Missionary Anxiety and Stress

Missionary looking over city scape

Over the weekend I received an email that really concerned me. The email came through the LDS Missionary Moms group I belong to. It was addressed to all missionary mums (and families) throughout the world and warned us about a growing concern that seems to be affecting many of our missionaries today. I gained permission from Betty Pearson, the moderator of the e-group, to re-post here the contents of that email. I have not changed the wording of the email in any way, and it appears here exactly as it it did when it was sent to me. It speaks for itself, so I will make no further comment on it. *Please note the website that Betty recommends to all future missionaries and their families.

MIssionary Anxiety and Stress:

It is concerning that so many missionaries are struggling with this issue. As parents, perhaps the best thing we can do right now is to help our own missionaries through this struggle, AND, if we have future missionaries, help them understand that they might experience this on their missions, and how to overcome it. They can develop tools right now that will aid and strengthen them during hard times of homesickness, stress, and anxiety. 

Last year there were over 6000 missionaries that came home early because of these kinds of issues. Most did not return to the mission field. There is no single cause, and there is no one solution.

Dr. Richard Ingebretsen works with many Mission Doctors, and they have compiled a book called, "Missionary Medicine". They also have a website that we highly recommend you visit. They have added sections for depression, anxiety and stress:

Missionary Medicine - A Guide to LDS Missionary Health

In his email to me, he wrote: "Communication is very, very important. The missionary has to have people to talk with and to email with. Families need to be able to communicate with the missionary and the missionary needs someone in the field to talk with. This can be a companion, a missionary friend, a counselor, or a friend from home. The Church has done several things to help. The first is they are allowing missionaries to email friends at home and in other missions. This will allow the missionary to communicate and see how their friends are coping. It also makes a mission more familiar in that they can keep the communication lines open with their support system. 

"It is recommended that missionaries take out a "911 package." In the package they should include pictures, music, and other items from home that will help them when they are stressed out. Any item that would have some special meaning that the missionary can turn to give them strength.

"Missionaries should be taught prior to leaving about the symptoms of homesickness and anxiety and should be prepared to address them ahead of time. Families should be prepared to know that the missionary will have symptoms and be prepared. They should read about anxiety and stress and educate themselves ahead of time. The two chapters in our book were written by one of the psychiatrists for the church. They are pretty good and should be read by parents and missionaries.

"If they are in areas where it is dark much of the year, they can use light boxes where the missionary will be exposed to bright lights. This helps to produce vitamin D in their system. These have been successful.  Vitamin D supplements can be useful for anyone having symptoms.

"Exercise is important as well, if a missionary is not working out this can be helpful. Diet is important as well, but a lot of missionaries who are stressed just don't eat well at all.

"In the end, it might be useful for the missionary to be transferred to a mission closer to home, where the sights, sounds, meals, and language are more familiar. Families can send packages easier and communication is better." NB: Image sourced at LDS.org - Media Library 

The Lords Timing…when a missionary is delayed

Dealing with delay

The wave has begun to rise. Thousands of eager 18, 19, and 21 year old elders and sisters have risen to the call and are diving into the ocean of missionary work. Wave after wave they are moving forward and flooding the earth with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Change is occurring, and our children are at the peak of it.

But what happens when one (or even many) of these chosen emissaries appears to have missed the wave? They have done all to prepare – keeping themselves worthy, receiving their mission call and even entering the training arena, only to find that there are delays in their departure.

These delays are usually associated with visa applications, but could also involve health issues or something as simple as delayed flights. Whatever the issue, these kinds of delays can be upsetting for both the missionary and his/her family if focus is not maintained. Expectations are high, and when these expectations are not met then discouragement can occur.

I raise this issue now because it is a hot topic. With the influx of missionary numbers there has been an increase in departure delays. Actually, this is nothing really new. Delays have been happening since the inception of missionary work and will continue. But it is certainly a point of concern for many missionary mums and dads – not to mention for the missionaries themselves.

Before I tackle the most oft occurred reason for a delay – visas – I would like to make mention of another reason. That being one of health issues.

Delays Because of Health*

Recently, a missionary mum shared with me an experience her son had when making application for his visa to serve in a foreign country.

