Summer Break Over

sands of the sea

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been MIA for a few weeks. I’ve had such a great relaxing break over our summer holidays that I wanted to give writing a rest. In that time my husband and I, along with our children, have spent some time with extended family in Australia. We had a much needed holiday on the beach for about 10 days, and we also did some renovation work on a property we own in Brisbane. The change of pace has been good, but with school going back this week it’s now time to focus on the new year and all that it has to offer.

Over the last few weeks I’ve also been exploring my feelings about this blog. While I love writing about missionary work – it’s something I feel passionate about – I also started it with the idea that I would make connections with like-minded mums and families. I’ve appreciated all the followers I have, and especially appreciated those who have taken the time to connect with me through either comments left here or through the Missionary Moms Email group. But (here comes the but) in the last few months it has occurred to me that there has been less and less contributions here by followers and visitors. I’m not sure why (maybe someone would like to share their thoughts on why…it’s ok, I’m thick skinned and open to any suggestions), but I can only surmise that…well, I’m not really sure what to surmise.

I know the information on this blog has helped many, and I know it will continue to help those missionary mums and families who have questions about the many facets of missionary work and what it’s like to support a missionary in the field. Indeed, with the huge wave of missionaries about to land on the shores of the earths 5 continents, I expect it is needed more than ever. So, I’m not about to abandon it completely, however, with the surmising I’ve done, and with other things developing in my life right now, I’m wondering if it’s better to slow down a bit and even re-asses the format that the information comes to you.

Any kind of feedback would be good. So please let me know if you have any thoughts on this. Some ideas I’ve had include making the blog more private, so visitors would feel more comfortable about sharing their thoughts, photos, or experiences – particularly in regards to their missionary. Lighten the tone of my writing, or share inspirational thoughts on missionary work from our leaders. Or maybe even change the look of the blog…any ideas or suggestions will definitely be taken on board.

I look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, I will still be here, but maybe not quite as often as in the past.

signature

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.

Ahaa Milestones and Noise.

I’ve decided that the level of noise in one’s house is directly related to the presence (or non-presence) of one or more family members. Duhhhh! Makes sense right? However, I have also decided that the noise level is the measure of happiness in one’s home, and if a voice is missing then a measure of happiness is missing too.

With the return of my missionary daughter home is almost back to its happiest…

It’s never really the way you think it will be.

After all the discussion I have had on here about what it could be like for a missionary to arrive home, I feared the worst. I envisioned my daughter scratching to get on the next flight back to her mission and rejecting her new life. But my fears were allayed when she tells me within minutes of stepping off the plane that it’s like she’s never been away. She slipped back into her place as if she had never left.

I found she and her sister lying on the bed yesterday talking and giggling about anything and everything – just like they used to. By that afternoon she was asking me about the books I had on my shelf, and was keen to get stuck into the ‘Great and Terrible’ series by Chris Stewart. As we sat as a family last night to Skype her sister and brother-in-law in another city, it was clear that she was comfortable quipping with all her siblings in such a way that you would never have believed she’d been away for 18 months. The only real indication of this absence was when I had to open the front door for her because she couldn’t remember the door code.

Ahaa Milestones

Noise levels aside, most notable in difference for me is the spirit that entered our home on Saturday morning. In walked the daughter I knew, but with her was a new sense of confidence and conviction. With friends and family around for breakfast, I sat silently watching and listening as this missionary daughter expressed her love for the work she had been involved in. Then later, as we sat in the Stake Presidents office, I witnessed the depth of her testimony. I have determined that our home is now inhabited by someone who might very well be wiser than both my husband and I combined…

I remember on many occasions, as a mother, I have noted milestones in my children’s lives. I’m not talking about the birthday milestones, or the baptism, ordination, or school milestones, but more what I term the ‘Ahaa Milestones’. You know, like the first time your child gives a talk at church, which they have prepared themselves, where they are able to teach you something you didn’t know. Or the times when they come out with some amazing truth in a conversation with you, and you wonder where they learnt that because you don’t remember ever teaching it to them. For me, these Ahaa Milestones are a marker in the spiritual lives of my children. They are indicators that the gospel principles we have taught in the home have become internalised in their lives.

