Sorting Feelings

As most of you know, my missionary daughter will be arriving home TOMORROW……….

The leap

She’s flying as I type…

Sorry, just had to take a moment to digest that statement…again.

I got up this morning and found an email message from the mission office with a farewell photo of her and a message on my FB page telling me she was on her way to the airport.

Of course I am soooo…excited. I have missed her absentmindedness (I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that), and I have missed the sound of her around the house (mostly not much sound as she was usually buried in a book somewhere). I miss her amazing smile, and all the times she said to me, “Oh, mum, don’t worry so much about it”. She is such a laid back kind of person…I miss her calming influence. I miss watching her with her sisters and brother, and how she almost always refused to enter into a quarrel or a fight (yes we have some of those in our house sometimes, don’ you?). I miss that she would often call me ‘mummy’, right up to the day she left on her mission. I miss her incredible dedication and commitment to any task she is given (most evident in her missionary service), but mostly I just miss having her around as part of the family….

So, I am really excited to have the old daughter back in just one day…with maybe some new parts to her as well. I know her mission has polished her, and I know she will come home so much more prepared for life, and have so much more to offer our family and her own down the track.

BUT….

There is a but…

There’s a lot about her being on her mission that I will miss too. As much as I want her here in our home again, there was just such a wonderful feeling when we received her emails each week. To read about all her investigators and the work she is involved in; actions not seen by us, but felt through her words. Sometimes we would receive photos from her and, altho’ we hadn’t been there, we were always able to make connections with them as she talked about the people she met, the miracles that occurred, and lessons learnt. I will also miss the blessings that came to us through her service; too personal to share here, but I will be eternally grateful for the sacrifice she has made that has affected our lives almost as much as hers.

So it is with mixed feelings that I approach her homecoming. Grateful to have her return with honor, but sad to know that this part of her life will soon be over.

Will I ever be able to sleep tonight?

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The Perfect Gift

Kangaroo Skin Scripture Covers

I want to share with you something that I thought would be the perfect gift for a missionary. With Christmas not far away, this might just be what you are looking for – Kangaroo Skin Scripture Covers.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to choosing an appropriate gift for my missionary it is REALLY difficult. I want to recognise her special day, but I don’t want to take focus away from what she is doing. You know…avoid losing sight of the bigger picture.

So when we started to discuss this in one of our Missionary Mom Email Groups – the South Pacific  group to be exact – I was really excited to discover what I thought would be just the right gift for a missionary. In fact it was staring me right in the face, as I actually had had one of these for more than 20 years myself.

Instead of having me tell you about it, I thought it would be fun to have Bruce Harlow, the owner of Australian Skins and Souvenirs, tell you about this fabulous and unique idea.

But before I do that I want to assure you that these scripture covers are available to anyone, worldwide. Bruce makes and mails them regularly all around the world (he will even deliver to your missionary if you provide the mailing address), so don’t feel that you do not qualify to order one for your missionary. I will supply details of how you can order these scripture covers at the end of this post.

Anyway, enough from me. Here is what Bruce has to say about the history of this business and the unique products he makes and sells:

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Our company Australian Skins & Souvenirs Pty Ltd has been manufacturing sheepskin, kangaroo skin products and selling souvenirs since 1968.  We have our own retail stores under the name Skinnsy Pty Ltd in Brisbane, Sydney and Toowoomba, Australia.  We currently manufacture about 200 different products eg Ugg boots, sheepskin seat covers, medical sheepskin products etc.

As our business in the 1970 & early 80’s was located below the LDS church mission office in Brisbane, we donated a kangaroo skin to be presented to Pres Kimball when he was in Australia in the mid 1970’s and we sold a lot of souvenirs and scripture covers to the missionaries.

My parents and their 5 children joined the church in 1974 due largely to the constant missionary contact from the mission office being upstairs.  My wife and I have 20 grand children and my brothers and sisters also have lots of grandchildren.  The church has been such a wonderful influence in all of our lives and has kept our family close together.

Australia is overrun with kangaroos – most species are protected but a couple are culled under government supervision to control their numbers as the sheep, cattle and grain farmers could not survive otherwise.  First grade skins are selected for their fur, cut out and sewn together in our factory.

Our business offers members 10% discount off all products unless they are on sale, however scripture covers are already sold at member price. We have made scripture covers in sheepskin, calf skin and kangaroo leather but the most popular is kangaroo skin with the fur on.