“Medical applications to foreign countries require clean spotless ‘bill of health’.  My son’s protein level was too high, no thanks to his college diet of hot dogs and top ramen, plus protein drinks (many athletes think this is a healthy drink).  It took over 2 months for his body to flush out the excess protein and clear the protein tests.  He almost missed his deadline to submit his mission medical papers.

“We need to teach our boys [and girls] to take time to eat healthy, and all the hype about protein drinks is just that – a lot of hype.”

While we think we are obeying the Word of Wisdom, it’s important that our future missionaries realise that there is more to a healthy body than just abstaining from harmful drugs, tobacco, alcohol, tea and coffee.

In 2007 the Ensign published an excellent article titled Missionary Health Preparation, written by Donald B. Doty – Chairman of the Missionary Department Health Services. It is an article worth exploring with your future missionary as part of his/her preparation.

Other issues surrounding health may occur while the missionary is in the MTC. One missionary mum told of how her son had an accident in the MTC while playing basketball. His foot was broken and it took several months to heal. Fortunately, this young missionary was able to remain in the MTC for the duration of his recuperation and work in the Missionary Referral Centre.  Impressively, he was able to see beyond the accident and the delay as he wrote home,

“Being in the MTC is such a huge blessing! The spirit here is amazing. It is an extension of the Temple. We have apostles and general authorities come frequently! Prophets of the Lord! We are able to do missionary work in the Temple once a week…I’m not upset, I have no reason to be 🙂 I’m pumped to keep working hard here at the Referral Center, I love the missionaries here and the work that is done here…I’ve had injuries before and there’s nothing that you can really do about em’ just smile and work through it…I’m super blessed. Count your blessings everyday. If you do, you realize you can’t keep track of them, because there are so many. That’s the generosity of Jesus Christ and Our Heavenly Father :)”

His words say it all, don’t you think? Look beyond what you don’t have, and work with what you do. Feel blessed and maintain your focus on the work and the Lord’s purposes.

* For some, a long term health issue may mean there is no chance of serving a full-time proselyting mission outside of their hometown. However, by working closely with your local priesthood leaders, there is often a way around any situation, that could mean your son or daughter can fulfill an honorable mission. See the article Missionary Health Preparation for more information.

Visa Delays

Perhaps the most common reason for departure delays is because of visas. Some missionary mums have told stories of delays of up to 6 months.

These delays can occur for many different reasons. For every country the church sends missionaries to, there is probably one more unique reason for why there might be a visa delay.

Just six months ago, all visas issued for US missionaries traveling to New Zealand were ceased completely because the type of visa needed for missionaries to enter this country was discontinued. Those NZ bound missionaries in the MTC had to be re-assigned to missions stateside until the issue could be resolved – some waiting for up to 3 months. Today there are no delays and, if all is prepared correctly in the visa application process, a missionary heading to NZ will experience no delays.

Currently, to serve anywhere in Australia from the US, a missionary can expect visa delays of anything from 1 week to 12 weeks after they enter the MTC. Why? Not really sure, but perhaps it is just the influx of missionary applications that is disrupting the process. Wow, does that tell you something?

One missionary mum realised how erratic the visa application can be when the MTC group  her daughter was to travel with was split up. Some leaving because visas had arrived, some remaining in the MTC, and others being transferred to missions stateside, because their visas hadn’t arrived. Many of them had identical visa timeline applications, but for whatever reason, the visa issue process was not identical.

Humble consideration must be made for those working in the Missionary Travel Department. One missionary mum, reassured by her missionary daughter that she was where she was supposed to be right at that time, consistently resisted the urge to contact the travel department as she recognised that, “…they are overwhelmed and doing all that they can to get all of these amazing missionaries to their called destinations.”

Two factors are overwhelmingly clear with each of those missionaries who are delayed and reassigned for a season. Firstly, 99% of the time they end up where they were originally assigned, and secondly, not one of them regrets the delay in any way. No matter where they are sent, they believe that, that is where the Lord needed them at that time.

This principle is made clear when Elder Bednar reflected on the tender mercies of the Lord, ”

“Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, the Lord suits “his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men” (D&C 46:15).

“…the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness, obedience, and humility invite tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord’s timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings.” (April, 2005)

One missionary sister experienced the Lord’s tender mercies through a temporary reassignment when she was sent to a mission within a few hours of where her non-member father was living. While there, she was granted permission to meet with him for lunch, was able to receive some much needed financial assistance from him, and spent some quality time with him that she would not have had otherwise.