Well, that’s exactly what I am feeling at the moment. Right now we are experiencing a major Ahaa Milestone. I see in my missionary daughter that sense of conviction as she has internalised the principles she has been teaching for the last 18 months. But what is most amazing to me is that it is not something that has changed her from who she fundamentally is, but it is something that has enhanced the core of who she is. She is still the daughter I know, but the light of the gospel has expanded her soul.

I know that there is a long way to go, but I feel confident that my missionary daughter is well prepared and equipped with the tools she needs to move forward with her life. Through small and simple steps she will be able to find the path she needs to be on.

Coming Home

Well, that brings us to the end of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series. I have enjoyed bringing it to you, and I hope you have enjoyed reading it. But most importantly, I hope that as a family you can take the time to discuss the ideas shared here so that you can more effectively prepare for the return of your missionary.

Thank you to Dave and Wendy Ulrich for giving me the framework of this series, and thanks to my brother-in-law and his wife for sharing with me some of their thoughts on the matter.

To finish it up I thought I would share a quick video that a friend sent me this week. I know it may set off the waterworks, but I think it says it all, and is a fitting way to finish this series.

Here is a recap of all this things we covered in this series:

  1. Introduction to ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series
  2. To Pick Them Up Or Not
  3. Excitement and Disorientation
  4. The Need for Structure
  5. Big Goals, Little Steps
  6. Renegotiating Family Relationships
  7. Friends and Dating
  8. Singles Wards and Church Callings
  9. Finding Meaning
  10. Getting Help
  11. 13 Guidelines to a Softer Transition

Tomorrow I am going to get up close and personal about my daughters return and share what it feels like for a mother the day before her missionary arrives home.

‘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:

Advice to New Missionaries and their Mums

How ready is your missionary for the MTC experience…or a mission for that matter?

I just love being connected to so many missionary mums through the LDS Missionary Moms Email Group. I hope that you have taken the opportunity to join one of the many groups out there if you have a missionary preparing, or already serving.

Recently Betty Pearson of LDS Missionary Moms shared with us some advice from various Mission and MTC Presidents on how we can best prepare our missionaries for the field. More particularly, on preparing them to enter the MTC. These are people who see our missionaries coming and going on a regular basis. As a result they have highlighted the key things that may be lacking in some of our missionaries preparations. So here you have a jump start.

While I don’t wish to share word for word what Betty wrote, I have taken the key points from it all and compiled them here for mums and their missionaries.

There is some VERY important information here that will assist in making both yours and your missionaries experience more positive and uplifting. PLEASE share this with other missionary mums and families so that we can assist these noble young men and women to fulfill their callings in the best way possible.

What parents can do to help their missionary prepare:

  1. Give them ‘separation from home and family’ experiences. If they don’t go to college prior to their mission, then find ways that will allow them to experience life and choices without your intervention. See my article ‘Helping Them Find Their Voice’
  2. Let them consistently do their own laundry before they leave. The MTC is a new enough experience for them to handle. If they also have to learn how to do laundry there, then it makes it that much harder to focus on their religious and spiritual training.
  3. Let them prepare meals at home before they leave. They may not have to do much of this on their mission, but be assured that they will have to do it at some stage.
  4. Teach them basic cleaning skills and provide opportunities for them to perform these duties at home before they leave.
  5. Teach them basic food hygiene habits. Having a son or daughter sick on a mission because they didn’t understand how to handle food safely can be distressing to any mother.
  6. Provide them with some basic and easy recipes that they can use on their mission. See my ‘Food Friday’ meal suggestions. This can have future marital benefits too 🙂
  7. Encourage them to exercise every day. A regular exercise regime is a big part of their mission routine. Best to get them used to it before they go.
  8. Provide some kind of routine in the home so that they are prepared for the strict routines of a mission. Key to a successful mission is time-management and self discipline, preparing them beforehand for this is going mean they are far more prepared for a rigorous mission routine.
  9. Remind your missionary that, if he/she is learning a new language, that they will learn that language most in the mission field and not in the MTC – so don’t stress if it all seems too hard.

