Operation: Infilitrate Kirtland

It’s been a strange whirlwind of events lately that seem to have brewed up a storm.  With most storms, you don’t really know how they are going to be until the very moment they hit or simply disappear into thin air.  Before us was a series of challenges on this potentially deadly mission:

  • Secure transportation from Columbus to Cleveland (NO VAN USE PERMITTED)
  • Once in Cleveland,locate shelter for the night.
  • Infiltrate the Kirtland Visitors Center and surprise our sister, Tiffany.
  • Secure transportation back to Columbus.

 We knew it was risky, but we were up for the challenge. 

It all seemed to start the day we left our van behind for the first time.  We left The Plains with Savannah after a late night of nerves kicking in.  Were we really going to make it to Cleveland?!  Luckily the day before we had three ride-share offers, however, we had no idea if these sources were really going to pan out or dwindle into the vast Internet space of fake profiles and computer spammers.  We went with the best option of likelihood and timing: a CouchSurfer. 

Once we arrived in Columbus we learned a great lesson:  ALWAYS have someone text you their address.  We heard Brighton Rd. on the phone, but the correct address was Bryden Rd.  We made the necessary 12 mile course correction and arrived at our drop point.  After waiting on the doorstep for what felt like forever due to exhaustion, our riding buddy comes around from the back (we discovered later that is the only way to the top two floors where he lived).  We all made the generic quick introductions and made our journey to Cleveland. 

Downtown Cleveland appeared suddenly, as the plentiful trees had engulfed the city from the freeway's view.  Our chauffeur pulled off the freeway and left us at the first easy drop off possible: smack dab in the heart of downtown Cleveland.  Automatically as we took our first few steps away from the car with our huge packs, we could sense the vulnerability of change.  This was the adventure we came for, being dropped off without plans of food or shelter, we were ready to challenge our very existence.  After walking a few blocks into the heart of downtown, we were passed by a man asking for change.   The strange part of this was that he first asked if we were homeless and Josh replied with a quick "No".  As the man proceeded to give us his well rehearsed and overplayed sob story, we blew him off as kindly as possible.  We made the realization that we can honestly tell beggars we are homeless. This worked great on the next block, when we were approached once again.  I’m not much of a fan for giving money out either, as I find it enables beggars to stay in their current mindset.  They give the homeless a bad rap and seem to distance others from really looking at the poverty issues the world faces.  

We stopped at a coffee shop for internet and spent a couple hours looking for places to stay and sending last-minute CouchSurfing requests.  Before we had any responses, we were invited to dinner by the Jones family.  This family was converted into the Mormon church, largely due to Tiffany's influence and had the inside scoop regarding when and how to see Tiffany, or "Sister Manwaring" as she's referred to on her mission.

As we made our way to the railway station, expecting to pay the $5  fare, we were approached by a random stranger who allowed us to use her prepaid cards to get on.  With a great smile on our face we boarded the train and barely made the transfer to our bus.  Standing on the bus was a little awkward due to the size of our packs, but being some of the only white people on a crowded bus was a bit out of our norm as well.  The bus ride was long, but we arrived safely to our stop, where Mr. Jones and another dinner guest picked us up and drove us the the Jones home for dinner.

We sat around the table with strangers waiting for a much needed nourishment of lasagna.  With the high energy of excitement in the room for what was to come, we discussed our travels in between every bite we could sneak in.  Finally, subjects are changed and we learned a bit more of those we have joined for dinner.  We were joined by two of Tiffany's mission companions (one previous companion and one current), a young man who was alone, as his wife was off visiting her family and a married couple who were investigating the church.  The meal came to an end with a delicious dessert and we began to put our plan of sneaking up on Tiffany together. 

The complicated part is this:  Missionaries are not allowed to see friends and family while on their missions.  Their focus should be on their work for the church and having visitors can potentially be a great distraction to that focus.  Ah, but there is a loophole:  because Tiffany is giving tours of a historic church property, if family "happens" to end up in one of those tours and the meeting was not prearranged by the missionary, interaction is permitted.  What happened next is best described by Tiffany herself, so we'll let her tell it.

