Monday, August 8, 2011

The Spiritual Growth of a Missionary

One of the most wonderful experience a Mission President and his wife have is that of seeing new, eager, excited, young missionaries enter the mission field and then see the growth they experience as they serve. The day they return home, a remarkable transformation has taken place. They have grown by leaps and bounds--not just spiritually--but in every way. I'm convinced that there is no other environment where such growth would be possible--no other combination of perfect circumstances that could bring about such amazing change. There is an extra infusion of the Spirit among the missionaries and that one fact--combined with the personal obedience of every single missionary--makes miracles happen. This quote is one of my favorite on the subject:


Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Faith of Missionary Parents

I'd like to take you back about 12 years to the day our oldest son opened his mission call. I'll never forget how I felt. The moment he read "Japan Fukuoka Mission" I was SO excited. It was the moment we had been waiting for--right? Our first son...off to serve a mission! Knowing it should be a joyous moment was probably the reason I was caught so completely off guard when only a few seconds later, I was filled with the most profound sadness--realizing that my son would soon leave me and, for two years, be so far away. As reality set in, I remember thinking to myself, "Are you kidding? I am just going to send him off to Japan--without me?" I honestly didn't know if I could do it--I didn't know if I had enough faith.

At the time, we were serving in Boston--my husband was the Mission President and we were responsible for 200+ missionaries (a total of 700+ over the 3 year period of time we were there.) My mind turned to the hundreds of mothers and fathers who had sent their children to Boston to serve with us, and their great example of faith. I remember one missionary in particular who shared his story with me: born and raised in a small village in South America, neither he or his parents had any concept of what he was about to do when he accepted a mission call to the Massachusetts Boston Mission and climbed on a bus that would take him to the airport, on to Utah and the MTC, and eventually to Boston.(He had never even ridden on a bus before--let alone an airplane!) It was another world to them--one they knew absolutely nothing about. But that didn't stop them. No, their faith gave them hope that all would be well. And that faith--as well as the faith of thousands of others throughout time who had sent their children to unknown places to serve as witnesses of Jesus Christ--was what gave me the strength to do the very same thing.

Leaving our son at the MTC was not easy to do, and I still get tears in my eyes thinking of the experience. But it was the beginning of a wonderful ride--watching our sons serve missions and witnessing firsthand the incredible growth they experienced because of their decision to give two years of their lives to the Lord. It has, truly, been one of our greatest blessings.

A few months after leaving our oldest son at the MTC, I wrote about it. Perhaps you can see a little of yourself in here and realize that having a child serve a mission, although it pulls at a mother's heartstrings, is such an incredible blessing!

(Written 10/99):

I thought nothing could be harder than labor. Then, as a young mother, I actually believed that around-the-clock mothering was as hard as life could possibly get. I was always tired. I just knew that when my children got older and I had a little bit of my own life back, things would get easier. I made the mistake of thinking that teething and potty-training and sleepless nights (HUNDREDS of sleepless nights) were the toughest things I would ever face as a mother. How little I knew then about what was to come. Here I am, nineteen years into this mothering thing, and I think I have finally discovered the single most difficult moment of my life.

Last summer, we left our oldest son at the MTC. We went into "that" room (the one that our Stake President in Alpine calls "the room designed to tear your heart out") and when we went out one door, Chad went out the other. I felt somewhat like Mary must have felt as she took the Savior to the temple and gave Him to the Lord. And even though I knew it was for the Lord, it was still so hard. It was truly as if my heart would break. Looking into my son's sweet face, tears streaming down his cheeks, I recognized that look as the same one that he had as a nine-year old when he was afraid his Little League coach might call him in to pitch. Sheer terror. My first instinct was to grab him by the hand and take him home--I just didn't know if I had the strength, or the faith, to do this.

How did we get here so fast? Just yesterday he was born. Just yesterday he learned to ride a bike. Just yesterday he was baptized and we talked about the day--so very far away--that he would be a missionary.

