I hope they call me on a mission . . .
(Most photos are from our recent Zone Conferences, Leadership Training or recent transfer day)
A favorite line from a favorite song that inspires excitement even amongst the smallest of primary children. And truly for many LDS youth missionary preparation begins from the earliest years spent in the Primary organization of the Church.
But what happens when everything you ever learned in Primary, the Young Mens organization, Young Women's, and Sunday School isn't everything one needs to be ready to serve?
President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized the importance of having good mental and physical health while serving a full-time mission.
"This work is rigorous . . . it demands strength and vitality. It demands mental sharpness and capacity" . . .
President Hinckley certainly knew what he was talking about.
Physical and Emotional Preparation
Missionary work is a call extended by the President of the Church to those who are worthy AND able to accomplish it . . .
Good physical and mental health are essential.
Not all missions in the world are created equal. In some ways . . . you could say - it's the missionaries against the elements.
The heat, cold, sun, rain, sleet, hail, rocky roads, insects, dirty water, no water, no electricity, hills, rivers, streams, mountains, rain forests, snakes, ants . . . each part of the world presents it's own particular challenge.
Here, as in most locations in Central America missionaries do not have the use of cars or bikes . . . an additional burden or challenge to be on their feet, walking and carrying their back or shoulder packs throughout the long days . . . day after day . . .
The effort required is actually much more than one would ever imagine.
Heavenly Father Blesses his Missionaries
Without a doubt, Heavenly Father blesses his missionaries! Clearly, he desires to bless each of them so they can do their best to teach and testify of the Savior and his gospel. But each missionary has a part to play as well in maintaining both physical and emotional readiness and good health.
It seems to be that whatever ailment or physical or mental challenge that a missionary brings into the mission field only becomes more aggravated, more challenging and more difficult under the physical challenge of a difficult and arduous work.
Therefore it is super important to enter the mission field with as much physical and emotional strength as possible.
"There should be an eagerness and a desire to serve the Lord as His ambassadors to the world. And there must be health and strength, both physical and mental, for the work is demanding, the hours are long, and the stress can be heavy" ("Missionary Service," First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan 2003)
The Lord has asked us to serve with "all your heart, might, mind and strength" (D&C 4:2). Young men and woman planning a mission need to be sure to take good physical care of both their bodies and minds. The opportunity to serve challenges many young people to seek and maintain both physical and emotional strength throughout their teenage years. Avoiding risky behavior that may threaten life or limb, avoiding unhealthy eating habits . . . while working to promote healthy sleep and work patterns, good personal hygiene, exercise habits and a healthy diet lead to the likelihood of adapting well to missionary service.
The Real Purpose of Missionary Work
We would do well to focus on the real purpose of missionary work and the need for a healthy mind and body in order to accomplish that purpose.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized the importance of daily care for our bodies both before the mission and during missionary service.
"Many people . . . have difficulty finding the time for sufficient rest, exercise, and relaxation. We must schedule time in our daily calendars for these activities if we are to enjoy a healthy and balanced life. Good physical appearance enhances our dignity and self-respect"
(Just lucky this year . . . everyone is getting flu shots for Christmas along with their
ice cream sundaes! Yippee)
"We are not asking for perfection . . . the work of the Lord is done by ordinary people who work in extraordinary ways . . ." Yet every person can change and improve. If you're planning missionary service . . . now is the time to begin healthy habits in preparation. Begin now to implement healthy habits into your daily activities!
Understand that a mission will likely include many of the same challenges we face in regular life . . . but even more so! Finding time to exercise, preparing and including healthy foods into a busy schedule . . .
Prepare and Counsel Early with Bishops and Stake Presidents
If a young person has challenges with an emotional illness such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive behavior . . . now is the time to seek professional treatment and counseling before considering missionary service. It's important to enter the mission field completely stabilized for a period of time, and functioning independently of parents or medical guidance. Such guidance will likely not be available once you enter the mission field and are involved in the rigors of full-time service. Our Heavenly Father gives each of his sons and daughters particular challenges that we may grow my conquering and overpowering them. Use that determination to increase self worth and work towards service of our Heavenly Father, either as a full-time missionary or through the many other avenues available to give back to those around us.
Counseling early with your bishop and Stake President is an important part of your missionary service preparation.
There may be individuals who are honorably excused from full-time missionary service. There are many ways to render meaningful service compatible with any physical or emotional challenges you are working to overcome. Family history centers, temples, welfare projects, or service in local hospitals, care centers, shelters or other places are valuable and much needed.
The Work isn't Over until it's Over . . .
Missionary service doesn't end when the mission ends . . . one must continue to maintain good health and emotional habits to enable them to continue serving throughout their lifetime. Each member will have many opportunities wherever they may find themselves to share a message of the Restored Gospel, to lead, to teach, to reach out to another . . . and lift them up . . .
Helping another to find the light of the Savior is frequently the best medicine, physical therapy or counseling one can provide for another and in turn increasing one's own health and well-being. Sharing the gospel brings joy no matter which part of the world, far or near, at home or abroad, it's the best spiritual therapy for the soul, as we lose ourselves in the service of the Lord, we find ourselves on the receiving end of more blessings than we can imagine.
Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.
Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. (D&C 4:2)