Enter Tiffany "Sister Manwaring":

Saturday began as a regular day - actually a great day! (I ran a mile that morning! may not sound big, but it is for me! ;D) We had studies, and sanded down someone's porch for a couple hours, pizza and contacting people at the park. We got a phone call from Sisters Spring and Hansen asking if we could do an exchange with them that afternoon. Kinda last minute, but don't really have a whole lot of appointments set up (none..). Yeah we could do it! I told Sister Bringhurst she could go out to teach with Sister Spring since I've already had the chance to be companions with her and teach in the Kirtland ward 🙂 So, she took off while I stayed home to take care of sick Sister Hansen. The day went on, I scoured the area book, talked to the Saunders (who went to the Columbus Temple for the first time on Saturday and were baptized for their grandparents! So great!). Then we got a call from Sister Spring. "Hey can you..come to sites? in about 30 minutes?"..no explanation. "uh..yeah, sure." We get ready to go and Sister Bringhurst calls and awkwardly says "Uhh the Jones want to see you..." Okay, we're on our way.
We get there, wait inside and in comes the sisters with Jordan. Shortly after the Jones' come in. We talk for a second and they tell us "Lets go outside and sit on the picnic tables." Okay.. so we go out and kinda pause and chat at the doors. I looked over and saw a couple people with big camping backpacks filming their entrance on their phone.... wait...wait...what?! JOSH AND MEISHA?!?!.... What?! No no NO way! Uh, yeah! They came to KIRTLAND!! 😀 I just laughed and turned around, threw down my stuff, and walked over to see if it was really them. Sure enough, a few pounds lighter, but it was them alright!
I knew they'd be traveling around and had been staying in Athens with Savannah and Craig, but they said they wouldn't be making it to Cleveland. I was NOT expecting this! We hugged and laughed and laughed some more. Then Josh asked "Well, are you gonna take us on a tour?" Uh, yeah! You want a tour, I can give you a tour! It was great giving them the whole Kirtland experience and being able to share something that means so much to me with them. Josh said it was neat to see someone he knows as a missionary and see what I'm out here doing. They're staying with the Jones family for now and headed back to the Spiel's pretty soon.
After talking with them for a bit, it was neat to see how our different journeys really correlate. They were talking about how they meet all different types of people, which I get to do every day as well. We've each been able to do things we haven't done before. We're searching for service opportunities, so we got to talk about ways we could do that. They knew that by taking this journey, they may miss quite a few big family events. I felt that same way leaving for the mission. But we both know that what we're doing is worth it and life changing. Overall, it was such a good thing that we got to see each other, especially because we don't know when we'll see each other again depending on where their journey takes them.
At the same time, I understand now why we don't see or talk to family often on the mission. It has been kinda tough to get back in the swing of things, I'm still just so in awe that I just saw Josh and Meisha! haha, but I know it was for a reason and I'll always be grateful! So, thanks again Josh and Meisha for hitch-hiking your way up here, it really means a lot! 🙂

Sister ManwaringQuoted from her weekly family letter

Although we have left the church, it was interesting to learn of the struggles and lifestyles of those ages.  We learned a few new things along the way about the temple construction efforts and had chance to hear Tiffany bear her testimony of the church.  We can appreciate that she is doing something that feels her with the joy of life and the passion to share it on her mission.  We may disagree upon religion, but we can appreciate each other following the lifestyle and beliefs that bring fulfillment to one's life.  

 We stayed at the sites for far longer than Tiffany’s mission curfew and enjoyed every moment we spent with her.  It all came to a close as we were asked to wrap up our conversations and move along.  Joyful and sad goodbyes are exchanged as we are unsure of a next visit.  Although there was a hint to take a tour of the first LDS temple the following day and maybe Tiffany and her companion would join us in during their lunch break.

We were given a queen bed at the Jones’ (offered up by their generous daughter) for the next couple of nights.  We settled in for the night after a day of excitement, ready for the time we would spend getting to know our host family.  

Our next two days in the Kirtland area were incredibly enjoyable.  A few highlights were: 

  • Enjoying delicious coffee with Ben (The Jones' neighbor) on his front porch.
  • Touring Sister Jones' school and taking their dog out to the lawn to play.
  • Learning new (and odd) things about Mormon church history during our tour of the Kirtland Temple (and getting to see Tiffany once more, of course).
  • Walking the beach of Lake Eerie with Sister Jones and her daughter, Jordan while looking for "beach glass"
  • Monday lunch, courtesy of the Jones family at Melt.  Wow.  Grilled cheese will NEVER  be the same.
  • Our ride back to Columbus found via Craigslist.  We rode with our new (and now very dear) friend Ernie and once we arrived back in Columbus, proceeded to join him and his friends at Bodega for $1 grilled cheese sandwiches and drinks.

All in all, the trip was an incredible success and a very grand adventure.

Mission:  COMPLETE.

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