After leaving the MTC that day, I went home, laid down on his bed, and cried. The next day, I was still crying. And the next. There was an emptiness I didn't expect and was not at all prepared to face. But life is always teaching me something and this experience is no exception. I have already learned so much. I find now that I pray with a constancy and intensity that I have never had in my prayers before...because I am praying for him. I have a deep, moving, gratitude for little moments of life that, before, might have gone unnoticed. I am more willing to slow down a bit...go for a walk or color a picture with one of my children...because I know that, soon enough, these days, too, will be gone and I will be mourning their loss. I feel my faith growing and understand that I am truly being taught of the Lord daily through this experience. How ironic to me that we are here in Boston, receiving the sons of so many mothers who are at home laying on their son's beds, crying. It has made me want to be better at loving the missionaries in our care. Not necessarily because they need me...but because I need them.

When I returned to Boston last summer after the MTC experience, I found a letter from a friend in my mailbox that touched me deeply because it spoke to my very soul. On the front of the card it said, "I'll give you, for a little while, a child of mine, He said." Inside was this handwritten message:

"In 1980, when our firstborn flew from the protection of my heart and hearth to serve his mission in Switzerland, I actually quoted the poem from which the front page lines were taken. It is a poem often used at funerals and when I admitted such, the congregation laughed. But a mother's soul recognizes the death of a season when she sees it. I know that you know that your precious nuclear family season has turned its corner, never to return again to that same sweet time when all of your tiny tousled heads were peacefully tucked in and sleeping under your safe and loving roof. The wonder is not why we cry. The wonder is that we manage to stop crying--and to face this new season with some kind of grace."

Her words gave me hope and understanding and made me feel forever bonded to missionary mothers everywhere. We all cry...but we would probably be crying harder if our children didn't go. I will try to remember that in the days ahead when I miss my son so much.

When I see a young mother now, I am always tempted to tell her what I've learned. That life is short and these moments with your little ones will pass much too quickly. The seasons of life come and go without our permission or approval. This next season is upon me and I am trying to enter it gracefully. But despite my best efforts...I just can't seem to help it. I still cry.

Monday, July 18, 2011

First of all, I'm so sorry I haven't posted anything for awhile...my mother has been in intensive care for the past 5 weeks and everything else in my life has been put on hold (she is finally home...and doing great!) I can't wait to get back to work on this blog and I promise to post more regularly from now on. :)

Secondly, several of you have asked that a few of the quotes from my son's missionary journal posted below be posted in a more readable format because the photos are difficult to read (So sorry...I didn't realize how blurry they get when you try to enlarge them!) Sooo...here is one of them (my favorite!):

The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and to love those in distress and those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike. We have nothing to fear. God is at the helm. He will overrule for the good of this work. He will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments. Such has been His promise. Of His ability to keep that promise, none of us can doubt. Unitedly, working hand in hand, we shall move forward as servants of the living God, doing the work of His Beloved Son, our Master, whom we serve and whose name we seek to glorify.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leaving Soon: New Mission Presidents!

Every July 1st, a group of newly-called mission presidents pack up their families and leave their lives behind to serve the Lord. As members of the Church, we see their pictures in the Church News every Saturday morning and imagine how wonderful it would be to serve like that. Little do we know, they are about to be hit by a bus! (Just kidding--it's not exactly a bus...maybe just a tiny car ha ha) Don't get me wrong---is IS wonderful. But there is nothing easy about it. It will be one of the hardest things they will ever do in their lives. The good news is, this is one time in their lives when they will see the hand of the Lord so clearly in their lives, and for every effort they give, He will immediately bless them. The 3 years we spent in Boston when my husband was mission president there were truly the most difficult, challenging, depressing, wonderful, joyous, and exciting years of our lives. (I don't know why those things always go together, but they do!) We took all 8 of our children with us (our baby was 3) and making a move like that is a monumental task. I had felt stress before, but nothing like what I felt trying to get eight children adjusted to new schools, a new neighborhood, a new ward, and new friends. I told my friends at home: "Don't ever call me after 2 in the afternoon because every day, by then, I'm crying." The adjustment was tough on all of us. I'll never forget what we were told by Elder Marlin Jensen who was our Area President at the time. He told us to hang on, that things would get better. "You watch," he said, "In three years your kids will be crying because they don't want to go home." Dale and I looked at each other with that look and I still remember saying the words, "Oh no...he doesn't know OUR kids. And he doesn't know we just moved here from the Celestial Kingdom (aka Alpine)...our kids will be SO happy to go home." Fast forward three years...Elder Jensen's prophecy was fulfilled! Our kids cried and cried the night before we left our mission to go home. And..truth be told.. I shed more than a few tears, too.