We make a mini quad $39.00, standard quad $54.00 and large print $69.00.  Both the standard quad and large print have zippa pockets as well and all covers are kangaroo skin with a suede carry handle.  We can make other sizes if given dimensions.  Missionaries also purchase a lot of souvenirs – we stock over 2000 lines.

—Bruce Harlow

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I just want to add that I purchased a ‘Roo’ skin scripture case from Bruce back in the late 80s and it housed my precious scriptures for over 20 years. It was hardy, long lasting and so soft to handle. I would highly recommend his products.

As promised, here are your options if you are interested in purchasing one of these scripture covers:

1. Bruce’s company has a website. However, this website doesn’t include the scripture covers yet. But you can visit the Australian Skins & Souvenirs website and send them a contact email with a request to purchase one. Let them know the size (eg regular quad, regular bible, triple of compact), and what colour and kind of skin you want (grey or red, long or short fur).

2. Go to my Contact Me Page and send me a request for Bruce’s email address and I will forward it on to you.

Disclaimer:

I have not received compensation or benefitted in any way from this post. It is shared purely out of the love for this product and a desire to share all that is good for our amazing missionaries

New Zealand MTC

I have been excited all week to share this with you. I’m hoping, especially for all our South Pacific missionary mums and missionaries, that you are just as excited. One of the (many) perks of being married to my husband (and his work), is that I get to go to some of the best places and meet some of the best people. Recently, as part of a Seminary and Institute (S&I) conference here in Auckland, we were blessed to do a tour of the Auckland New Zealand Missionary Training Center (MTC).

Now, this is not something that just anyone can do. In fact, like every other MTC around the world, it is very difficult to gain access to any unless you are a new missionary. So, as a group of S&I Coordinators and their wives we felt very privileged to be able to explore the hallways of such a sacred place.

As such, you may wonder why our group was allowed to do this, while many others are not. With the First Presidency’s emphasis strongly on the preparedness of our young men and women for missionary service, the S&I program in the South Pacific is committed to offering the best possible religious education for our youth. If this program is to assist in this missionary preparation, then knowing what is expected of a missionary once he/she enters those doors for their final training can only help to improve the quality of the teaching in the S&I program as a whole.

Today I am going to give you just a brief glimpse of these hallways. For the mums and dads who have had, do currently have, or will have, a missionary going through this facility, I hope it gives you an idea of how well they are taken care of and just how lucky we are to have such a beautiful facility here in the South Pacific.

Crossing Cultural Borders

Welcome to the New Zealand, Auckland Missionary Training Center

Nestled on the top of a hill in South Auckland, the MTC stands as a symbol of how cultures can come together under the banner of the Lord. Flags of the many Pacific nations fluttered in the wind as they lined the driveway on our approach, reminding all visitors and missionaries alike that this work crosses cultural borders and unites all people in a common belief.

Pres. and Sis. Bleak, current MTC President and wife, direct the incoming and outgoing of missionaries every 3-6 weeks, without even one days break in between. With their own residence within the complex, they are like parents to the hundreds of missionaries who come in and out of there regularly. Sis. Bleak told us that they get just enough time with each missionary to feel they are losing a family member as they depart.

As with all church facilities the MTC in Auckland is beautifully designed and furnished, offering the missionaries a home-like environment. The building surrounds a beautifully landscaped courtyard that can be viewed through floor to ceiling windows as you walk the internal hallways, or enjoyed on a sunny day as each missionary takes time to study or ponder gospel principles taught.

State-of-the-art facilities in the laundry are also used to teach the new missionaries how to iron and take care of their personal appearance.

Every comfort and convenience for their accommodation is there, from lounge areas where they can congregate in small groups during down-time, to state-of-the-art laundries that certainly made me envious. Ironing boards that virtually iron the clothes themselves, and industrial sized washing machines and dryers sit in laundries the size of lounge rooms. Bedrooms accommodate up to 4 single missionaries and self-contained apartments offer added privacy for couple missionaries.

Eating facilities are really great with a community dining hall, three chefs, and an industrial kitchen and servery.

But what I loved most about the facilities were the teaching and learning areas. One whole wing of the building is dedicated to the intense training of all missionaries. Classrooms are equipped with everything needed to prepare these young people to learn essential gospel principles and teach them effectively.

Plans are now in motion to extend this facility next year to include a gym and double its capacity. Let the work of the Lord move forward!

