Personal Musings on Preparing for My Mission

It’s February already and out of the blue I can actually start counting the weeks before our three year adventure will begin. What happened to the idea that the new year would bring me some breathing space after a hectic Christmas and new year?

We are immersed in endless emails, phone calls, medical appointments and skype sessions, with various people and authorities, macro-managing all aspects of our future mission life. Big details which will affect us for the duration of our service.

But this morning I found myself lying in bed micro-managing our experience. The big things seem easy compared to the little things that will have to change. So here are two lists I have put together, of things that will have to change.

The Obvious things:

  1. Read the scriptures EVERY day. Shock, I can hear you say to yourself, that any future mission presidents wife would not be reading the scriptures every day! But in reality I live a real life, and sometimes scripture study loses out to other things. But not now!
  2. Know the scriptures. Oh for the days of my proselyting mission where I could quote almost all the relevant scriptures in the discussions and some…
  3. Always have a two minute talk prepared. Ask any mission presidents wife and this will be their #1 recommendation.
  4. Always have a smile for the missionaries. Not much to change here, I always have a smile for the missionaries. But there may be days where it takes a bit more effort.
  5. Stop talking long enough so my husband can say a few words. It’s become most obvious in the last few weeks (mostly during our Mission Presidents tutoring sessions) that I love to talk and share my ideas and thoughts. Great, but I have to remember that my husband is a little more thoughtful and considers his words more carefully before speaking. I need to learn to take a breath in between sharing so he can share….
  6. Hold myself back from wanting to hang out with the sister missionaries ALL the time. Sister missionaries are the coolest people on earth and I just want to hang out with them…is that such a bad thing for a mission presidents wife?

The Less Obvious Things:

  1. Start carrying a handbag. Currently my chosen form of personal item transportation is my pocket – one for my phone and the other for my credit card and keys. This will have to change in order to carry all those extra emergency supplies…make up, Kleenex, water, nail file, hand sanitiser, moisturiser, electronic devices, hair brush, mirror….eek, possibly the whole contents of my bathroom.
  2. Wear make up most days. From the day we received our call I knew that I would have to step up my personal presentation. I don’t mean to transform myself into model status, but definitely have to focus more on the personal grooming.
  3. Brushing my hair every morning. Hahaaaaa…thought this might get your attention. I am guilty of neglecting this on the odd day where I don’t need to go out..bit like the next one too.
  4. No more PJ only days. It will be three years before I get to have one of these…
  5. Remembering people’s names. Show me a face and I will forever remember it. But give me a name and I struggle. What is the trick to remembering names? I’m sure any of the brethren could tutor me in this…they are amazing.
  6. Learning to ‘glow’ not sweat. Humidity and I just don’t click. This one is going to be tough for three years in the Philippines. How am I ever going to keep that make up on? Note to self – definitely need that make up in my handbag
  7. Wear practical shoes. I’ve always lived a little on the edge when it comes to shoes. Flip flops are my current choice of footwear. But I remember when I served my proselyting mission I splurged on a bright pink pair of suede shoes for tracting in (soon to be replaced by a more practical black pair – not because of their edginess, but because they just couldn’t live up to the rigors). For that day and age those shoes were considered radical…I put it down to the day my mum caved in to me when I was about 7 and bought me a shiny pair of red patent leather shoes instead of the more practical black buckle ones. Ruined me for life 😦

I hope my musings haven’t worried you too much. Just wanted to share some of the thought patterns, and funnier side, of my mission preparations.


Visiting Your Missionary

Today I’d like to talk about something that is not talked about a lot within the realms of missionary work. No, it’s not a controversial subject, but it’s something that a lot of missionaries and their families don’t talk about because they pretty well know the answer.

“Can family and friends visit their missionary while they are out in the field?”

Instant response,  “No!”

So how is it then that we do hear instances of some families (and even friends) actually visiting their missionary in the field? I’m not referring to those families who choose to visit their missionary at the end of the their mission to escort them home. I’ve already addressed that issue in the past (see To Pick Them Up Or Not). But I am exploring whether there is actually an exception to the rule, and if it applies to all missionaries and their families.

I can’t really answer that question with a definitive ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, as I have learned of multiple situations where the answer may be ‘Yes’.

I want to share with you some of the different responses and situations I have received from other missionary mums about this topic, and let you determine for yourself. But let me say up front…I’m not advocating any one of them as being right or wrong (except maybe the official church guidelines as outlined in the Missionary Handbook and the welcome letters from the various missions throughout the world). I just offer these instances as being an exception to the rule – be they right or wrong.