Another great benefit to these delays is that when these missionaries do finally arrive at their designated missions they are ready and hit the ground running. With the increase of missionaries serving now, there is a greater and greater need for missionaries to serve as trainers and leaders at an earlier age. These missionaries are often stepping into training positions from the day they arrive –

“…the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence.” (emphasis added)

As Elder Bednar suggests, the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal, individualised blessings and spiritual gifts that are given to each of us. No matter what happens, we should always know that the Lord is in control, and these things happen for a greater purpose and in His time. Wave after wave of missionaries continue to move forward. Whatever wave your missionary manages to catch will be the right one for him or her. As the Lord states,

“I will hasten my work in its time.” (D&C 88:73)

 

Ways families can decrease the chances of visa delays:

  1. Read everything in your visa packet very carefully (even the fine print) – every country is different in its requirements and it may mean the difference between where a picture should or shouldn’t be signed.
  2. Start the visa application as soon as you receive the package.
  3. Be prepared to submit information and applications more than once.
  4. Some countries require an FBI check. Many mums have suggested using a ‘controller’ to process this check. It can cost more, but it can cut down the process from weeks to days.
  5. Don’t get too caught up in dates, times and schedules. Visa applications can be erratic, and may not fit within any kind of ‘missionary’ timeline. Remember, you are dealing with people who don’t understand the ‘Church’ processes, only their own.
  6. Realise that a countries visa status can change at any time. One day visas can be flowing at a fast pace, the next day they can stop completely. Go with the flow.
  7. Prepare your missionary for the chance of change. A mission is full of change and disappointments, visa delays are just a small part of this.
  8. Don’t be thrown out yourself if your missionary is delayed…remember – “…the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence.” Your son or daughter may have something to learn, or someone to connect with because of this delay.

What happens when the visa finally arrives:

  1. Don’t panic. The church’s travel department has it all in hand. They have been doing this kind of thing for a long time. They will ensure your missionary will know when to go, where to go and what to do.
  2. Your son/daughter will not have time to visit home before they leave. Treat this move as simply another transfer to another area of their mission.
  3. You will probably be contacted by either your missionary, the church travel department, or the mission office when the time comes for them to go. Sometimes this contact will be days before they are to leave, sometimes it is a call from your missionary just prior to them embarking on their flight. There is no standard procedure, except that they will go when they go.
  4. Try to remember to ask for their flight details so you can track their flight. For many parents this is very comforting at a time that can be quite stressful. There are plenty of online flight trackers that offer lots of information. Here are a couple:

 

His Badge of Honor

Scriptures, journal and Preach My Gospel

Today, while sitting in sacrament meeting, I happened to glance over to where two of my children where sitting. The meeting was fabulous (particularly the speakers) , so I hadn’t planned on diverting my attention for too long. But what they were looking at caught my attention for longer than I expected.

It was my sons journal. I knew he had been keeping a journal – I had often seen it lying around the lounge room and in his bedroom – but it surprised me to see he had it at church. I’m still not sure why he had it there…but I noticed that he and his sister were looking at some photos towards the back.

Those images took me back to what seemed a lifetime ago. Well, actually it would have probably been less than 5 years ago, but since we had moved countries and settled into a new life in that time, it definitely felt like a lifetime ago.

For as long as I can remember my son has eagerly anticipated serving a mission. The year we brought home his first suit (at about age 5) it included a tiny little missionary badge declaring him to be a ‘Future Missionary’. He wore that badge (and that suit) for a long time. He was proud of it and what it represented; a kind of badge of honor towards his future.

But on further contemplation, I have realised there were many other events that have helped pave the way of his missionary path. Those photos represented one of them. They depicted a time when one missionary in particular made a lasting impression on my son.

The images drew me back to the day that this missionary and his companion – serving in our area – had made a connection with my 13 year old son. This missionary had recognised within him a desire to know what it takes to be a servant of the Lord. Through inspiration, they invited him to walk door to door with them, up our street, and share what it would be like.

I remember the fear I had at the time. Would this harm the utopian view of a young man who had dreams of striding from door to door in his crisp new suit, preaching the gospel to everyone he came in contact with? I tried mentally to go through all the people I knew in the street, determining whether they would present a positive or negative response. But unfortunately (or fortunately in this case) I didn’t know anyone beyond my neighbour next door.