DO YOU HAVE A MISSIONARY ON HIS/HER WAY TO THE NZ MTC?

Here is a service that you won’t want to miss out on…

Missionary Morsels is a website that offers direct delivery of home-cooked goodies to all missionaries in the New Zealand MTC, Auckland Mission, Hamilton Mission, and Wellington Mission.

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Bringing home-cooked comfort to the missionaries of New Zealand.

Pres. & Sis. Bleak

During the tour we were favoured to hear Pres. & Sis. Bleak speak. Knowing that he was addressing a group of S&I employees, President Bleak focused his remarks on what he believed were the most critical things that new missionaries should prepare before they enter the MTC.

In summary he suggested the following.

  1. Those who come to the MTC with seminary and institute experience come with confidence. He also suggested that the seminary program holds the key to preparing future missionaries within the smaller island nations of the Pacific.
  2. Future missionaries must understand the importance of continuing to keep their covenants. This will be what influences others to learn about the church.
  3. The real goal for the missionary is to be changed and prepared for future leadership within the church – not just to baptise.
  4. It is critical for missionaries to know how to dress and groom themselves appropriately. Small things such as how to iron a white shirt, do their tie up correctly, and make sure the top button of their shirt is done up at all times. He said, “The messenger needs to look the part so the message is received”.
  5. Learn to get to bed early and get up early.
  6. Learn to address their peers and priesthood leaders correctly – don’t use Prez instead of President etc.
  7. Receiving their call a couple of months in advance to their departure does not mean it is a count down for fun times. That time is for them to prepare effectively to enter the MTC.
  8. Scripture mastery is critical, along with memorization and a knowledge of gospel principles.
  9. Read the entire Book of Mormon at least once.
  10. Know the Articles of Faith.
  11. Exact obedience brings miracles.
  12. Focus on the Savior in their lives.
  13. Read March 2011 Ensign article “Preparing Emotionally for Missionary Service” by Robert K. Wagstaff.
  14. Find and mark scriptures that speak about and prepare them for missionary service.

Finally, we were able to view a short video of a talk given by Sis. Wendy Watson Nelson, wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson, to new missionaries in the Provo MTC. While I don’t have access to this video online, I did find a copy of a speech Sis. Nelson gave in Amsterdam in 2009 for the World Conference of Families. It was clearly based on the same talk she gave at the MTC. So if you are interested in reading that then it is titled “Not Even Once”.

There are 15 LDS MTCs around the world, and with the recent announcement to the changes in age allowance for missionary service, each of these training centers will receive a boost to their missionary capacity over the next 12 months to accommodate this increase in numbers.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to see firsthand what our wonderful missionaries are involved in as they prepare to go out into the world to serve. I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into it too.

For statistical and other official information please visit About the New Zealand MTC.

Friends and Dating

Part 6 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series

As we all take a deep breath, and calm our excitement over the recent announcement by the First Presidency, it’s a good time now to settle back and maintain focus again. It seems fitting to be talking now about what it means for a returned missionary in terms of their social well being. The LDS dating scene is about to get turned on its head as our returning missionaries will soon find a different kind of dating pool on their return over the next 2 years.

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Friends and dating.

From Dave and Wendy Ulrich

President Hinckley has said that in order to remain active and become integrated in the church, new converts need a friend, a meaningful assignment, and to be nurtured in the good word of God. Now, instead of providing those things for others, your missionary needs to get them for himself or herself. Families can help. Social life is a big challenge for many returning missionaries. It is hard to go from having constant companions, even if you don’t like them, to not having anyone to hang out with. It is especially hard if old friends have moved on, or have not grown up while the missionary has. Returning missionaries may have to work at making friends and dating again, and that can feel awkward. Avoid jokes about marriage, and help them manage outside pressure to make decisions about marriage too fast. Help them trust themselves to just date, learn to be friends with the opposite sex, and not feel that every date requires an immediate decision about marriage potential. Have fun helping them think of things to do, people to do them with, and ways to connect, and support them in taking time for this important part of life.

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What do I think?

You may not want to know what I think on this matter, as I could expound all day on the seriously poor dating skills that are out there at the moment. But, as Dave and Wendy suggest, it’s important for us as parents to avoid making it more awkward for them than it already is, so I’ll hold my tongue 😛

The biggest thing that we have done to help our three marriageable age daughters is to make our home a place where young people want to be. As parents we decided early on that to assist our girls in finding their social mojo, and eventually their eternal companion, we would offer our home as a place where they could bring their friends to hang out and socialise. Many of you may remember the Food Friday piece I wrote about ‘Pancakes and the Maurer’s’? We used these occasions to invite many young people into our home.