At the end I’ll sum up what I feel is the best approach when determining what is the best course of action.

In exploring this idea I have discovered that there are many reasons why a family member would visit their missionary in the field. So I will try to cover as many as possible.

  1. Official Church Guidelines

I want to begin this discussion with the official word. It’s important that we explore this before any other exception to the rule.

While there is nowhere I can find online and in my research where the church officially comes out with a statement to the general membership of the church on whether visits are sanctioned or not, there are some resources that address this issue specifically to missionaries.

The first being the Missionary Handbook – it states:

“Visits from family members, friends and acquaintances are against Church policy. The impact of such visits may extend far beyond the visit itself, both before or after the visit and among other missionaries. It can often take some time for missionaries to refocus on their callings and their work…help those who may want to visit you to understand the importance of maintaining singleness of heart and mind on the work of the Lord (Matthew 10:37-39; Luke 9:61-62).”

The second is one that often comes in the form of a welcome letter from the specific mission they will be serving in. Reports are that these letters can include the counsel that family members refrain from seeing their missionary in the field, whether it’s planned or “accidental.”

These two sources are very credible and should be prayerfully considered when determining whether a visit is to be made.

      2. Unintentional Visits

Sometimes there are those unintentional meetings. For whatever reason, a family member or friend will simply run into their missionary without meaning to.

Take for example one missionary mum and dad who had regular business dealings within the area their son was serving. On several occasions they had previously visited the area on business without chancing a meeting. They had even attended church on those occasions, believing that the mission area was so large that there was very little likelihood of attending the chapel their missionary was serving in.

However, on this one occasion they arrived at the local meetinghouse for church mid-way between several days of business in the area. For some reason the mum didn’t feel right as they sat in the church car park, so she sent her husband in to search the building in case their son was in there – she didn’t feel right about having a chance meeting.

After searching every room in the building and not finding him there, the husband went to exit the rear door, only to run into their missionary son. In her own words:

“Both stood there shocked! Each not knowing what to say or do – after a few seconds, my husband makes the first move – he walks towards him, shakes his hand, told him he looked great and how proud we were of him, told him we loved him and to serve well, then immediately said goodbye, came back outside with tears in his eyes and drove us away from that chapel.”

How should you handle it?

I think the example above is the perfect way to handle such a situation- as quick and as painless as possible. The missionary responded later to his parents with this comment:

“That was the best surprise ever – I know it was unexpected so I’m going to not hold it against you but it was great to see you dad – you made my day and you look great and thank you for making that quick and as painless as possible.”

How not to handle it?

Absolute care must be taken to avoid all such situations – for the missionary’s sake as much as for mission guidelines sake. Spending time in a missionary’s area in the hope of an ‘accidental’ meeting does not constitute an accidental meeting. Please understand that any kind of unsanctioned meeting with a missionary will only disrupt the purpose of the work and affect their singleness of heart and mind.

However, if this meeting does occur then it is important not to prolong the time you are with them, or distract them by discussing anything more than that which they are involved in.

     3. Intentional Visits

There are occasions where it is possible to arrange an intentional meeting. Generally this will depend on the mission your son/daughter is serving in and the policy set down by the Mission President.  But there are several things to take into consideration if this is to happen.

Firstly, and most important, is an analysis of the reason why you want to visit. Is it just because you miss your son/daughter so much that you feel you need this contact? Is it just that you will be passing through their mission and think it would be fun to catch up with them? Or is it something you know your missionary can handle, and know that he/she will not be adversely affected by the visit?

Whatever it is, it is important to prayerfully consider the motives behind it, the way your missionary could (or could not) handle it, and the affect it will have on the work they are doing.

I believe that in most cases the response to this analysis would be in the negative. But, there are some scenarios where it is appropriate. I am not going to go into them here, as I believe they are personal and individual, and can only be determined after following three steps:

  1. A determination by the parents on whether the missionary could hangle such a visit and whether the visit is really necessary.
  2. Consultation with the Mission President on whether he will allow such a visit.
  3. Consultation with the Missionary (only after permission has been granted by the Mission President).

How should you handle it?

Follow the three steps discussed above (in that order) before making any attempt to meet your missionary. If permission is granted by the Mission President then you should always follow the instructions outlined by him in regards to the visit, such as time limits, locations, and the types of activities allowed during the visit.

How not to handle it?

Never visit your missionary without permission. Never overstay the allowed time for the visit. Never spend time in activities that will distract the missionary from the work they are doing. Never take the missionary outside their area boundaries, or ask them to break mission rules, unless you have permission, and avoid conversations that will not help them maintain their singleness of heart and mind.