The president of our neighboring mission called my husband after we had been in Boston for a few weeks and said, "We were praying for you the day you arrived. Every July 1st we pray for the new mission presidents." I remember thinking.."How sweet." But as the days and months passed, I realized there was nothing sweet about it. It wasn't just a kind gesture. No...it was a necessity. And that mission president knew it. So, as July 1st approaches, let's all remember those amazing men and women (and children!) who are sacrificing--literally--everything to serve, not only the Lord, but our sweet missionary children.

I have collected a wealth of ideas for mission president's wives over the years that I have shared with friends and neighbors who have been called to serve. Please leave a comment if you are one of those lucky people and would like copies--I am so happy to share them with you.

When President and Sister Jeff Simmons (can I just say here how much we love them?) were called to serve as mission president in our son, Jake's, mission, we met them for dinner one night before they left for Sydney, Australia, and gave them some encouragement by way of a few little gifts (labeled with different pieces of advice) for them. "All I Need To Know About Being A Mission President I've Learned From the Easter Bunny" was one thing we did for them that was a lot of fun (see below.) For example, we tied the words, "Everyone needs a mission president who is all ears" to a chocolate bunny that had HUGE ears. (Maybe you know someone who is leaving to serve as a mission president you could use this for, too!)
CLICK TO ENLARGE

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Preparing to Serve A Mission

When we served in the Massachusetts Boston Mission, we did a survey among our missionaries about how they prepared to serve a mission. What we discovered as a result was so insightful. We asked them 4 questions--and these are their answers: (click on each page and it will enlarge it so you can read it more easily--and print it if you'd like)





Sunday, April 10, 2011

Can We Really Make A Difference?

Sometimes people ask me this question. Does what we do as mothers really make a difference in the success of our children as they serve? The answer is simple: More than you may EVER know.

Unlike so many things in their lives that must be done completely on their own, a mission is one time when others' help is CRITCAL...one time that what we do has a direct and long-lasting effect on the outcome. In the past 12 years that I've been sending missionary sons nonstop into the MTC/Mission Field, as well as 3 years as a Mission President's wife watching the experiences of over 700 total missionaries who served in Boston while we were there, I have gained new insight into what it is that makes a missionary stay on his mission and what causes him to change his mind and decide not to serve after all. I have come to the conclusion that there are 2 things that are especially dangerous to them...2 things that take them from feeling excited about serving a mission to feeling depressed and sad and maybe even wanting to come home. The first one is: feeling alone. Some people might wonder how anyone could ever feel alone in the MTC with hundreds of missionaries everywhere you look--or in the mission field when he is always around people. It's important to know...I'm not talking about feeling alone in the physical sense. I'm talking about feeling alone emotionally. Feeling like there is no one to talk to. No one around who really cares how they feel or what they are going through or the good and bad things that happened to them that day. As mothers, we can make sure this does not happen. We can show them we are interested in the details of their mission. We can write them letters about how much we are thinking of them. We can validate their feelings by telling them we know how hard it is and how proud of them we are and how certain we are that they can push through the difficulties and face the challenges. We can make sure they know they are NEVER alone by reminding them the Lord is always there and that He loves him. We can build his faith which, in turn, helps him understand his relationship with his Father in Heaven and feel the comfort that comes from knowing He truly is aware of him--in every way.