It’s my belief that the more opportunities our young people have to mix and mingle with the opposite sex, the easier it is for them to identify the characteristics and qualities they most want in an eternal companion and the the less painless it is for them to learn the art of socialisation. It also gave us opportunities as parents to meet their friends and discuss these things with our daughters openly. As Dave and Wendy suggest, the key is to making it fun for them and supporting them along the way.

But I place a huge caveat on my statement above! This is not an opportunity for parents to enforce their ideas and preferences on their child. Remember the last post I wrote on ‘Renegotiating Family Relationships’? That relationship is now one of support and encouragement, not rule making, curfews and parental expectations. They are adults now, and need the freedom to make their own choices, no matter how much you feel they could be wrong.

Questions:

1. Is it appropriate for parents to set curfews and rules about dating in the life of their returned missionary?

2. What are some ways that you think you could assist your returned missionary to become integrated back into a healthy social life?

3. Do you have any creative ways that you have used to support a missionary on their return to the dating scene?

4. In what way do you think the change to the ages of missionary service will affect the dating habits of our returned missionaries?

**Part 7 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ we’ll talk Singles Wards and Church Callings.

Where to from here…

President Thomas S. Monson announces the lowering of missionary service age – October 2012.

I have been watching very carefully the many reactions to President Monson’s recent announcement for missionary service. I am pleased to note that it has overwhelmingly been positive.

Let me share with you some of the responses I have heard so far…

“So completely awesome.”

From one 17 year old young women,“It’s official, I’m going on a mission in 16 months”.

“What fantastic news.”

From another young women, “Yes, now I can serve a mission and still get married when I’m 21!”

“What better way to help our young people build a stronger base for their testimony before they go “out into the world” and face the trials and challenges of life!”

“What an amazing spiritual impact it will have on the Church!”

“What I worry now is that when my son comes home next week, he’ll have a problem finding good worthy sisters to date because they’re all going on a mission :-(“

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Now that the hype over the changes is beginning to die down, I am wondering exactly what will happen. Where do we go from here?

Even Elder Nelson and Elder Holland indicated that no-one knows yet the exact affect this change will have. But they both offered timely advice to all prospective missionaries, their parents, and to the wider church community. I would like to recap here exactly what this change will mean for these three parties and highlight how each can contribute to hastening the work of the Lord.

The Prospective Missionary:

Both Elder Nelson and Elder Holland stressed that this change is optional. They encouraged all prospective missionaries to prayerfully consider their options in terms of schooling, family, health, worthiness and personal preparation. Prospective missionaries should study and prayerfully consider the time that is best for them to serve as it is deeply personal to each individual young man and young women. This change is as much about facilitating different circumstances as it is about increasing the numbers of missionaries around the world.

Church policy still maintains that missionary service for young men continues to be a Priesthood responsibility, but for women it is wholly optional and suggests no obligation on their part to serve.

They were most explicit in their comments about the need for all prospective missionaries to begin their mission preparation early. Elder Holland admonished the youth of the church to enhance and improve their pre-mission preparation through:

  • Total personal worthiness
  • Gospel study
  • Attending seminary and institute programs
  • Attending mission preparation classes and studying the ‘Preach My Gospel’ manual intently
  • Knowing the gospel you teach
  • Being ready to serve as an effective missionary from day 1

The Parents of Prospective Missionaries:

I felt the mandate from Elder Holland that parents need to step up more. Parents were urged to take a stronger hand in the training of their children and were cautioned against relying on other church leaders or programs to prepare their children for missionary service.

However, this doesn’t mean we discourage them from attending their Sabbath day meetings, or seminary and institute classes. It just means we as parents need to help lay stronger gospel foundations of knowledge and testimony within the home first.

The Wider Church Community:

As a ward YW President, I was deeply affected by what Elder Holland said to the youth leaders in regards to this change. He stressed the clear role that youth leaders will need to take in assisting to prepare these young men and women at an earlier age.

In particular he recommended that YW leaders assist in developing the teaching abilities of the young women. It was also suggested that the new 2013 YW curriculum will help facilitate this.