Oh ye of little faith!

That opportunity was perfect for my son. It really didn’t matter what kind of response he got at the doors. The look of pride on his face in those photos said it all. He was living a dream and the missionary who stood beside him represented everything he wanted to be. That experience for my son helped him along the way.

I sit here now and reflect on both the glimpse I had in church today, and the experience my son had those few years ago. My conclusion is this…

While missionaries have a sacred duty to find those who seek for truth and teach them the true and everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ…they also have the ability to affect the lives of many young men and women who are preparing for this same service.

As a mother I am grateful for two young missionaries who came into my home (probably on just two or three occasions) and recognised a tiny flame of desire within a young man. It took a simple invitation to join them for just 1/2 hour, to cement in the mind of my son that this is what he needed to prepare for.

As my son is now in the final stages of preparation to serve his mission (in just over 12 months), I am grateful for their example – that they were inspired enough to lay down some bricks on the road to his future.

I only hope that as part of my sons missionary service, he may be the means of inspiring at least one other young man to do the same. I pray that he will be galvanized enough to identify a similar tiny flame burning within the heart of another future missionary.

An Invitation

Las Vegas, Nevada Temple

Welcome to all my new readers, and also to those who drop by now and then. With lots more missionaries preparing to serve, this kind of forum is going to be sought after more and more. So I would invite those who have visited here already to share it with your friends and families.

If you haven’t found MMM on facebook then please do as there is so much more offered there in the way of resources, videos and links. It’s very easy to do…

Just return to the Homepage of this blog and click the ‘Like’ button on the right hand side of the page under MMM on Facebook.

Or if you want to go directly to the Facebook page then my page can be found at…

MISSIONARY MUM’S MEETING PLACE FACEBOOK PAGE

Yesterday I shared a link to a blog that offers some ideas on how to organise your missionaries emails, letters and photos…

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The Dying Notion of a Sister Missionary

Elder Richard G. Scott quote

In the kitchen, bare foot and pregnant, was how one missionary suggested my life would be better served. As a new missionary it shook me to my boots to think that my sacrifice was not as valid as the Elder’s standing next to me.  In my eyes the only difference between he and me was our gender (and certain priesthood responsibilities). But in a day where sister missionaries were the exception rather than the rule, it highlighted a misconception within church membership that suggested a divide.

But when I look at the statistics quoted recently – within two weeks of the October 6th 2012 announcement there was a 471% jump in mission applications and more than half of those were women – it screams at me that the notion of sisters serving missions has come a long way.

I was delighted to read recently an article titled  A Letter to Girls About Lady Missionaries’  – written by a returned lady missionary way back in 1972 (even before my time as a missionary). While it was on the whole a fair depiction of what it meant to be a missionary in the 70s, the thing that jumped out at me was the suggestion that a sister’s success was based more on how well groomed and presented she was than on what she could do to prepare herself spiritually to teach the saving ordinances of the Gospel. It threw me straight back to that gender comment by the Elder in my mission.

I’m confident we ‘ve come further along the scale of understanding today to be able to identify that there are far more pressing concerns for a missionary sister than how long her hair is, or whether or not she outwardly presents a perfect persona to the mission president after having ridden a motor cycle to an interview in the pouring rain.

Indeed, on further introspection, I realised that I had had similar comments tossed to me when I was determining whether, as a young 20 year old, a mission was the right thing for me. “Oh, a mission is only for those girls who can’t get married”, or “You’re too young and good looking to serve a mission”. As much as that last comment fed my ego, it fell short of allowing me to understand that the decision to serve a mission for a sister is based purely on spiritual enlightenment and inspiration from the Lord – nothing to do with age, marriageable potential or looks.

As the parents of three daughters my husband and I may have unwittingly reinforced this barefoot and pregnant notion. Suggesting to our girls during their teenage years that if they were not married by the age of 21 then we would be encouraging them to consider serving a mission. But let me say in my defence, it was spoken more in excitement on our part. As parents we had both experienced the joys of serving a mission and knew that such an event in their life would not only bless the lives of countless sons and daughters of God, but also bless the lives of each of our daughters. In my heart I really wanted them to taste the bitter/sweet fruits of missionary labour.

