Confession time: I never did much for the missionaries until I was the mother of one.
I feel embarrassed about that. It wasn’t intentional; I was just wrapped up in my own world and didn’t think much about the missionaries. I was busy raising kids, supporting a traveling husband, and doing whatever calling I happened to be serving in. All righteous pursuits, but not much of a focus on the needs of the missionaries serving in the areas in which I lived.
As the mother of a missionary, that will never be the case again.
This past week, I was emailing back and forth with my son in Chile, and I asked him to tell me what things he needs from members. He told me the struggles they are having in that area, and it got me thinking. I immediately sent a text to the sisters serving in our ward to get their thoughts, and I’ve put together a list of six things that we can all do to help the missionaries serving in our midst.
(Second confession: My hope is that by doing this, maybe, just maybe, someone will do the same for my own child serving halfway around the world.)
First, and foremost, feed the missionaries. We have lived in areas where missionaries are fed every night, and it’s near impossible to get your family on the calendar. We have also lived in areas where meals for the missionaries are few and far between. My husband travels for work, so feeding elders has been a challenge, as he is not home most nights during the week. Right now, we are blessed to have sister missionaries, and I’ve tried hard to get our family on the calendar whenever possible. It’s always a treat to have these sweet girls in our home, and feels as though I’m serving my own son vicariously.
Also, when you feed them, snap a photo and email or text it to their mothers. Most missionaries can provide a cell phone number or an email. I started doing this a couple of years ago, and always feel such joy when I do. Every mother has written back in weepy gratitude at seeing a photo of their missionary in action. Just this week, I received photos via Facebook from a man in Chile who feeds my own son all the time. It was everything. It made my entire week. Do that for the mothers of the missionaries near you.
Second, celebrate their birthdays. You need to be mindful, ask the missionaries when their birthdays are, and note it down. Chances are, they may not celebrate that milestone while in your area, but in the event that they do, make sure and do a little something for them. My son received a surprise birthday cake from a member this week, and it meant the world to him, and to me. I was so sad all day on his birthday, imagining that no one knew or cared, and was touched beyond belief that someone in Chile made his day special when I couldn’t. Take care of the missionaries in your area. Make sure they feel appreciated and loved on their birthdays and, at the very least, have a piece of cake with a few candles to mark the occasion.
This is fairly obvious, but we need to offer to give rides to appointments or errands. The missionaries may not call us because they are afraid of imposing or interfering with our daily life. Reach out and let them know the days and times you are available. I drive our sisters quite a bit, and it is no inconvenience at all. It gives me an opportunity to serve in a very easy way, and I feel so good afterwards. Even if the missionaries near you have a car, their mileage is limited, and rides are always appreciated.
Likewise, we need to be available for lessons with investigators. This is the one piece my son said they struggle with the most in the area he is serving in. The elders cannot teach lessons to a single woman without another woman there. Oftentimes, they have to cancel an appointment because they cannot get a member to help them out. These lessons are critical to our missionaries in getting investigators to progress. We, as members, have a responsibility to step up and help. In addition, this is a great way to friendship and fellowship those they are teaching. We become a friendly, familiar face for the investigators, which may make it easier for them to come to a meeting.
An obvious one is that we need to get to know them. Don’t wait for the missionaries to reach out to you. These are often 19-year-old boys and girls with little life experience and confidence. Serving a mission is incredibly hard. Introduce yourself to them at church. Invite them to a family home evening with your family and ask about their background. Find out who they are and why they chose to serve. I also think it’s an incredible opportunity for my younger children to see missionaries in action, and to plant the seed of desire for service in their own hearts. Building a relationship with these young missionaries is so important. It helps us to serve, and helps them feel loved.
Lastly, love them. We have had young, inexperienced missionaries in our home that have said and done stupid things. We have tried to love them anyway. I firmly believe that serving a mission is just as important (if not more so) for the missionary than it is for the converts. This time is one of tremendous growth and learning. These young adults are figuring out how to study, manage time, and interact socially. There are missionaries that are arrogant, clueless, insensitive and selfish; but there are far more that are sincere, earnest and hardworking. Love them all, even the duds. Love the ones that are easy to love, and the ones that are not. Love them freely, and you fill find that your heart will soften.
You will find yourself blessed when you love and help those in His service.