Guest Post – From the world’s best trainer…

Ask any returned missionary, and just about all of them will claim that the most influential person on their mission was their trainer. I fall within that claim. Today I am introducing to you the person who taught me everything about being the best missionary I could ever be. The effects of her teaching have reached far beyond that very short 18 month period of my life.

Tonja and I met up recently, for the first time since our missions, at The Australia Perth Mission 27 year reunion – under President Daniel H. Ludlow 1981-83. We immediately slipped back onto familiar ground and have remained in contact ever since.

Tonja shares here her formula for being the world’s best trainer. The list of those she trained on her mission will attest to her authority on this subject. The advice given here is timeless.

Mum’s! If you feel at times that you wish you could help your missionary, this may be just one of the ways you can. Read up, and maybe there is something in this post that you can share with your missionary when he/she becomes a trainer for the first time.


Training a New Missionary
By Tonja Swoboda Davis

New missionaries can either be a blessing to a ‘trainer’ or a curse!  Personally, I think I was a curse.  I was so excited to be in the mission field and conquer the world. (Well, in this case, Western Australia, which is almost the size of the world)  My trainer was nearing the end of her mission and didn’t quite understand my determination to spread the gospel to everyone!

Our personalities were also very different.  As senior companion, she was the decision maker.  However, I have not always been good at following.  I often rush forward, no hesitation. When my companion hesitated, I moved forward, often with her running to catch up with me…the junior companion.

Well, I survived and so did she.

A few months later when I became senior companion and training a brand new missionary, I was eager to help my new companion be the best she could be.  My mission president advised me to share with my companion everything I knew so she would be better and stronger to share the gospel with others. I tried very hard to do that with Sister Maine (my first trainee), and with Sisters Day, Rasmussen, Norell, and Marchant (those that followed).

Later while observing them, I noticed that they approached doors and people the same way I did and even used similar phrases and hand gestures as I did.

Above anything else, I wanted them to have confidence in themselves and know they had the knowledge, experience and the Holy Ghost to guide them.  Their message was so important that a loving Heavenly Father would not leave them alone – but give them companions that would love them and guide them.

Having a son currently serving a full time mission, I am reminded of how important companions are to successful missions.  They will have challenges each day, but they don’t need those challenges to come from a companion!  Even though one would think a missionary would be easy to get along with, that isn’t always the case.  What can one do?

Characteristics of a good trainer:

  • A Christ-like attitude.
  • Recognise you are being watched, act accordingly.
  • Avoid negativity, always!
  • Look for the GOOD, and it WILL be found!
  • Unexpected acts of service makes all the difference; making their bed while they are in the shower, fixing them breakfast, shining shoes, ironing shirts, leaving encouraging notes.
  • Genuinely complimenting a companion in front of others.
  • Praying for them.
  • Teach a missionary all you know and allow them to take the lead.
  • Ask for opinions and incorporate it into daily planning.
  • Organising ‘exchanges’; allows them the opportunity to be the ‘lead’ missionary and gain experience.
  • Write a letter home to the companion’s family telling them of positive experiences while serving together.
  • See a companion as God sees them and have an appreciation for them and His service.

Some scriptures that may be of help to a new trainer:

Hebrews 13: 1-2, 6-9, 13-14, 16-18, 21, 24-25

1 Timothy 4: 12-16

Missionaries are about a GREAT WORK and will bring to pass much good.  Know that long after they have returned from their mission, those that follow (literally) will continue THEIR work as well as their own.

Missionaries have been called of God to lead. Lead they will. By learning all they can, giving all they can, and being the best they can, their efforts will be warmly received and they will be blessed.

Tonja Swoboda Davis 
Served in the Australia Perth Mission from 1980-81. 

Background on Tonja:  At 17 I wanted to do something different so I went off to Brigham Young University in Provo, not knowing a single person. I soon was introduced to the full time missionaries who taught me the gospel and I was baptized a short time later. My life was changed forever.  My husband served a mission to Hawaii and our son is currently serving a Spanish speaking mission in St. George Utah.

A highlight of my life was having an article published in the October 2009 Ensign  ‘Freely Given, Gratefully Received’.  The whole process was inspiring.  I love to write, love reading and have been an elementary school librarian for several years.

Tracy and Tonja at 25 year mission reunion

Tracy and Tonja at the 27 year mission reunion (2009) for The Australia Perth Mission (APM).


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