13 Guidelines To A Softer Transition

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

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

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

Preach My Gospel

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

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

What do I think?

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

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

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

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

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


Guest Post – From the world’s best trainer…

Ask any returned missionary, and just about all of them will claim that the most influential person on their mission was their trainer. I fall within that claim. Today I am introducing to you the person who taught me everything about being the best missionary I could ever be. The effects of her teaching have reached far beyond that very short 18 month period of my life.

Tonja and I met up recently, for the first time since our missions, at The Australia Perth Mission 27 year reunion – under President Daniel H. Ludlow 1981-83. We immediately slipped back onto familiar ground and have remained in contact ever since.

Tonja shares here her formula for being the world’s best trainer. The list of those she trained on her mission will attest to her authority on this subject. The advice given here is timeless.

Mum’s! If you feel at times that you wish you could help your missionary, this may be just one of the ways you can. Read up, and maybe there is something in this post that you can share with your missionary when he/she becomes a trainer for the first time.


Training a New Missionary
By Tonja Swoboda Davis

New missionaries can either be a blessing to a ‘trainer’ or a curse!  Personally, I think I was a curse.  I was so excited to be in the mission field and conquer the world. (Well, in this case, Western Australia, which is almost the size of the world)  My trainer was nearing the end of her mission and didn’t quite understand my determination to spread the gospel to everyone!

Our personalities were also very different.  As senior companion, she was the decision maker.  However, I have not always been good at following.  I often rush forward, no hesitation. When my companion hesitated, I moved forward, often with her running to catch up with me…the junior companion.

Well, I survived and so did she.

A few months later when I became senior companion and training a brand new missionary, I was eager to help my new companion be the best she could be.  My mission president advised me to share with my companion everything I knew so she would be better and stronger to share the gospel with others. I tried very hard to do that with Sister Maine (my first trainee), and with Sisters Day, Rasmussen, Norell, and Marchant (those that followed).

Later while observing them, I noticed that they approached doors and people the same way I did and even used similar phrases and hand gestures as I did.

Above anything else, I wanted them to have confidence in themselves and know they had the knowledge, experience and the Holy Ghost to guide them.  Their message was so important that a loving Heavenly Father would not leave them alone – but give them companions that would love them and guide them.

Having a son currently serving a full time mission, I am reminded of how important companions are to successful missions.  They will have challenges each day, but they don’t need those challenges to come from a companion!  Even though one would think a missionary would be easy to get along with, that isn’t always the case.  What can one do?

Characteristics of a good trainer:

  • A Christ-like attitude.
  • Recognise you are being watched, act accordingly.
  • Avoid negativity, always!
  • Look for the GOOD, and it WILL be found!
  • Unexpected acts of service makes all the difference; making their bed while they are in the shower, fixing them breakfast, shining shoes, ironing shirts, leaving encouraging notes.
  • Genuinely complimenting a companion in front of others.
  • Praying for them.
  • Teach a missionary all you know and allow them to take the lead.
  • Ask for opinions and incorporate it into daily planning.
  • Organising ‘exchanges’; allows them the opportunity to be the ‘lead’ missionary and gain experience.
  • Write a letter home to the companion’s family telling them of positive experiences while serving together.
  • See a companion as God sees them and have an appreciation for them and His service.

Some scriptures that may be of help to a new trainer:

Hebrews 13: 1-2, 6-9, 13-14, 16-18, 21, 24-25

1 Timothy 4: 12-16

Missionaries are about a GREAT WORK and will bring to pass much good.  Know that long after they have returned from their mission, those that follow (literally) will continue THEIR work as well as their own.

Missionaries have been called of God to lead. Lead they will. By learning all they can, giving all they can, and being the best they can, their efforts will be warmly received and they will be blessed.

Tonja Swoboda Davis 
Served in the Australia Perth Mission from 1980-81. 

Background on Tonja:  At 17 I wanted to do something different so I went off to Brigham Young University in Provo, not knowing a single person. I soon was introduced to the full time missionaries who taught me the gospel and I was baptized a short time later. My life was changed forever.  My husband served a mission to Hawaii and our son is currently serving a Spanish speaking mission in St. George Utah.

A highlight of my life was having an article published in the October 2009 Ensign  ‘Freely Given, Gratefully Received’.  The whole process was inspiring.  I love to write, love reading and have been an elementary school librarian for several years.

Tracy and Tonja at 25 year mission reunion

Tracy and Tonja at the 27 year mission reunion (2009) for The Australia Perth Mission (APM).

Mormons in the Spotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

A Mother’s Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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