However, I’m not here to slander the deeds of the past – be them mine or anyone else’s – just to highlight the changes that have occurred.  History describes our progression as a people. It’s our progression that describes the things we have learnt along the way…

When my daughter announced she was preparing to serve a mission in 2010, much had changed in terms of attitudes and expectations.  Of course as parents we were over-joyed at her decision. But more importantly, amongst her friends and peers there was generally an overall sense of excitement and support; a recognition that this decision had come through sincere prayer and preparation on her part, and not because she had been ‘left on the shelf’.

In 2010, the words of one LDS returned missionary sister, when asked, ‘How is missionary preparation different for women than men?’ reveal the changes in thinking that have occurred in the last 40 years,

“I don’t know that preparation for a mission is much different. You have to be physically and spiritually strong, you have to know the gospel, you have to have a deeply rooted testimony, you have to have a desire to serve and share the gospel. Both young men and young women need all of these things.
Wendi Condie, Montana Billings Mission

More recently, with the announcement of age changes, and new leadership roles for sister missionaries, prospective sister missionaries have greater flexibility of choice, and greater opportunity for input and service. It is wonderful to see that mission organization is fitting in more with the pattern of ward and stake councils. Sisters will now not only have the opportunity serve at an earlier age but also contribute to the success of the Lord’s work worldwide in a more focused and united way.

While I would change nothing about my experiences as a missionary, I welcome the dying notion of the sister missionary of the past. I think it opens the door to a wave of more focused missionaries and closes the divide of the past; missionaries – both male and female – who understand their role, are prepared spiritually to perform their labours wherever they serve, and who work in harmony to extend the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to every one of His children on earth.

The Call of the Future

Missionary Training Center

Do you feel it in the air? It’s thick with anticipation and excitement. At church, at home, lunching with friends, through email, phone and text, and of course all over Facebook. It’s the call of the future…Everyone is affected by it, so if you are not preparing now then it’s time to start.

Just this morning I read of several new missionary announcements on Facebook and received an email from a friend revealing her daughter’s call to the Tokyo, Japan Mission. This is a daily experience for me, as I am sure it is for you. It seems the call has gone out and the challenge has been accepted…on a mass scale.

It’s exciting!

In a previous post I talked about the qualities required of a missionary…Faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God (D&C 4:5). So today I want to add to that and suggest some ways that we can, as families, help prepare our young men and women develop those qualities and be able to answer the call of the future.

Elder HollandParents, families and all in the church, have been summoned to participate as a joint effort. Elder Holland made it clear on October 6th 2012 when he stated, “As part of the pre mission preparation, we are going to ask everyone to be working earlier and sooner…”

In our own home, as we prepare our 17-year-old son for this phase of his life, we have been searching out the most effective ways to equip him with the resources and attitudes necessary to leave in less than a year. Notice how I suggest here that it is ‘we’ and not just ‘he’ that is involved in this preparation.

With our daughter not long off her mission, we decided as a family to explore the Preach My Gospel manual in our FHE lessons. Following the model of the youth teaching curriculum (the model of the Saviour’s teaching), we take turns in presenting some of the gospel principles from the manual. I must admit it has been a struggle at times to get everyone involved…but fun. Playing the investigator and trying to come up with some interesting questions for the teacher is a highlight. But most of all it’s definitely helping to prepare our future missionary son.

Who is ‘everyone’?

If you feel you are exempt as a mother or father of very young children, then think again…remember what Elder Holland said? “…everyone to be working earlier and sooner…”

Preach My GospelToday I read a great blog post by an amazing LDS mum, and I believe she struck upon gold while struggling with some choices about teaching her young children. In the process of decision-making she was prompted several times to explore Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel,

“I wanted to teach them letters, study world cultures, geography, study music, art, history, numbers, and go on field trips.

“So ignored the prompting and delved back into my hunt for just the right educational curriculum. My feelings of unease increased and so I went back to my knees. Again, the same answer, “Chapter 6, Christ-like Attributes. Once a week on Family Home Evening isn’t enough, they need it every day.”

“But God, that chapter really isn’t designed for 4-year-olds how am I going to teach that? But I get the idea you want me to teach them virtues, right? Okay, I can do that.””

                                           —‘Moms Missionary Training Center’ – Women in the Scriptures

Richard G. Scott

Richard G. Scott set forth the challenge when outlining the power of Preach My Gospel,

I encourage you to find out how this extraordinary resource can help in your missionary efforts, either as a parent preparing a child for a mission, a Church leader helping new converts, a member sharing the gospel, or an individual getting ready to serve.

