Anyway. Here in California, or at least when we were in elementary school, all the fourth graders learned California history. And as part of that, every kid who grew up in California has probably had the experience of building a mission. See, when the Europeans started colonizing America, California was first(?) settled by Spanish missionaries, led by Father Serra. He traveled up the coast of California, building missions as he went! Or rather, making Native Americans build them. He may have converted them to Catholicism first. (You know, I even have the Wikipedia page on Junipero Serra open as I type this entry, but I'm still too lazy to read it for details. I am also short on time, though, so.)
The missions were religious and military outposts, and they represented the beginning of European settlement in California, so all the fourth graders learned about them and had to build models. First Aurora had to build one, then Athena and I had to build one each, and then our cousin blackhope had to build one, so Mom was ready by the time it was Celeste's turn to build one. I don't know what caused the fervor, but we went on a miniature mission tour. This may also have been due to the marriage of another cousin, whose wedding was in San Diego at around the same time Celeste had to be doing mission stuff. So we visited the San Fernando mission (the closest one, and also the one we all went to on regular school field trips) and the San Diego one and... okay, I think that's it. I said the tour was miniature.
Anyway, even then, I didn't realize that churches could be tourist attractions. We recently translated a short story about Melk Abbey, which really hit the idea home, especially after we went to the website and it really seemed to be appealing to tourists.
And that brings me to today, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has recently started the "church tour"! Yaaaaay!!! At first I thought it might be a little unusual, but then I thought of the missions, and I was like, "Oh yeah, that makes sense." I don't know if they do it everywhere, but they started giving LDS church tours in Seattle, and now they're in our area! Basically, the missionaries take anyone who's interested on a tour of the church building, explaining the different rooms and the different organizations of the Church (I assume, since we have, like, the Relief Society room). They're completely free, too!
When they started the program, they told everybody to go on a church tour to see what they were like, and the idea seemed really neat so we totally wanted to go on one, but we never have any transportation, so we haven't been able to. Until!
Yesterday, as I was sitting in the church foyer, waiting for choir practice to start, one of the missionaries came up to me and said hi, and asked how I was doing. I returned the formality, and then he asked if I'd been on a church tour (Athena was away, trying to visit teach someone, so I was all by myself). I explained our transportation dilemma, and he said they could meet us at the building that happens to be only a few blocks away from our apartment! Yay! So we scheduled an appointment for tomorrow morning, and I'm totally excited to go! And the invitation came just at a time when we were wondering how to get an extra spiritual boost while we wait forever and ever (two weeks) to get our temple recommends. Nice!
I did realize one difference between the mission tour and the church tour (other than the modern vs historical thing, of course), and that's the lack of a gift shop. Of course, you could probably get, like, a Book of Mormon or some DVDs free from the missionaries afterward (if anybody would like something, let us know!), but you can't buy CTR rings or anything. I was thinking that could be kinda neat, but then, I was always iffy about capitalizing off of religion. Maybe if all the proceeds went to the bishop's storehouse...
Today I'm thankful for finally getting this posted (strange schedule today), the yummy mini-pizzas we had for dinner, getting to see the bonus feature about how they did the special effects in Darby O'Gill and the Little People, getting a check today, and getting to go on a church tour tomorrow! Yay!