In addition to the above things that parents can do to assist, there are some other ways that missionaries themselves can prepare:

Knowledge Preparation:

  1. Memorise the 100 scripture mastery scriptures – know the keywords and the doctrine associated with each.
  2. Read the Book of Mormon through – absolute must.
  3. Be familiar with Preach My Gospel – at least read it through and understand its purpose. Attending a Mission Prep. class through Institute will help to familiarise the missionary with the doctrines it contains. Did you know that you can now get a pocket size copy of this?
  4. Know how to look up and search the scriptures using the footnotes, topical guide and Bible dictionary of the scriptures.
  5. Understand the culture of the mission or country they will be going to. They will not get any training for this in the MTC.

Experience Preparation:

  1. Be a faithful Home Teacher or Visiting Teacher.
  2. Complete YM Duty to God, Eagle Scout  or YW Personal Progress programs.
  3. Complete the 4-year seminary program.
  4. Spend time working with the local missionaries – tracting and teaching.
  5. Serve and volunteer within the church programs and in the community. Allows the missionary to give of themselves freely and willingly.

Spiritual Preparation:

  1. Nurture the desire to serve. Read Doctrine and Covenants 4
  2. Study the scriptures daily with real intent and purpose.
  3. Pray daily for the guidance of the spirit to build testimony and conviction.
  4. Bear your testimony whenever possible. Your testimony will be the one thing that you will use daily on your mission. Get used to bearing it and make sure you understand what a pure testimony is.

The most common thing I hear from missionary mums and their missionaries is that their mission experience goes soooo… fast. Before they know it they are returning home. So for me, I think that the more a missionary is prepared before they go, the better the chance is that they are going to make the most of it for the short time they are out there.

For most of them, never in their lives will they again have such an opportunity for both personal growth and the influence in the lives of so many of the Lord’s children on earth. Preparation is key to the optimum success of both these things.

Some related links:

MTC – Missionary Training Center, Provo Utah – Take a virtual tour around the MTC, or just find out what it is all about.

An Army of Faith – Inside the MTC. Produced by KSL TV, here you will find a series of videos on what it is like to arrive at the MTC, live in the MTC and learn in the MTC. A must watch for every prospective missionary and their families.

Next time I will talk a bit about what our roles as parents are when our sons/daughters are leaving for service out in the field.

Coming Home

The day our missionary left

Today I got an email from my daughters mission.  It’s not often a parent gets them, so it was with some trepidation that I opened it. In those few seconds between seeing who the email was from and opening it a multitude of scenarios flashed through my mind. Death, injury, missing, arrested, or maybe even something positive like….ok, so I can’t think of anything positive, and maybe I couldn’t at the time. As someone said, “It’s a mother thing!”

We always think the worst when it involves someone we love. But being the optimist I am, I opened the email with great expectations.

Oh happy days! Of course! It was information about her mission completion date and her travel arrangements. But wait! It can’t be that close could it? Counting on fingers I have discovered that in exactly 110 days our sister missionary will be home!

I guess that means I have to start thinking about what that really means.

I would love for anyone who has experienced a missionary returning to let me know what to expect. I mean, I know I have experienced being a returned missionary, but I have never experienced being a parent of a returning missionary. What should I prepare for and how best can I pre-prepare for it?

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.

You’ve Had a Birthday, Shout Hooray!

Happy Birthday

(Image from Wikipedia.com)

Have you noticed that as your children get older, it gets harder and harder to pick the right gift for them on their birthday? I don’t know about you, but I find myself falling into the same old habit of handing over an envelope of money on their big day and saying, “Go buy what you want”.

What a cop-out!

Well, when my daughter had a birthday while on her mission, the problem was even worse. She doesn’t have time to go out and shop for what she wants. She probably doesn’t even want to think about that kind of thing.

It is all so important for missionaries to maintain their focus on the work, so the difficulty of what to give them becomes that much more difficult.