    4. Encouraged Meetings

There are unique circumstances where the Mission will encourage family meetings in the mission. Some might find this unusual, but several missionary mums told me of situations where the mission invited them to prepare to come and pick up their son/daughter at the completion of their mission, and in one case, where the mission invited family and friends to attend a special testimony meeting towards the end of their missionaries service.

Generally these encouraged meetings will be planned for the end of a missionary’s service. They are unusual, and you will find that few missions are proactive in this approach. But if your mission offers this opportunity, I would still encourage parents to discuss this with their missionary before deciding to do it. Some missionaries just don’t want family and friends to be there – even at the end. Their mission is personal to them, and for whatever reason they may have, it is important to follow their line of thinking when deciding what to do. After all, it is their mission, not yours.

     5. Friends and Family Close By

It’s a small world in the Church, so it is quite likely that a missionary will have at least one family member, or a friend living close by. It can be so tempting for these family members and friends to want to drop goodies off, or drop in on their missionary on occasion. While the best of intentions are there, these kinds of contacts can still have a distracting effect.

In such circumstances, it is important to still follow the steps shared above – determine the reason, seek Mission President permission and immediate family/missionary permission before making any contact with the missionary. Don’t be offended if permission is not granted, and find other ways to support the missionary.

     6. Siblings/Friends Serving at the Same Time

My daughter had a unique situation in that while she was serving in a northern Utah mission, her best friend received her mission call and was to report to the Provo MTC while my daughter was still serving. Dialogue was opened between my daughter, her Mission President, and her friend about whether they could have a day serving together just prior to her entrance to the MTC. Permission was granted and my daughter’s friend planned to arrive a day early so she could spend the day tracting and teaching in my daughters mission. As things turned out, they were never actually able to have this day together (her best friend met her eternal companion before leaving for her mission), but it highlights another reason why there could be an exception to the rule.

If this opportunity arises then it is important to make sure you have followed the correct procedures. This should also include consultation with the Stake President and Church travel to confirm that this is possible, as well as consultation with the respective Mission President, and in some cases with the MTC. An honorable endeavor, so try to make sure you tick all the boxes before embarking on it or you may be disappointed.

7. Covert Visits

Unfortunately there are some individuals who believe that they can make visits without following the proper order of things. One missionary mum retells a story of how one family decided to surprise their missionary. While they did receive permission from the Mission President to visit, they didn’t mention it to their missionary. They surprised him one day out of the blue (out of nowhere). The missionary described the experience as disturbing and shocking. He did not like it and wished they had not done it.

Another example is of a family who covertly visited their missionary’s area, taking photos of his flat (apartment) and area without him knowing. The first he knew about it was when they sent him the photos in their weekly email.

These kinds of visits have no place in a missionary’s life. They are distractions that a missionary does not need, and they should never be considered as an exception to the rule.

My Final Analysis:

I maintain what I wrote above about the three steps to follow when determining whether a visit should be made:

  1. A determination by the parents on whether the missionary could handle such a visit and whether the visit is really necessary. Prayer and fasting should accompany this. In most cases I would suggest that this is where the decision process ends.
  2. Consultation with the Mission President. A past Mission President reminded me of the huge load each Mission President has in this calling. So remember that every parent who requests permission is adding to that load.
  3. Consultation with the missionary (only after permission has been granted by the Mission President). Many missionary mums told me that their request ended here because their missionary was just not interested in a visit. They wished to maintain their focus, even if it meant sacrificing a visit from their family.

Important too is the fact that, if you are granted permission to visit your missionary, having ticked all the boxes, you should not broadcast it everywhere. This can be upsetting for those families who have been denied a visit elsewhere, It can be upsetting for some missionaries who have been denied a visit as well. Keep the good news to yourself, enjoy the visit when you can, and continue to support the work your missionary, and other missionaries, are involved in.

Finally, don’t be offended if permission is not granted. It’s important to understand that a Mission President has a vision of the bigger picture. He knows and understands the circumstances of his mission, and is fully qualified in knowing what is best for his missionaries. Trust in his judgment and allow the work of the Lord to go forth unhindered. Your son/daughter will never have another opportunity in their life to have such an affect on the lives of the Lord’s children, so allow them the chance to have maximum effect in the work they are doing…sacrifice (by both the missionary and the family) will bring forth the blessings of heaven.

**Thanks for bearing with me on this long post. I felt it important to keep it all on the one page. I invite comments and suggestions on things I may have missed.