In general, the consensus was that the wider church community is going to have to assist in the accelerated preparation of these young men and young women if they are to be adequately prepared for effective missionary service. There is none who escape this responsibility.

A Change Born Through Revelation

Overall, the message that came loud and clear to me was that this is a time for the hastening of the Lords work. While we may not know exactly what effects this change will have now, what I do know is that this announcement was born through revelation. As Elder Holland expressed on Saturday, “I warmly affirm Elder Nelson’s testimony that this has been studied and prayed over, and we have experienced the revelatory power in this … ” I know this to be true.

So what are your thoughts on it?

Press Conference Announcing New Missionary Opportunities

Elder Holland, Elder Nelson, and Elder Evans of the Seventy, announce that, effective immediately, men may now begin serving at age 18 and women at age 19.

**The actual press conference begins at about the 1 minute mark.

Big Goals, Little Steps

Part 4 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series

This is an image that I designed and created especially for this post. A vision of what it feels like for many missionaries as they leave fulltime service and come back into the world.

Sometimes coming home from a mission feels like you are stepping out from Eden into the vast wastelands. Without goals in mind, a missionary can be left to wander the wastelands with little purpose or focus. With larger goals in mind, it may still be rough, but there is purpose and hope on the horizon as they take each day, step by step.

Today’s post is all about how returned missionaries can take those small steps towards the greater goals in life; navigating through the wastelands to find haven within the Temple and the ordinances found there.

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Big goals, little steps.

From Dave and Wendy Ulrich

Newly returning missionaries will not be able to create a ten-year plan for themselves (although some would like to). More important is to start doing small things that will help them get some momentum and put them in the path of inspiration. Help them list ten little things they could do in a variety of areas to get started (school, work, social life, hobbies, church, friends, etc.), and the bigger life purposes will emerge over time. Review patriarchal blessings. Make lists of what they have learned, what they like, and what they want.

Some helpful books:

1. What Color is Your Parachute? (Bolles) for direction in career decisions

2. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, (Steve Covey) for goal setting, planning

3. Seven Habits for Teens, (Sean Covey) for goal setting, planning at a teen’s level

4. The Artist’s Way, by Cameron for imaginative ways to get started with goals

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What do I think?

Recently, in talking with one of our daughters, my husband and I explained that if anyone had said to us 25 years ago that this is where we would be at this time of our lives we would have laughed at them. While we are in a very good place, the journey we have taken to get here has been one that we would never have been able to predict. Nobody knows what twists and turns are along the path of life. This is most applicable to missionaries returning home. Many think that they have the answers and burst back into the world with high expectations, only to be discouraged by what they find.

I am hoping that the image I have shared above instills a sense of what it can be like for many missionaries coming home. It certainly reflects the feelings that I had over 30 years ago. As Dave and Wendy stated, it is very hard for a returning missionary to create a 10 year plan. As a returned missionary I knew what I needed to do, but I had little control over the many of the important things. But what I did have was control over the little things. Those little things were what prepared me for the bigger decisions when they came along.

On their departure from their mission, most missionaries are given the challenge by their Mission President to go home, find a companion, marry in the Temple, and raise a righteous family. Honorable, but HUGE goals. For the majority of returning missionaries, these goals will not be met within the first 6-12 months of returning home. They are also goals that most have little control over until the opportunity arises.

So what is vital to these young people is the need to micro manage their lives in such a way that they are working towards those greater goals. Small steps towards the bigger goal…

Questions:

1. Have you talked to your returned missionary about what they hope to do in the future in terms of work, school, hobbies, church service etc?

2. Have you shared with your returned missionary some of the experiences you may have had in terms of setting goals?

3. Have you taken the time to share with your returned missionary strengths that you see they have?

4. Can you share here an experience your returned missionary has had where setting smaller goals has led to the successful achievement of larger goals?

>> Part 5 Renegotiating Family Relationships >>

The Need for Structure

Part 3 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series.

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Need for structure.

From Dave and Wendy Ulrich

Once they have had a few days to relax, they will probably start to want some structure. Parents can help by listening, asking about lessons learned from the mission, and encouraging goals and plans. This is the time to get a non-missionary calendar/planner and start setting some goals again. They can and should schedule time to relax, have fun, think, socialize, work out, and read a good book, as well as time to pursue goals, look for work, help at home, and start schooling. Your role now switches from manager to consultant, from resource provider to resource broker, from steward to loving friend. Good questions to ask your returned missionary: What do you think? What are your options? How can I help? Would you be interested in…? Could you…?