                                    April 2005 General Conference

For The Strength of YouthAnother mother suggested that we have all the resources at hand, but may not recognize it. Her recommendation was to use the principles taught in the For The Strength of Youth booklet…a great idea for our youth. For several years as our family grew we would spend 10 minutes each Monday night exploring and discussing a different section of this booklet. At the very beginning of the book a promise is given by the First Presidency,

“We promise that as you keep the covenants you have made and these standards, you will be blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, your faith and testimony will grow stronger, and you will enjoy increasing happiness.”

                                        For The Strength of Youth

Certainly nothing to be ignored…don’t we all hope and pray this for our children?

Come Follow Me CurriculumThe new Sunday school and youth curriculum is a wonderful model for mum’s and dad’s to follow in Family Home Evenings and other learning sessions. If you haven’t checked out the ’Come Follow Me’ website, then it is a must. It includes ideas and methods of teaching that we can all use at home and at church.

Would it surprise you if I told you that parents are an important part of the success of this youth teaching program as it prepares them for missionary service? How much do you pattern your FHE lessons around the lessons they are having in Sunday School and Youth classes each month?

English: Name tags of two of . Created by Saaby.

Then of course, for those young men and young women who are on threshold of their future, there is the inspired institute program of Mission Prep classes. It’s here that they will work together to practice and implement much of the missionary specific principles contained in the Preach My Gospel manual.

All the resources are there at our fingertips to help in getting these precious young men and women prepared for service. It’s now time for all of us to answer the call of the future…

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

The Forgotten Missionaries

I’ve been absent for a while because I am on holidays with family (loving every minute of the sun and surf here in Queensland, Australia). But just wanted to share something quickly with you.

For the last week I have been involved in a conversation with some other missionary mums about the many missionaries who don’t receive any gifts from home over the Christmas season. For example, here in the Brisbane Australia Mission, as off Monday this week, there were 45 elders and 12 sisters who had not received a gift through the mail. As a result, I am in the process of delivering 3 gifts to the local mission office here in Brisbane to be given to any missionaries who haven’t received one.

I know it’s rather late, but I would encourage all of you out there to do something similar if you are in a position to. There are many families who just don’t have the means to send their missionary something for Christmas. There are also missionaries who don’t have family to send them anything. So, if you are in the position to, contact your local mission office and ask if gifts are needed. I know it is very close to Christmas, but most missions have the ability to deliver gifts to their missionaries right up to the last minute.

Let’s not forget them…

I would also like to wish you all a wonderful christmas and an amazing new year. Lots of new things to discuss in 2013. I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts…

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Ring, ring…why don’t you give me a call

MOTHER’S DAY!

Yep, and you know what that means….that long awaited phone call.

So here are my suggestions on some things you might want to include in on that conversation.

Believe me…you may think you have a grip on what you want to talk about, but when comes the voice on the other end, all thoughts flee and you become a babbling mess (well, maybe not for all of us, but it has been known to happen).

Here is that list. I posted this last Mother’s Day and at Christmas too…but always good to repost for those who may be new missionary mums and dads.

Downloadable version available at the end of this post…

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These suggestions are kindly shared by Betty Pearson, who hosts the LDS Missionary Moms Email Groups. If you have a missionary serving somewhere in the world and have not yet signed up for an email group, then you are truly missing out. Betty volunteers endless hours of her spare time to provide this free service, and there are literally thousands of missionary mums connecting every day because of it.

No matter where your missionary is serving in the world, there is an email group of missionary mums connected to his/her mission. The women in these groups are fantastic. I personally belong to two groups; one connected to the mission my daughter is serving in, and the other connected to the area I live in.

Now for that list…

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, I am sure there are many more ideas that can be added to it, but it is here merely to get you started. Also, don’t think that you have to ask all these questions in one sitting.

I would suggest that you have pen and paper on hand to record any significant responses your missionary may have.

The Church in Your Area:
How many members in your ward/branch?
What is the church building like?

The Area You Serve in:
What is the town like?
Rural, small town, small city, med. city, large city?
What does the area look like?
Flat? Rolling hills? A lot of trees?
How hot is it?
How cold is it?
How often does it rain?

About Your Companion:
How is your companion?
How long has he/she been out?
Is his/her family LDS?
Do they support him/her with letters?
Life member or convert?

