The Crazy Things You Do When Your Missionary is Away…

birthday12

The family was having a laugh tonight about my recently returned missionary daughter and how picky she is with her food. Growing up, none of my children were particularly fussy with their food. In fact in our house the normal practice was that you ate everything on your plate. For those who didn’t necessarily like something (like peas or beans etc) I would put just one or two of them on the plate so that they still had to eat them, but didn’t have to suffer through a huge helping and ultimately resent having to do so. I believed that if my children were able to have a taste for everything then when they ventured out into the world they could face anything in this life.

For the most part this theory has proven successful. However, just one daughter has managed to slowly determine that there are certain foods she will not eat. Never has she given a clear explanation why (certainly there have never been evident adverse health reactions,) but she is now labelled the ‘picky’ eater in the family. Unfazed by this label, she is actually proud that she has such discerning taste.

But what really gets me is that the food she doesn’t like is not what you would expect it to be. Spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beets and liver have got to be at the top of the list (I note here that personally I enjoy all these foods and there is very little I cannot stomach). Not so with her, none of these items are on her list of ‘inedible’ foods.

One of the first things I asked her when she returned home was how she went with food she wouldn’t normally eat. She reported she ate everything on her plate every time she had a dinner date with members. Initially, I was relieved to hear this as I would be mortified if she had offended anyone. But further consideration led me to wonder why she can eat certain foods under pressure, but refuses to eat them in family situations…I’m yet to discover the reasoning behind this.

That aside, we were tonight reminiscing about our families need to find some way, while she was in the mission field, to experience what it would be like if our missionary daughter ate ‘normally’. So it was determined that on her birthday we would celebrate it with all the food she would not normally eat. The menu was decided, friends and family were invited, and a plan was put in place to make sure she was there to enjoy the celebrations. Of course she couldn’t be there in person, but through creative means we were able to make it appear like she was…I think we got away with it 🙂

For fear of offending the many families who so kindly fed my daughter on her mission, I’m reluctant to share what it is she won’t eat at home. But since she did eat everything on her plate while away, and absolutely none of it caused her any discomfort or ill health, I will share here some of the photos of the birthday party we threw for her. It was a great night and we had some real fun with it all.

Birthday

Advertisements

13 Guidelines To A Softer Transition

Part 10 (final part) of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series.

For the last 6 days I have enjoyed time with some of my husbands family. We’ve done some great sightseeing around this beautiful country of New Zealand, as well as laughing and talking together. I love family time and, being so far away from most of our family at the moment, it has made me appreciate those few times we have together.

One of the added benefits of this visit has been the time I had to talk with my brother-in-law and his wife – a recently returned mission president. On one of our drives out to see some of the amazing seascapes of New Zealand, I took the opportunity to ask them what their advice would be to newly returned missionaries and their families. Their response surprised me, but made complete sense.

Preach My Gospel

As each of their departing missionaries met with them for the last time, my brother-in-law would hand them a new daily planner (your returning missionary will know what that is), and then he would invite them to review the 13 planning guidelines on pages 147-149 of the Preach My Gospel booklet.

Even tho’ those guidelines refer to a missionaries weekly planning session, and much of it focuses on investigators, baptisms, confirmations and teaching opportunities, they would discuss with the returning missionary how this kind of guideline would help them when they went home. The challenge was then given to each returning missionary to continue using this daily planner in the context of their new life; to find new meaning from something they were familiar with. Replacing the missionary focus with a focus on school, work, spiritual and social activities.

What do I think?

I love this whole concept…purely from the point of view that it allows for a smoother transition from missionary to returned missionary. This kind of planning would be so ingrained in the missionaries psyche that extending it into their new life would be a great way to make a softer shift from one life to the next. The missionary can make that transition in such a way that they can incorporate many of the things they have been doing over the last 18 months to 2 years into their new life.

Of course there would need to be a different interpretation of each guideline in terms of their new life, but that is part of the process of things; finding new meaning with the help from something that is familiar to them.

For your information, I have listed those 13 guidelines below. As parents it might well be a good idea to become familiar with them so that you can be ready to discuss this idea with your returned missionary.

  1. Pray for and seek inspiration
  2. Set goals and make plans for investigators to be baptised and confirmed in the coming week
  3. Set goals and make plans for investigators with a baptismal date
  4. Set goals and make plans to help investigators attend sacrament meeting
  5. Set goals and make plans for lessons to be taught to progressing investigators
  6. Set goals and make plans for lessons to be taught to other investigators
  7. Set goals and make plans to contact and teach referrals received from members, investigators, nonmembers, and church headquarters
  8. Set goals and make plans to seek more referrals from members, investigators, and non members
  9. Set goals and make plans for lessons you will teach to recent converts and less-active members
  10. Set goals and make plans to find new investigators
  11. Plan how to work with ward council
  12. Schedule meetings that occur regularly
  13. Conduct companionship inventory

What I do know is that in my final email to my missionary daughter (today), I will be suggesting she bring home an unused daily planner so that we can talk about this idea when she arrives home in 4 days time.

‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series

How exciting! Your missionary has been gone for up to 2 years and will soon be home. You have followed them each week in their progress; felt joy at their successes and sorrowed in their disappointments. You have missed them more than you can describe, but felt the blessings of the service they have rendered in the time they have been gone.

Now it is time to prepare for their return…

You may ask, “What is there to prepare for?” The only preparation they needed was to get themselves out in the field, not to come home. They will step off that plane, step into their former life, find the love of their life and move smoothly into the next chapter. Right?

This is where I am at the moment. Our daughter will be home in less than 8 weeks and already the family is talking like she is back in our daily lives. Just this week we have been discussing our plans for the upcoming summer holidays and Christmas break (remember I am living in the southern hemisphere). Everything we discuss includes the presence of our missionary daughter just as if she had never left.

But as I talk to many of the mums and dads who have already experienced this ‘return’ I am fast understanding that it may not be that simple. While many returning missionaries will do just what I described above – fall right back into a routine as if they had never left – there are still some things that as parents of missionaries we can do to make sure that transition is as smooth and painless as possible – for both the missionary and the family.

Recently a friend (who has also just welcomed home her first missionary son) shared with me an article titled ‘For Parents of Returning Missionaries’ written by Dave and Wendy Ulrich*.

The article was part of an outline for a seminar that Dave and Wendy held for recently returned missionaries, and families of missionaries who were soon to return. Along with a long list of personal and business credentials (Dave in business and education, Wendy in psychology and business, and together as authors) both had the wonderful opportunity to presided over the Montreal, Canada  Mission in 2002-2005.

As a couple Dave and Wendy recognise that coming home for many missionaries can be a difficult experience. In their words…

Returning missionaries may feel like actors in a play that has run out of script. They face decisions about school, career, lifestyle, relationships, and Church, but don’t have all the information they need to proceed with confidence. They need loving support while they find their script, and patience with themselves as they go from being seasoned veterans at missionary work to being “greenies” at adult life.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be sharing some of the important insights that this amazing couple have to offer. Things such as:

  1. To Pick Them Up Or Not
  2. Excitement and Disorientation
  3. The Need for Structure
  4. Big Goals, Little Steps
  5. Renegotiating Family Relationships
  6. Friends and Dating
  7. Singles Wards and Church Callings
  8. Finding Meaning
  9. Getting Help
  10. 13 Guidelines to a Softer Transition

…and plenty of other information that can help you and your missionary as they move back as ‘greenies’ into adult life.

For those who have already experienced this transition period, please contribute as we go along and share some of the challenges and solutions you have faced. For those, like me, who are yet to go through it, I hope that this series will offer you some helpful ideas on how to best support your returning missionary.

>> Part 1 – To Pick Them Up or Not >>

*For more information on who Dave and Wendy Ulrich are then the following links may assist:

Mothers Day Sunrise

I just couldn’t keep this to myself. Couldn’t sleep this morning, so I got up at 5.30am.

Best choice ever! I was greeted with this magnificent Mothers Day Sunrise.

Wishing all the Missionary Mums out there a wonderful Mothers Day, and I hope the gifts you get today are as good as this gift I got this morning.

What More Could a Mother Want?

The leap

When your missionary daughter says to you she loves you but doesn’t miss you, is not homesick, and doesn’t want to come home, you really know that those apron strings are being cut.

Direct quote just two days into her MTC experience, “I love you guys so much, don’t miss me too much because I’ll be having the time of my life …I am definitely not homesick yet”

But I am ok with that. I have never been one of those mums who dies a little bit inside every time her child steps out into the big wide world and discovers something new to explore (without being there to make sure they don’t hurt themselves).

My parents left home when I was 19. They packed everything up, stored it away (including me), rented out our family home, and moved to the other side of the world to discover their family history roots in the UK for 2 1/2 years. I was left behind to fend for myself.

I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. But I had no choice. I was thrown into the waters of life and was told to sink or swim.

It was a difficult time for me. At times I struggled to keep my head above the water line. I really didn’t know who I was without my family.

Looking back on that experience now, it was a defining time in my life. I discovered an independence I never knew existed. I discovered an extended family within the church that became my support when I needed it.

But most of all I discovered who I was and what I believed. I no longer just believed on the traditions of my fathers. I learned for myself the rich blessings available to me, as I trusted in the Lord. I began to apply everything my parents had taught me, and I discovered that it was all true.

My parents had planted the seed of faith in my heart, but that faith wasn’t going to grow much more without me applying it on my own. I no longer needed the faith of my fathers to get me through. They had helped to plant the seed, now it was time for me to nurture it.

So when my daughter says to me she loves me, but doesn’t need me, it is not a sign that I have failed. It tells me she has found her swimming style and is on her way to becoming all that her Heavenly Father wants her to be.

As a mother of a missionary, every time I receive an email or a letter from my missionary daughter I feel fed, and alive. My faith is strengthened as I see my purpose here on earth bearing the fruits of my labour. She is discovering for herself who she is, what her purpose on earth is, and is bringing that purpose into the lives of those she teaches.

Hang on, did I just throw my daughter into the waters of life and tell her to sink or swim? Or did she jump herself?

