Sunday, February 17, 2013

Those Much Anticipated Phone Calls Home


I dare say there is nothing that excites the mother of a missionary more than hearing her child's voice on the other end of the phone. Lucky for us, someone decided mothers should get an extra moment of joy every year and they approved the Mother's Day phone call (I actually think--after all we do as mothers--we deserve one a month but hey, nobody asked me!) With Mother's Day right around the corner, I thought it would be good to give you some suggestions on how to make THE phone call a positive experience for everyone and squeeze every bit of happiness out of those 20+ minutes (the exact amount of allotted time usually depends on your child's Mission President.)

When we served in Boston, we saw the good--and the bad--effects of THE phone call on our missionaries. Some missionaries could talk to their families for hours and wake up the next day ready to step right back into their normal routine and work harder than ever before. But some were just the opposite. Some of our missionaries were sad and moped around for at least a week or two after talking to their families. It was almost as if they had suddenly been reminded of all the things they were missing out on and that stirred up an incredible amount of sadness in them. Those few minutes on the phone set them back in their progression as a missionary. Many of them had to recover all over again from those intense feelings of homesickness they had already worked through when they first arrived in the mission field. Whether it was something specific that was said on the phone or the reminder of all the things that were happening at home without them, I don't know. All I know is--there was a stark difference between the way those phone calls affected individual missionaries and their commitment to their missions. I thought long and hard about this so I could know how to do it right when my own children began serving missions. I came to the conclusion that we, as mothers, have the ability to make THE phone call a great experience for our missionaries and make sure it has a positive impact on their missions.

A few thoughts:

*Make the phone call about them. Be interested in what they are doing. The best way to show them you are interested is to ask questions: How many people are you teaching right now? Have you been to a baptism lately? What is the coolest thing you've seen in your area? When is your next Zone Conference? Tell me about the members you've met. Make the conversation revolve around him and his mission--it will make him feel like you are a part of what he is doing, that you care about people he is teaching and what he does on his P-day. Be interested in the little things of life he is experiencing. He doesn't need to know all that much about what is happening at home. He needs you to know what is happening with him.

*Do not dwell on things that are going on at home. Of course he will want to hear about life in general, but some information ("Oh hey...did you know I heard your girlfriend was hanging out with that friend of yours who just got home from his mission?") is better left unsaid. Be smart. Tell him the things that will be interesting, but not hurtful ("They just opened an In-and-Out Burger in town!" Now THOSE are the interesting things most missionaries want to know!) Don't talk to them about things that won't help them feel happy or things they have no control over, like the girlfriend comment. Keep any thoughts about home uplifting and positive. Do you want them to miss home so much that they want to come home? Of course not! So don't MAKE them more homesick by talking to them about things they don't really need to know.

I do need to qualify this statement. There are times when there is news from home that isn't good--family news that will hurt them and make them sad. We once had a mother who told us she and her husband split up shortly after their son left for the mission field but hadn't told him yet because they didn't want to detract from his mission. We wanted to cry for that poor missionary who would return home to divorced parents! And to make it even more painful, he had never been told. We could understand where the parents were coming from--in a way--but had they taken time to really think this through they would have told him immediately to spare him even more pain in the long run. This is one instance where a missionary should be told a piece of news that will, yes, make him sad. But this is much different than sharing news from home that is just frivolous and hurtful. You need to keep your child updated on family affairs as they happen. He will forever be a part of your family and he deserves to be told whenever there is a family crisis of any kind.

*Do not cry on the phone. OK well, just a little is OK. But remember, this is not about you or how sad you are. It might be good for him to know you miss him so much it makes you cry a little. But if you sob and sob about him being gone, he is not going to feel good. He is going to feel guilty for being gone because it is making his mother cry. If you can't control your tears (yes, I've been in this boat a few times) just make sure you leave him with the thought that, even though you are really. really sad sometimes because you miss him so much, you are even MORE proud of him for sacrificing everything to serve the Lord. Build him up and tell him how happy it makes you to see him grow spiritually. Tell him you just have to remind yourself the time will go quickly (good for him to hear that, too) and that you can do anything for the Lord--just like he can. Do not just sit and blubber on the phone, telling him you can't believe you ever let him go, that you want him to be home because he is missing out on so much (Gahhh...do you want him to come home?) Let him know you are sad sometimes but that these tears are HAPPY tears because it is so great to hear his voice and hear how well he is doing! The last thing you want to do is make him feel bad. So whatever you say to him on the phone, ask yourself how you are making him feel. Then you will know if you need to make a quick adjustment and say something that will uplift the conversation. The last thing you want him to do is go in his room after he talks to you, lay down on his bed, and cry.

*Try to allow enough time so your other children can talk privately for a minute or two, especially those who are nearing mission age. I promise, two minutes on the phone with a missionary sibling will do more to influence them for good that just about anything you or I can say. If you think of it, tell your missionary child in your email the week before the call that you are going to try to arrange for them to have a minute or two alone on the phone to encourage and help your other children (you just may want to give him a heads up so he knows your purpose in those two minutes is for him to encourage them--not discourage them!)

*Most missions let their missionaries Skype at the home of a member. This is amazing! You get to see how much weight they have gained (and they get to see how much you've gained..Ugh!) Make sure you are set up for Skype ahead of time so you don't waste valuable talking time trying to get it figured out. Another option is Google Hangout which is a lot of fun too! Both of these options have the capability of allowing you to talk to more than one person at a time--even those in another city or state or country. Make sure to get everything set up and test it out before the big day.

Whatever you do, make sure these few moments spent on the phone create a positive memory for your missionary child. Say things that will build him and empower him, things that will make him go to bed that night more determined than ever that the rest of his mission will be even better than what came before. You have the power to do that--the power to help him forget about home and focus his attention on serving the Lord, the power to make him believe he really can do this--that there's nothing at home that is nearly as important as him serving the Lord with all his heart. Because it's true. He will come home one day and realize that he wasn't really missing out on anything at all. So use this time to fill him with positive, affirming words of love and support that will propel him forward in every way!

4 comments:

  1. I know being a missionary is not an easy thing to do but its surely enjoy. Keep it up!

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  2. Thanks for sharing the pictures with us. And I'd have loved to do the same with my family. That's the plan for next summer. So cool. And I did see the episode on Man Versus Food Nation. I don't know how he eats like that and doesn't weigh 800 pounds. Amarillo roofing company.

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  3. We are anticipating our skype with our first missionary this week, and I sure do appreciate your words of wisdom, especially the part about having them encourage younger siblings who are preparing also! Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Loved this! Thank you so much. I especially loved the part about a few private moments with each sibling. I have a 17 yr old brother, who was extremely close to his older brother now serving...he has struggled trying to find who he is since his brother has been gone. What a perfect thing to do for him! (I'm hoping anyway) Thank you again!

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