Encourage your missionaries to think about a vision for themselves, to create specific goals, to focus in on doable actions, and to structure time to follow up with themselves at regular intervals. Focus on the five aspects of transition and well-being: emotional, physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual.

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What do I think?

A missionaries life in many ways is very unbalanced. I mean that in a positive way, not negative. The bulk of the structure has been focused on their spiritual preparation; what a great way to establish spiritual habits for the future. However, now is the time to assist them to recalibrate that structure by balancing out the emotional, physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual aspects of their life. 

As suggested by my husband in the previous post, all too often that balance is tipped completely the other way on their return. Missionaries end up foregoing all that has been learned on their mission and focus is placed on everything but the spiritual; tipping the balance completely the other way. Precious lessons learnt on their mission can be lost.

Assisting the missionary to find good balance through structure will allow them to discover well-being, as well as continuing to live the higher law they lived on their mission. For this to happen it may be a wise decision, before the missionary comes home, to discuss as a family how the home environment can assist to foster a balanced structure. Is the family praying together daily? Do the family study the scriptures together daily? Is the family setting goals? Does each member of the family have a responsibility that assists in the smooth running of it? Offering a spirit led home life with structure could counterweight that extreme tip the other way.

Questions:

1. What kind of structure do you have in the home that will assist each individual to maintain balance?

2. What can we do as parents to assist our returning missionary to maintain a form of structure and continue in the path that their mission taught them?

3. What can we as members of the Ward do to assist returning missionaries to maintain their focus and add structure to their lives?

4. For those parents who have had a missionary return home, how difficult has it been to switch roles from being a manager to being a consultant?

**Part 4 will explore ‘Big Goals, Little Steps’

Excitement and Disorientation

Part 2 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series

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Excitement and Disorientation.

From Dave and Wendy Ulrich

Ending a mission can be challenging, and it is not unusual for missionaries to feel disoriented and a little lost. Often they are physically and emotionally tired and looking forward to a few days to sleep in, visit with friends, and do nothing. Parents rightfully expect children to come home from a mission with new maturity, skills, motivation, and discipline, and may be dismayed to see them sitting around playing video games in their pajamas. Try to remember that missionaries have worked 60+ hour weeks for months and years with no weekends off and no vacations, and outside of these work hours they were expected to study, plan, keep up an apartment, and help companions. They need a little time to rest, to learn to be a “normal” person again, and to integrate their new self with their old environment. At the other extreme, they may be quite judgmental of the family, overly idealistic in standards, and not want to let go of mission patterns. This is certainly not all bad! Don’t get defensive, and don’t tease – just be kind and patient. Make sure they have some kind of personal space, especially if they won’t get their old room back. They also need some non-missionary clothes, books, music, and activities that gradually reintroduce them to normal life. Ask about their plans, interests, and needs in a supportive, non-judgmental way. Listen, learn, be patient, and remember: They won’t stay in this “lost” phase forever.

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What do I think?

Even tho’ a missionary has been living in the world, their world is one wholly dedicated to the service of the Lord and other’s. Just like being wrapped in a clear bubble – still seeing the world around them for 18 months or two years but free from its influences. On return, that bubble is popped and suddenly you are breathing the same air as everyone else. It takes time to re-explore it and find your place within it.

As a return missionary I think I fit Dave and Wendy’s description perfectly. One of the hardest parts of serving a mission for me was the first 3 months after I returned. I felt very disoriented and a little lost. I remember being excited to come home and begin the next phase of my life, but I really didn’t expect it to be quite so hard to adjust to a new kind of routine (well actually no routine).

The regiment of mission life didn’t exist any more, and in a lot of ways I felt a lack of purpose. I was really grateful for parents who were very patient with me; who didn’t pressure me to be something I wasn’t ready to be.

Many of my friends had moved on – married, moved away, or simply made new friends. I remember one time, not long after reconnecting with my best friend, how she complained that I talked too much about my mission and wondered if I had anything better to talk about. I was devastated. The one person I thought would understand had just impatiently brushed me off.

I must also admit that I had thought, and mentioned once or twice, about how my family  needed to up their act in terms of living the gospel. I’m pretty sure there were a few raised eyebrows behind my back…but glad to say that they never seemed to take offense at it.