Whatever it was that just happened, I know that she is making the most of the experiences she is having. Her faith is increasing, and she is discovering who Heavenly Father wants her to be. And she is having the time of her life.

What more could a mother want…

Mormons in the Spotlight

As most of you would agree, it’s not every day you can link into a global online newspaper and find a major story about a day in the life of an LDS missionary. Let’s face it; it’s hard enough for our boys and girls to get people to open doors to share their gospel message, let alone to have these same people bring this kind of story to their breakfast table.

But this week that’s exactly what I did. This week the New York Times, in their Education section, ran a 5-page spread titled ‘At Age 19, From Utah to Uganda’, that follows two LDS missionaries serving in Uganda.

Now, some of you may feel the hackles rise a bit at the mention of our missionaries and Uganda in the same sentence; bringing back memories of the recent satirical Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon”, depicting the follies of two Mormon missionaries in the wilds of that country. But before you discredit this article as riding on the back of this non-LDS production, I suggest it would be well worth reading.

I found the article to be very well balanced in its depiction of our missionaries. Indeed, it follows in some depth their preparation to serve, their training in the MTC, their incredible commitment to the work and maintains faith in their spiritual maturity.

At the same time it shows the human side of our boys in regards to their life before their missions, their struggles with separation from family and friends during, and the temptations that surround them whilst serving.

This article is most certainly timely when considering the current bid by Mitt Romney for the US Republican Presidential nomination. Romney’s rise to prominence has brought the church out of obscurity. As Josh Kron states, “Mormonism is basking in the mainstream spotlight” at the moment.

Up until now Mitt Romney has been low key about his Mormon roots, but with reports emerging that he is on the brink of being nominated,  and with some prominent evangelicals now supporting him, that will probably change.

So, whether it’s riding on the back of a popular musical, or even adding depth to current political events, this New York Times article has certainly given its many readers the opportunity to reflect on Mormon religious practices over their morning coffee. It may even help to open a few more doors to our hard working sons and daughters.

In this light it may be time for us to start talking about these same things with those of our friends and acquaintances who are not of our faith. Like Romney, maybe it’s time to step into that spotlight.

Mormons in Australia

From MMM I would like to wish each of you a happy Easter, and hope that you can take time over this weekend to ponder on the significance of events that took place over 2,000 years ago. I am so grateful for the sacrifice of our Saviour, who has allowed us the opportunity to live again.

I have  included a video here on the 2012 World Report on ‘Mormonism in Australia’. So if you have some time please have a look at it. Missionary work here in Australia has come a long way, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Some of those people highlighted on this video are personal friends, and my families associations with them have extended back to well before my childhood.

Thanks for visiting…and I look forward to reading your comments.

Mum or Mom

You say potato, I say potato…

You may wonder why the title “Missionary Mum’s Meeting Place”. Well, firstly, for the benefit of my US friends, and without getting too far into the spelling habits of Aussies, the word ‘mum’ in the title is spelt correctly from my perspective. That is the way we do it down here, so no apologies will be forthcoming.

Secondly, I narrowed the focus to mum’s because in my home I am the designated email writer of the family. I am the one who has the most contact with our missionary – there being only one degree of separation between us (and that being the technology). For the rest of the family there are two degrees of separation – sometimes more.

I qualify this by stating that my husband does send, what he terms his ‘Father’s Counsel’ email once every couple of months. But I’ll be addressing this in future posts; so I don’t want to give too much away.

So, while this site is open for all family members of missionaries to participate in and visit, I suspect that the majority of visitors will be mum’s.

But of course, if you are not a mum, and are happily visiting then I would love for you to give me a shout out and put me in my place…

A Mother’s Mission

Our family has a long history of missionary service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). With the first LDS missionary arriving on the shores of this great country of Australia in the 1850’s, we are proud to have since contributed to that written history.

My husband’s aunt was the first full time missionary in our family. Back in the 1950s, she set the example for generations to come.

Both my husband and myself served proselyting missions: He in the Philippines Manila Mission (1975-77), and me in the Australia Perth Mission (1980-82). Over the years, our extended family has contributed to the worldwide LDS missionary force with close to 50 individuals serving variously in all four corners of the world.

Along with my daughter, who is currently serving (Apr ‘11-Nov ‘12),  we have also had recently three nephews serving in the Sydney Australia Mission, Ghana Africa Mission, and Milan Italy Mission.

The highlight of that contribution by our family would have to be when my husband’s brother recently served as Mission President over the Australia Perth Mission. He initially served there as a 19-year-old proselyting missionary back in 1977-79. So to be able to go back and preside over your own mission, some 30 years later, would have to be one of the greatest honors for an individual.

With all this experience, you might say that I would have all the answers. But from my seat, as I type this narrative, I keenly feel the difference between serving a mission and being a family member at home supporting a missionary.

My daughter is the first of my four children to make this commitment. How deeply I feel the need as a mother to ensure that she makes the most of the time she has out there. This is my current mission.

While I have a rich missionary heritage to draw from, I decided to start this blog so I could, not only share my experiences along the way, but, as the blog title suggests, create a meeting place where like minded mums and families can come to share and talk all things ‘missionary’ – after all, there are well over 50,000 of you out there.