**Also, don’t forget, tonight I am releasing my first blog giveaway, so come back soon and sign up for it 🙂

Excitement and Disorientation

Part 2 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series


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.


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.


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 >>

Guest Post…When Marriage Takes Precedence

Today’s guest post is from a very special person. Nicole is the best friend of my missionary daughter. But she is so much more than that to our family.

In 2005, when our family made our first trek over to New Zealand, Nicole, 14 at the time, was one of the first people we met in our new ward. Almost from the day we were there, she and my daughter Jess became firm friends. Over the last 7-8 years they have remained best of friends, and Nicole has literally become a part of our family, having lived with us for several months when we were back in Sydney.

She would have to be one of the most focused individuals I know. Both in her educational pursuits, as well as her religious devotion. When it comes to the gospel she is unfailing in her commitment to the Lord, and constantly seeks his guidance in everything. Her story reveals this deep devotion.

The decision for a young lady to serve a mission doesn’t carry the same emphasis as it does for a young man, but when that decision is balanced against another of equal importance, it can create some conflicting emotions and feelings.

From my perspective, I have always taught my girls that the preparation for a mission and for marriage is very much the same. So our family focus has been for each of our girls to prepare for a mission, and if marriage comes before that opportunity, then they will be aptly prepared.

In Nicole’s case there was no wrong or right decision, both were noble. But this is when it is important for a young lady to know what is right for her personally. 

If you are interested, Nicole also has a blog. Please stop by there and say hello – Our Happily Ever After.


This was my journey, this was my story, this is my life
By Nicole Horsford

I was 18 when I received my first distinct impression to serve a mission. Life progressed, as it tends to do. I dated, went to university, and even though I still wanted to serve a mission it was much less of a focus for me.

I was nearly 20 when my focus returned. Part of the influence for that was my best friend preparing for a mission. Another was reading my patriarchal blessing and noticing it seemed as if every paragraph was talking about serving a mission. I felt the spirit testify to me that that was what I was supposed to do.

The experience that cemented my desire to serve a mission came just days after my 20th birthday. I had been worrying for a while about what to do with my future. That night I went to Heavenly Father in prayer. As I prayed, I heard a voice saying, “Go on a mission”. I felt the spirit flood through my body and I was filled with an indescribable joy.

To say I was anxious to go on a mission would be a gross understatement! I counted down the days until I could start my papers, submit them, receive my call, and then leave. I wanted to leave as close to my 21st birthday as possible. Things took longer than expected but by November 2011 my papers were in.

Nicole's Mission Call

The Mission Call Arrives

On the 13th of December 2011 I received my call to serve in the Philippines Quezon City North Mission, reporting to the Provo MTC on the 24th of April 2012.

In January 2012, Joel, the brother of one of my best friends, returned from his mission. His family had moved to NZ in July 2011, and so rather than going home to Perth where he left from, he came to Auckland. I first met him the night he got home and then didn’t see him for another week and a half, but the next time we saw each other something clicked and I realised that I had feelings for him. Over the next week we saw each other regularly and things with us progressed rapidly from there. He was everything I had ever wanted and so much more. In short, he was perfect for me.

On the 10th of February we started officially dating, and we began to talk marriage straight away. It took me by surprise because I was so fixed on my mission. I didn’t know what to do.

I was torn, emotionally and spiritually. I had prepared for so long for my mission, I didn’t see how I could just change my mind. But I had been preparing my entire life for marriage as well, and being a wife and a mother is my ultimate goal.

I prayed about it, we went to the temple the next morning and although I received answers about some things, I was still unsure about what I should do about serving a mission. The next day we fasted and the thoughts and feelings that came through strongest to me were that Joel was right for me, and I should follow the counsel that our priesthood leaders have given us.

Richard G Scott, in the April 2006 General Conference, said:

“In the home a young girl can understand that her primary role is to be a wife and mother. Yet as that preparation unfolds there may be an opportunity to serve a full-time mission, provided recent counsel of the First Presidency is followed: “Worthy single women ages twenty-one and older … may be recommended to serve full-time missions… Bishops should not recommend them for missionary service if it will interfere with imminent marriage prospects.” “

My first choice was whether I felt Joel was the one I was to marry- a decision I made and confirmed with Heavenly Father. If that was right, then marriage was to take precedence. It seemed as if the solution was clear, and yet I still felt guilty.

I knew without a doubt that I had received revelation that helped me to make the decision to prepare for a mission. But I didn’t know if all of that had happened because I was supposed to go on a mission, or because it would give me opportunities to learn and grow, and be in a position where I could meet and marry Joel.