The second danger that we need to be aware of is the tendency for our sons to feel forgotten. Think about it: they leave on their missions...we pack up their rooms, cancel their cell phones, and sell their cars (This is what we do at least! ALL necessary things!) Their life as they knew it is gone--and they know it. When our boys leave on their missions, they know this is what will happen. Most missionaries do. But that feeling (almost like there is no sign left of their former life!) is intensely magnified when it seems as if everyone has forgotten them. Feeling forgotten a very tough place for ANY of us to be. And, when you add this one element to all the other challenges and adjustments of a mission, it can really weigh them down. Feeling forgotten--feeling as though you don't matter--is emotionally crippling in so many ways. It deepens feelings of homesickness. It makes a normal longing for home turn into an obsessive desire to BE home...a feeling that sometimes is just too strong to resist.

Fortunately for us (and them!) there are things we can do to make sure they never have to feel alone or forgotten. Sit down and think about it. Make a list. The most immediate and obvious one is to write them letters/emails (do not EVER miss a week--and get as many other family members as you can to do the same), sending them packages (they don't have to cost alot.. in the case of missionaries, the cliche "It's the thought that counts" is absolutely true!), reminding them every chance we get--by our words and our actions--that they are still very much a part of our lives. That they are missed. That nothing is the same without them. That you are sad too (always pair this one with something like, "...but I can do it because I know you are serving the Lord...and YOU CAN TOO!) Pray for inspiration concerning your child...what you can specifically do to keep him from feeling isolated in these ways. You can make a difference. More than you may EVER know.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

MISSIONARY JOURNAL FROM MOM



**I'm sorry some of these photos didn't come through very clearly...I took them quickly right before he went into the MTC. I hope you can at least get the general idea**

One of the things that has meant the most to my missionary sons is the journal I make for them before they leave. I buy a blank, leather journal--I like to get one that is small enough for them to carry in their backpack so they have it with them and can read it often, but big enough to hold everything I want to include and still leave them room to write in it (my boys use this as their actual journal.) I start putting this together a couple of months before they leave so I have plenty of time to gather everything together I want to include. I use a glue stick to loosely attach everything to a page and then use shipping tape to "laminate" each page. Because it is impossible, of course, to actually put it through a laminator, this has worked really well and kept everything intact for two years. If you have scrabooking abilities, you can make the pages much better than what I've done below (although you need to be careful not to pile too much stuff on or the journal will not shut.) I've found that my boys don't care a whole lot about how cute the pages are though...it's what's actually on the pages that has made such a difference for them on their missions. Let me apologize ahead of time for the poor quality of the pictures below...I realized this journal was about to go to Kentucky so I hurriedly snapped a few photos with my phone right before my last son went in the MTC. I know they resemble something a two-year-old might take (actually, my two-year-old grandson could do much better than that!) but I hope they will at least give you an idea of some of the things I included in his journal.


I put his information (name, address, mission office address) on the inside front cover. In case it is ever lost, I want whoever finds it to be able to return it.


The past few years, they have been requesting that new missionaries bring a copy of their 4-generation pedigree chart with them to the MTC. This journal is the perfect place for that.


We actually found ancestors who lived in Kentucky, where my youngest son is serving (soon to leave the MTC.) I thought it would be fun for him to have their names and how they are related to him in case he ran across a distant cousin or something. I put that part of his pedigree chart in his journal, too.


I put his mission call on one of the very first pages of the journal with a picture of the prophet next to it.


Include a copy of his patriarchal blessing. Scan it in your computer to edit the size or just use a copier and adjust it to fit in the journal.


They will need to know D&C 4 by heart...it is nice to have it in their journal for them to look at while they are learning it.



The Standard of Truth is the other thing they will memorize and recite as a mission. Before they have memorized it, it is nice for them to have a copy. (By the way, there is nothing in this world like hearing missionaries recite this together at a zone conference. It's sure to bring tears every time!)


If there is a temple in the mission boundaries, it is nice for them to have a picture of the temple along with a copy of the dedicatory prayer (you can find this at www.lds.org)


This is one of my all-time favorites! I always give it a place of honor in the journal! :)


I add a few pages of quotes like this one that I have just typed out. If it is a quote that is especially inspiring, I usually give it its own page. But having a list of quotes is really useful for them in case they need to give a talk, share one with an investigator, etc.