Questions:

1. Do you have any expectations for your missionary when he/she gets home?

2. Have you discussed as a family how you are going to assist your missionary to integrate their ‘new self with their old environment’?

3. Do you have an experience that you would like to share here of how you assisted your returned missionary to settle back into life?

**Part 3 will explore the ‘Need for Structure’ soon after returning home.

>> Part 3 The Need for Structure >>

To Pick Them Up or Not

Part 1 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series

‘To Pick Up or Not to Pick Up’ that is the question. There are differening views and opinions on this subject – believe me I have heard a lot of the pros and cons – so I think it is important to flesh it out a bit.

Looking for lots of discussion on this series, so at the end of each segment I’ll pose some questions and comments that can prompt some response here. Please don’t leave this page without engaging in some way.

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Dave and Wendy Ulrich

To pick them up or not

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. If you decide to go, some tips: Missionaries like showing you around but also are eager to get home – don’t stay more than a few days. Call the mission office to work out travel arrangements, work out hotels and itineraries yourself, be on time for any meetings at the mission home, and try not to tie your missionary up with planning. Missionaries often complained to us about parents making them “trunky” by counting down the days and talking only of plans to come visit or for when the missionary returns. Preferences of mission presidents and local circumstances vary greatly, so respect his requests. The church asks that you not plan to stay with members (even when members invite you). Once you are there, recognize that your missionary knows far better than you how to get around, what is safe or not safe, what is appropriate, how much things should cost, etc., and let them take the lead. Understand that missionaries are expected to live and dress like missionaries until released by their stake president at home. Some would really prefer to come home and be released, then return later to visit. Most parents do not pick up missionaries, and most missionaries are fine with this. They are eager to get home anyway! In all cases, realize that the stake president’s release is an important transition event, as are homecoming talks, high council reports, family gatherings, father’s blessings, and other traditions that help mark this life change.

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This question has been raised several times amongst my fellow missionary mums. There is not a lot of information out there from the church on how to organise things if you choose to pick up your son/daughter at the end of their mission. But I did find an FAQ page on LDS.org that answers some key questions. Below are some of the more important ones:

Missionary Travel Services FAQs:

Does Missionary Travel Services make airline reservations for parents and family who are going to pick up their missionary?
No. Missionary Travel Services will only make the reservation for the missionary but we will coordinate your missionary flights with yours.

I would like to pick up my missionary when he or she finishes their mission. What should I do?
Contact the mission office where your missionary is serving to find out release date and visa issues if applicable. 2. Contact Missionary Travel Services at 800-537-3537 or 801-240-5111. If you are flying to pick up your missionary here are your options: a. After calling Missionary Travel Services, buy your ticket on the airline we have a contract with. Missionary Travel Services will buy a ticket for your missionary on the same flight pending availability. b. Buy your ticket and your missionary’s ticket on an airline of your choice. Missionary Travel Services will reimburse you up to the amount we would normally spend on his or her ticket or if you spent less we will reimburse the lesser amount. c. Buy your ticket on an airline of your choice and pay for any extra cost to have Missionary Travel Services purchase a ticket for your missionary on the same flight.

Who can pick up a missionary?
A parent or legal guardian of the missionary can pick up his or her missionary. Other family members can come if they are accompanied by at least one parent.

Can we drive our car to pick up our missionary?
Yes. The Church will reimburse you for the amount we would normally spend on his or her ticket and you can use that money towards the cost of driving.

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What do I think?

We have no plans to travel and pick up our daughter in 7 weeks, but that is more because I know she will want to go back there next year for General Conference with us and can do it all then.

While the church neither encourages or discourages parents to make plans to pick up their missionary, I do know it is important to consider carefully the feelings of the missionary, as well as the policy of the specific mission they are serving in.

A key thing to remember too is that they still have the mantle of a missionary right up to the time they arrive home, meet with their Stake President and are officially released.

Questions:

1. Have you ever picked up a missionary from their mission?

2. If so, then how did you plan it and what would you do differently?

3. Do you think it is a wise thing to do?

4. What do you see as possible pitfalls to picking up a missionary?

5. What do you see as possible advantages?

6. If you had a particularly positive experience with picking up your missionary, then please share here what it was that made it such a positive time.

**For Part 2 we will be looking at the excitement and disorientation associated with returning home from a mission.

>> Part 2 – Excitement and Disorientation >>