We sought the counsel of my bishop. I am grateful for my kind, wise bishop, who listened as I explained how things had happened, my thoughts and feelings, and the questions that I had. The first thing he said was that he would not make any decision for us, that was our responsibility.

We talked about how a mission is a priesthood responsibility, and that while it is a fantastic thing for sisters to serve missions, it is not an obligation. He stressed that there is no shame in not serving a mission, even though I had received my call. He cautioned us about discerning between emotions and communication from the spirit so that we would be able to more clearly receive the answers we were seeking for. We talked about the need for righteous families to be reared.

As we talked, I felt my fears being calmed. I felt at peace. I felt that Joel was the one that I was to marry. And, I felt like serving a mission was not what I was supposed to do right now.

Later that night, Joel proposed and I, with no doubts or reservations, said yes!

The Happy Couple

The Happy Couple

There are opportunities that I will not have because I chose not to serve a mission right now. But there are many more opportunities that have opened up because I have chosen to be married in the temple, to a wonderful man, and to raise a family with him in the gospel.

I still plan on serving a mission, hopefully several, but now with my eternal companion.

This was my journey, this was my story, this is my life. How grateful I am for the gospel, and for a loving Heavenly Father who has a plan for each of us.

Have you had to make a similar decision? How did you come to decide? I would love to hear your stories and how you made, or would make, the decision between serving a mission or marrying.

In memory of my life…a vision of the future

Not long ago I went on an overnight sailing trip with several of the Young Women in my ward. We moored overnight in a small cove within one of the many beautiful islands surrounding Auckland Harbour.

In the morning we decided to explore the tiny island that had been our shelter for the night. As we climbed to the highest point we noticed a single row of white headstones. Their etched inscriptions facing toward their destinination, but not quite making it. Each of them told a story of tragic circumstance, of lives cut short, and reminded us of our brief mortal presence here on earth.

As we gathered around to enjoy the view I asked each of the girls to tell me about the vision they had for their future. Tho’ there were many of them who had not yet formulated a full vision of where they wanted to be in the next 10 years, it was a reminder to me of how important it is for each of us to understand the plan that the Lord has for us.

Elder O. Vincent Haleck, in the 2012 Sunday afternoon session of General Conference suggested that, “If we are to prosper rather than perish, we must gain a vision of ourselves as the Savior sees us”.

I remember contemplating this very thing over 30 years ago when a tiny seed of an idea was formulating in my mind. I was 20 yrs. old, had just arrived back in Australia after spending almost a year in the UK with my parents, and wondered where my life was to take me from  that point. I had the world at my feet as a 20 yr. old, but I just couldn’t get a grip on what I needed to do.

I had never contemplated the idea that I could, or would, serve a mission. Indeed, as a child the idea never entered my mind, and certainly as a teenager it was the last thing I would have addressed. But at 20, it began as a tiny seed of enquiry.

This was the first time I considered the scripture that Elder Haleck read out recently in conference, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 21:18). It was also the first time in my life I considered my future with the realisation that I could actually really mess things up if I didn’t have some kind of vision of what the Lord wanted me to do with it.

My journey of enquiry took me to many places that year. In my mind and heart I considered  many options, and in the end I turned to my patriarchal blessing for some answers. I began to create a vision in my mind as to what my purpose was, and what the Lord would have me do.

Tho’ I couldn’t predict my future, there were certain truths that I couldn’t deny.

  1. This life is so short, and we don’t have time to indulge ourselves in selfish pursuits.
  2. The choices we make now will have a lasting effect, not only on us, but upon the lives of others.
  3. The Lord knows us even better than we know ourselves.
  4. To act on vision we must apply faith.

This journey of self discovery took me to places that allowed me to glimpse the possibilities. It was that year that I truly understood the wisdom of Solomon, “Where there is no vision the people perish”. I discovered that I could obtain a vision of my future, and that vision would allow me to prosper.

But, even more importantly, that vision allowed me to prepare for the day when I could fulfill things I thought I could never do. Through missionary service I was able to sew the seed of faith and vision in the lives of many individuals and families. Through my life as a mother, I am far better prepared to sew the seeds of faith and vision in the lives of my children.

Unlike those tiny headstones that were perched on the top of that island – in sight of the city of their destination, but cut short by tragedy – I prepared myself for the journey of life. In choosing to serve a mission I know that I was fulfilling a purpose that the Lord had set out for me. From that point on it didn’t matter how long or short my life would be on this earth, my path was set and it would lead me in the direction that the Lord wanted me to take.

I know that I will arrive at my destination no matter what this mortal existence involves, as long as I maintain that vision and exercise faith.