfirmed how our prayers for safe travel and protection during our six-day winter journey to Halifax had been answered. We were now ready to “embark in the service of God” with all our “heart, might, mind and strength” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:2).