Your Wellbeing:
Are you sleeping well?
How is the food?
What is the best food you’ve eaten?
What is the weirdest food you’ve eaten?
How many dinner appointments do you get?
What do you usually eat for breakfast?
Lunch?
How are your clothes?
Shoes?
Socks?
How are your feet?
Any problems?
Do you need more toothpaste?
Deodorant?
Vitamins?

Your Surroundings:
What is your apt like?
Is it in a big building?
Are your neighbors friendly or scared of you?
How far away is the Mission Office?
What do you see outside your window?

Other Missionaries You Serve With:
How many in your District?
Where are they from?
Who is the District Leader?
Zone Leader?
How often do you have Zone Conference?

Your P-day Routine:
What do you usually do on P-day?
What service do you do?
How often?

The Work:
Who are you teaching at the moment?
What do they do for work?
What are some of the questions they ask?
How much door knocking do you do in a week?
How much teaching do you do in a week?

Another suggestion by one of the mums from our email group was to ask the missionary to open their journal at a random date and start reading.

Well, I hope these questions have been helpful. You may even be able to come up with some more.

Enjoy the call with your missionary and I would love to hear from you how the experience went.

Download and print a PDF of these questions – Questions to Ask on Mothers Day Use the back of the page to record any special comments or information your missionary shares.

Missionary Service – It Isn’t About You

Faith-Header

I’m still reeling from the recent announcement by our beloved prophet, Thomas S. Monson (supported by comments made later by Elders Holland and Nelson), declaring new age limits for LDS missionary service. This modification is going to have a significant effect on missionary work and will greatly expand our efforts to do the work of the Lord.

Recent reports state that LDS missionary applications jumped from 700 per week to over 4,000 within a few weeks of this historic announcement. I’ve watched in my own ward as several young women have rejoiced in the expansion of the age requirement and made preparations to be involved in such an important work at a younger age; one already having received her call just days after her 19th birthday.

The ripple effects of this announcement are spreading beyond the borders of the Church, and are being discussed by member and non-member alike. The world is listening! Recently, a report in the Wall Street Journal even highlighted some of the social and cultural changes that could occur within the Church as a result of this announcement. These include shifts in such things as, dating habits, college enrollments, and even shifts in the marriageable age of our members.

With literally thousands more young men and young women lining up to be a part of this expansion, I think it is important for us to explore just what this will mean in terms of missionary service and the focus taken by our young men and women.

While it’s a time for all of us to be excited about how the work is now moving into a higher gear, a word of caution is needed to ensure we all have the correct focus. Elder Holland, in the press conference immediately after Pres. Monson’s announcement, was quick to remind our young people that,

“This announcement, I say to these young people, isn’t about you. It’s about the sweet and pure message you are being asked to bear and the ever greater numbers God needs to bear it.”

It could be easy for many of our young men and women to get caught up in the hype of the moment, and see this as an opportunity to simply be a part of something historic, rather than considering whether the time is right for them to answer the call.

In the same press conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson declared, “No young man or woman should begin his or her service as a missionary before they are ready”.  Careful and prayerful consideration is a fundamental element of whether an individual is ready to serve or not.

What Qualifies a Person For Missionary Service?

When I think about what it is that qualifies a person to serve my mind immediately goes to the 4th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.

Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work…

And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. D&C 4:2-3, 5

Five qualities qualify an individual to serve…Faith, hope, charity, love, and an eye single to the glory of God. These five qualities can be used as a yardstick to measure whether a person is ready or not.

Here is what the scriptures, and some of the brethren, say about each one of these qualities:

FaithNow faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Joseph F. Smith: “…it is necessary to have faith in God, faith being the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness.” Teachings of the Presidents of the Church

Richard G. Scott: “…to employ its power, faith must be founded on something. There is no more solid foundation than faith in the love Heavenly Father has for you, faith in His plan of happiness, and faith in the capacity and willingness of Jesus Christ to fulfill all of His promises…You will gather the fruits of faith as you follow the principles God has established for its use.

