I was in the fourth transfer of my mission, so I had been out around six months. It was my first transfer in Catania (Sicily), and it was zone conference. Zone conference was kind of a big deal down there in Sicily because we literally never saw the mission president. Our mission is so big and includes islands etc so we really didn't get a lot of interaction. It was going to be a 2 day zone conference where we got to have interviews with the president, and then a day of the zone conference and probably arancini for lunch (woo!).
We showed up to the Catania church in the evening (probably after doing finding) for interviews and naturally that place was packed with missionaries from the other cities in the zone. I was new to the mission and I had spent all my time on the island of Sardegna so I didn't really know many other missionaries. I was waiting in the entrance of the church for some sisters to finish their interviews, because I needed to take them back to our apartment where they'd be staying the night, and there were like four or five anziani I hadn't seen before waiting too.
I walked up to one and it went something like this, "Hi Anziano..." (reads name tag) "Bryant."
"I'm Sorella Marquis."
"Yeah. I've heard of you. You were in Cagliari with Sorella Caramia."
"Yep. So where are you from?"
"Are you in Malta right now?"
"No, but I served there."
Conversation over. I probably awkwardly backed away and started talking to someone else. Also I asked Shae about this and he literally has no memory of it.
The next day was the zone conference so we all met back at the church to have training from the president and assistants and zone leaders and stuff. Turns out Anziano Bryant wasn't in my zone, but he was one of the assistants. I remember he and his companion gave a really good training on commitments. Then it was over and everyone went back to their cities and we got our apartment back after it was overrun by a dozen sorelle.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and we're getting our transfer calls. I was staying in Catania and getting a new companion, and we were getting a new Anziano in Catania to replace one who was finishing his mission if I remember correctly. I asked Anziano Hurlburt if he knew who his new companion was and he said, "Yeah, it's Anziano Bryant!" Me: "Is that the one who was the assistant just barely?" "Yeah, and he'll be the new zone leader."
Anziano Bryant showed up the next week, and for the next six weeks I don't think we really talked. We might have had a few transactional conversations about meetings and appointments but I literally knew nothing about him except that he was from Las Vegas and was really serious and walked fast with his hands in fists.
The next transfer, I stayed in Catania with another new companion, and Anziano Bryant stayed in Catania with his same companion. It was the transfer that included April General Conference, and it was also Anziano Bryant's birthday that week. I took it upon myself during my mission to make sure that everyone in my districts had a good birthday and got some kind of treat. So I made his birthday cake, and all the missionaries in Catania got to watch conference at the church together. That was probably the first time I ever had a non-business conversation with Anz Bryant. I don't remember it, but after that I could tell he was a lot more comfortable talking to me at district meetings and english course.
Mainly, I admired him because he was a really good teacher and he was pretty serious about being the best missionary he could be. He was a good example and a good leader, and definitely made me want to be more thorough and obedient.
We both stayed in Catania for one more transfer after that. That transfer was probably one of my favorites during my mission because our district was all really awesome missionaries and we were all good friends. We saw some really awesome things happen that transfer, including a baptism in our district, and Anz Bryant passing a golden investigator (who later got baptized) to me and my companion. Some also not awesome things happened that transfer, like me and my companion missing the last train way out in the boonies and having to call Anz Bryant to come pick us up in the car (I was SCARED to make that phone call haha), and I got some weird lung disease and had to call Anz Bryant again to take me to the hospital on the American Navy base. He was just always willing to serve and help everyone, and he was always really pumped about other people's successes more than his own.
He finished his mission six weeks after that, and since I was in Rome I got to see all the missionaries who were about to go home that P-day. Anz Bryant was there and seemed happy to see me, which was a nice surprise! I kind of imagined that our friendship was more meaningful to me than it was to him. But he took the time to talk to me and to listen to how things were going in my new area.
After he'd been home for a week or two and I was still serving up in the Rome zone, I got an email one P-day from Shae Bryant. Whaaa? We were still going to be friends without being plopped in the same city by chance and required to work together? I have to say I was pretty happy about that.
As I was writing this, Shae leaned over and hugged me and said, "I'm so glad we can hug now!!!" I am too.
To be continued sometime ...