Elder Kyle M. Allen in Hong Kong

Read all about Elder Allen's adventures as a full time missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints in Hong Kong

Its All About the Picture

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Overall the process of filling out Kyle’s mission papers went pretty well.  He took care of all the online paperwork, scheduling and keeping the appointments and even passed the physical.  The dentist even helped out by announcing he had no wisdom teeth to remove, thereby eliminating one of the most expensive, painful and time consuming parts of the mission preparation process.  I thought we were on the home stretch when late one evening he casually asked, “Will you take my picture?”  For a minute I couldn’t believe my ears, Kyle the little boy I had chased around for so many years trying get him to stand still long enough for me to snap a picture of that mischievous grin, the cute face and the beautiful blue eyes was wanting me to take his picture?  At first I thought I might make him chase me around – under the table, into the backyard – all the while whining about how many pictures I had taken of him already and wouldn’t one of those work.   He must have sensed what was going through my mind and he quickly added,  “Its for my mission papers.”  I guess it was then I decided it would be fun and easy to take a picture of this young man while he was holding still, looking at the camera and smiling.  Not so.  He disappeared for a few moments and returned wearing a white shirt, tie, suit coat jacket and shorts (let’s not get carried away – after all they just wanted a head shot.)  I retrieved my camera, tested the settings and began to take picture after picture.  We tried different lighting, different backgrounds and different angles.  He smiled for some and had a serious face in others.  We adjusted his tie, smoothed his hair and whetted his lips.  After every few shots I would show him the results on the LCD screen and hope he would exclaim, “That’s it.”  It didn’t happen.  Finally we gave up and moved to the computer where I thought maybe seeing them on the big screen and making some Photoshop-type adjustments would help.  Here are some of the results.

After an hour or so of debating, he chose one photo but somehow I could tell he still wasn’t really happy.  I couldn’t figure it out.  This wasn’t a picture that a whole bunch of cute girls would see in a yearbook or that would appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated or GQ.  At the most a few secretaries and distinguished older gentlemen who happened to be Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ would see it.  They didn’t care nearly as much about how he looked as they did about knowing the Lord’s will for him.  Oh well, it was done and now we could turn these papers in.  Again I was wrong.

A couple of nights later Kyle came to me and said, “I think I need a haircut.”  This sounded fine to me as I have never really had to be concerned about the length of Kyle’s hair.  “No, I mean for the picture.  I need to have a haircut and then take another picture,” he said.  Inside I cringed, but outside I wanted to be helpful.  “What about the one we took the other night?” I queried.  “I don’t like it,” he replied  “it isn’t quite right.”  “Yes, but is it really all that important?” I asked, trying not to sound too discouraging.  “Mom,” he said “it’s all about the picture.”

A couple of nights later sporting a new (but not that much different) haircut, a tie that matched his eyes and a better attitude on my part, we started taking pictures again. Once again we tried all different types of poses and backgrounds.  Once again adjusted the distance and turned the camera back and forth between portrait and landscape mode.  Once again we made sure his smile wasn’t too big and his ears didn’t stick out.  Once again we retired to the computer still not convinced that we had taken the perfect picture.  We picked out three that we liked and here they are.

Picture #3Picture #1Picture #2

After assigning each picture a number, we invited everyone who was lucky enough to be in the house at that time, to come into the room – one by one – to vote.  After everyone had voted at least once, (some were asked back into the room when it became clear the vote was going to be close) Kyle deemed the middle photo the winner and this part of the mission papers complete.  He seemed much happier and I don’t think either of us really thought much about it again until his mission call arrived and he opened it.  At first I was a little taken aback by the place he had been called to serve.  Were missionaries even allowed to go in there? (The answer to this one is “yes” apparently they don’t call missionaries to places they are not allowed to go.)  Does anyone there ever join the church?  What would he be eating and would he get sick?  Would he be safe?  As I learned more about Hong Kong however, I realized just how perfect this assignment would be for Kyle and my thoughts turned to the kind, older gentlemen who had issued him this calling.  How did they know this would be perfect?  How could they tell?  They didn’t know him like I did.  They hadn’t been with him from those first few days in intensive care as he valiantly struggled to breathe to his high school graduation and first semester in college.  They had only read a few words about him and looked briefly at his picture.  His picture?  Was Kyle right about his picture?  Could they tell from his haircut how obedient he would be to the rules of a mission so far away from home?  Could they tell by his smile or his kind and gentle face that he would love the people of such a distant land?  Could they tell because his tie matched his eyes that he would pay close attention to detail and learn to love, honor and respect the Chinese culture?  Could they tell by how hard he worked on the knot of his tie that he would study very hard and never give up on learning a very challenging language?  Could they tell just by looking into his eyes how strong his testimony is and how eager he is to share it?  Who knows?  Maybe it was “all about the picture” …….. or, maybe, it was all about the Spirit.

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One thought on “Its All About the Picture

  1. This was a fun read. It’s all about the picture? Is he going on an 18 month mission? I am convinced that The Church asks boys to turn in a picture as a matter of formality. So their mission president knows who in the world they are speaking to when the missionaries first arrive. For sisters it is a whole different ballgame. The Church sends their cutest sisters to Temple Square. This is common knowledge. The second tier they send to their other historical sites. Kind of the JV squad. The rest gets scattered to assorted missions throughout the world. The spirit dictates changes as needed.

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