“Some of those principles are:

  • Trust in God and in His willingness to provide help when needed, no matter how challenging the circumstance.
  • Obey His commandments and live to demonstrate that He can trust you.
  • Be sensitive to the quiet prompting of the Spirit.
  • Act courageously on that prompting.
  • Be patient and understanding when God lets you struggle to grow and answers come a piece at a time over an extended period.” The Sustaining Power of Faith

HopeWherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God. Ether 12:4

M. Russell Ballard: “Moroni, having seen our day, counseled, “Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope.”… (Moro. 10:20.)…As we put our faith and trust to work, hope is born. Hope grows out of faith and gives meaning and purpose to all that we do. It can even give us the peaceful assurance we need to live happily in a world that is ripe with iniquity, calamity, and injustice. The Joy of Hope Fulfilled

Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “Hope has the power to fill our life with happiness…

“Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future.  It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance…

“…because of the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we may hope and be assured that the ending of the book of our lives will exceed our grandest expectations…

“We learn to cultivate hope the same way we learn to walk; one step at a time…We grow in our ability to abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost as we more perfectly live the gospel…

“Hope sustains us through despair. Hope teaches that there is reason to rejoice even when all seems dark around us…” The Infinite Power of Hope

CharityThough I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1 

Henry B. Eyring: “…charity is at the heart of the society and is to come into the heart, to be part of the very nature, of every member… Charity is born of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is an effect of His Atonement working in the hearts of the members.” The Enduring Legacy of Relief Society

Joseph B. Worthlin: “Paul’s message to this new body of Saints was simple and direct: Nothing you do makes much of a difference if you do not have charity. You can speak with tongues, have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries, and possess all knowledge; even if you have the faith to move mountains, without charity it won’t profit you at all.” The Great Commandment

M. Russell Ballard: “The Apostle Paul taught that three divine principles form a foundation upon which we can build the structure of our lives. They are faith, hope, and charity. (See 1 Cor. 13:13.) Together they give us a base of support like the legs of a three-legged stool. Each principle is significant within itself, but each also plays an important supporting role. Each is incomplete without the others. ” The Joy of Hope Fulfilled

LoveA new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you. John 13:34

Gordon B. Hinkley: “Love is of the very essence of life. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yet it is more than the end of the rainbow. Love is at the beginning also, and from it springs the beauty that arches across the sky on a stormy day. Love is the security for which children weep, the yearning of youth, the adhesive that binds marriage, and the lubricant that prevents devastating friction in the home; it is the peace of old age, the sunlight of hope shining through death. How rich are those who enjoy it in their associations with family, friends, church, and neighbors…

If the world is to be improved, the process of love must make a change in the hearts of men. It can do so when we look beyond self to give our love to God and others, and do so with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind…

This principle of love is the basic essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without love of God and love of neighbor there is little else to commend the gospel to us as a way of life.” And The Greatest of These is Love

Pres. Thomas S. Monson: “…we need to extend ourselves in service to our Heavenly Father if we are to demonstrate our love for Him.” How Do We Show Our Love

Eye-SingleIf your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you. D&C 88:67 

Gordon B. Hinkley: “As we look with love and gratitude to God, as we serve him with an eye single to his glory, there goes from us the darkness of sin, the darkness of selfishness, the darkness of pride. There will come an increased love for our Eternal Father and for his Beloved Son, our Savior and our Redeemer. There will come a greater sense of service toward our fellowmen, less of thinking of self and more of reaching out to others.” The Greatest of These is Love

Joseph B. Worthlin: “Each of us must work in harmony with God’s will and create a spiritual climate that will bring Jesus into the midst of our lives; and then we must continue to live “with an eye single to [his] glory D&C 4:5. “ Build it Right

Willing and Worthy Missionaries

This historic occasion is underlined by the words of Elder Holland when he states, “God is hastening His work, and He needs more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an often dark and fearful world. … You must prepare by personal worthiness and moral cleanliness and you must study diligently to know the gospel you will teach. We want you teaching effectively from the first day onward. And that will require preparation that starts long before you get your call to serve.” Church Lowers Age Requirement for Missionary Service

Faith, hope, charity, love and an eye single to the glory of God is what the gospel is all about. If a missionary can emulate these characteristics in his/her life, then they are truly qualified for the work. It’s clear we are counselled to determine carefully the appropriate time for missionary service, as the new age limits are simply offered as another option. Significant to this determination is the reminder that this change is not about the young people and how fast they can get out there, but it is about the, “…sweet and pure message..” that needs to be brought to the world and how willing and worthy these missionaries are to live it and do it.

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