After much thought and consideration, particularly when considering cost of postage, I decided on sending her a party in a box. This party consisted of a tiara (with instructions to her companion that my daughter had to wear it for the whole time they were in their apartment that day), balloons, a banner, and party poppers. I also included a flash drive, a CD of church music, some earrings, lip balm, as well as a packet of Australian chocolate for her companion as a thankyou gift for throwing the party in her honour.

Result? A hit!

But everyone is different and recently, through the LDS missionary mums email group I belong to, several mums discussed this topic. There were some fantastic suggestions.

Would you be surprised to know that candy, treats and other food items were way down on the list of things most missionaries wanted for their birthday?

Other thoughts on the matter raised issues about luggage space, an items usefulness, cost of mailing larger items, quarantine regulations in certain countries, and helping to maintain their missionaries focus on the work.

So here is a list of some of those suggestions:

General Items:

  1. Fill a box with balloons (not inflated) and place thoughtful notes, pictures, quotes, and letters from family and friends inside.
  2. A huge birthday card with messages from the family and a current photo.
  3. A T-shirt with a family inspired transfer on the front that includes the mission they are serving in and the dates they served.
  4. 2nd hand gospel books. Send a list of them to your missionary and ask them to pick one or two. Amazon.com also offers second hand books that they will deliver directly.
  5. An empty quote book that they can add to as they progress in their mission. You can also send them quotes to include.
  6. Teaching aids and games that they can use to assist in their teaching. Check out lesson manuals on www.lds.org, and other LDS Primary websites (www.sugardoodle.com) for ideas.
  7. Latest conference edition of the Ensign.
  8. Small 5×7 images from Deseret Book Store that can be displayed on their walls, and are small enough to transport around.
  9. Toothbrush, their favourite floss and toothpaste.
  10.  Some fun, small, cheap souvenirs from their home country that they can share with investigators, children etc.
  11. Appropriate music CDs (if allowed in the mission).
  12. USB memory stick if they have a camera
  13. Stationary

For Elders:

  1. Ties – sometimes elders feel that they have little chance to express themselves through their clothes, so a variety of ties helps to add colour to their day.
  2. Tie pins – if your missionary is serving in a foreign country then it is fun for them to have pins that represent the country they come from.
  3. Fresh white shirt.
  4. Socks, spare p-day shirt

For Sisters:

  1. Scarves
  2. Earrings
  3. Lip gloss or lip balm
  4. Pantyhose, socks, and T-shirts for P-day.

Food:

  1. Their favourite snack item – pop tarts, candy, and beef jerky etc
  2. Birthday box – cake mix, frosting, candles, party hats, balloons etc. **Beware that some countries have quarantine restrictions on certain foods, such as flour, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Always check with the countries quarantine laws first.
  3. Homemade cookies without butter (can go rancid if it contains butter and has to go a long distance).

The list is endless.

What have you sent your missionary in the past?

I am sure that there are many more ideas out there, and I am sure there are many missionary mums who would love to have some more suggestions.

A New Week

Hope you all had a great weekend.

I have been away for a few days with my Young Women at camp. I had the most amazing time, and hope to share with you some of the very special things we experienced there. I suffered from lack of sleep, but I feel very blessed to be working amongst some of the most incredible girls.

I will say no more, and keep you wondering what we got up to for a little bit longer.

I am excited about this new week. I’ll be bringing to the blog my first guest writer. She is someone very special to me. For those who have served a mission you will understand me when I say she was my mission mum. For those who have not served a mission, then this article will help you to understand, a little bit more, the bond that is created between a trainer and their new companion.

So, in the next couple of days I will be sharing her story…make sure you hang around for it.

Also, as part of my university studies, I have been asked to write an article on a current newsworthy topic that relates to the theme of my blog. This could be a real challenge for me as the world isn’t that interested in Mormon missionary’s. But I think I have an interesting angle and am eager to get started. I’m hoping you can help me out a bit.

When I post I want you to give me some feedback so I can make sure it makes sense and it is interesting enough before it gets graded. I will let you know when it is about to go up.