We have a tradition in our family...every time someone is called on a mission, we all go to lunch and sit around for hours (literally) giving him advice. I write it all down as it is said (my husband records it on his phone as a backup) and afterwards I transcribe it and put it in his journal. My returned missionary sons have told me over and over how much this meant to them and how it strengthened them during the bad times. You will see a link on the upper right-hand part of the blog that says "missionary advice." I have listed there all of the advice we have recorded since we started doing this 10 years ago. You can certainly use any of that in your son's journal. You could also start gathering your own advice from people in your family who have served missions, friends, etc. It might be more meaningful to your child if it comes from people he knows.


Besides the pages of advice, I also ask all of my kids to write our missionary a handwritten note of encouragement (my husband and I do it too...sometimes even grandparents.) I put them all in his journal so he has them handy and can read them often.


I always include this quote. It speaks directly to them and is so inspiring!


I first saw this quote when our oldest son was called to serve in Japan. This was their mission "theme." I love the way it spells out their purpose and reminds them exactly why they are there.


This is one of my favorite quotes to put in the journal. It is empowering and inspiring and helps them understand exactly what their mission is all about. It is also one of those that helps them as they read it over and over.


I always wait to give this journal to my missionary son as we are saying goodbye at the MTC. I want everything in it to be new to himi--not something he has been browsing through for the past few weeks. I just feel like the things inside will have more of an impact on him if he is seeing them for the first time when he is sitting alone that night feeling alone. That also allows me to put some notes in from his setting-apart the night before. I want him to remember what was said--the blessings he was promised, the comfort he was given, the inspiration he felt--as men holding the Priesthood of God laid their hands on his head and set him apart as a missionary.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Welcome to my Missionary Moms blog...

Two weeks ago, we took our 7th missionary son to the MTC and I was reminded all over again just how difficult--and wonderful--it is to be the mother of a missionary. After all these years of missionary-mommying, though, I find that the moment I say goodbye I am much less focused on things like "does he know how to iron a shirt" and much more focused on things like: "what can I do to help him be successful?" As a mother (and the wife of a former mission president), there are some things I have learned through the years that I hope might help other missionary moms like you! Let me make one thing clear right up front: I am not an expert! I certainly do not have all the answers (hardly any of them, as a matter of fact.) Because every missionary is different, nothing works the same for each one. This blog is simply a collection of things that have worked for me...things that have helped me as I have worked every day to support my missionary sons. Please feel free to use anything you find here to help, support, inspire, teach, motivate, encourage, and express love to your missionary. Your child is unique and wonderful in his or her own way---only you will know exactly what he needs to help him succeed. I do have one piece of advice, though, that applies to every single missionary mom on the planet: Never underestimate how important you are in this mission experience. Your child needs you---now, more than any other time in his life to this point. This is a time for you to really shine as a parent!

And one more thing I know for sure:
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

HE IS BUILDING A PALACE


We had only been in Boston for two weeks when Elder Marlin Jensen, our Area President, came to do a mission tour. He asked me how I was doing....and I started to cry. After he returned to Salt Lake, he mailed me a copy of this quote. I have loved it ever since. It gave me a different perspective on the challenging adjustment our whole family was facing. And it answered that unanswerable question we usually ask when we are going through hard things: WHY? During those first few days at the MTC when life feels so painful in many ways for my sons, I always send them this quote. I hope it will do for them what it did for me.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

MY MISSION BELONGS TO THE LORD


One my favorite, most empowering missionary quotes. Giving your missionary a clear statement of anything that defines their calling can become a motto, of sorts, for them. It can become something they turn to when they need a reminder of exactly why they are there and give them the strength to endure present difficulties that comes by looking at the bigger picture.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

THE HOLINESS OF THE CALLING


Being a missionary is a holy calling. It is a privilege of unmeasurable proportions. When our children become missionaries they leave their old selves behind and step over the line--becoming true representatives of Jesus Christ. Understanding this fact empowers them and helps them honor the holiness of their calling as they serve.