(The photos below are all from training sessions (may not be the same for all missions everywhere! This is a decision we make to do additional training) usually held approximately 4 weeks after a new missionary arrives in the mission field. After gaining some initial experience with their new companions and an opportunity to become accustomed somewhat to the missionary lifestyle - they all return with their trainers for some additional training - an opportunity to exchange experiences with those they met in the MTC, a chance to visit with President and Hna. Klein - the Assistants and all the Sister Training Leaders. It's a time that we all enjoy - as we get to know these newly serving missionaries much better!)
The First 12 Weeks . . .
When a new missionary arrives in the mission field there is a lot to take in . . . especially if one hasn't had much opportunity to travel outside of their hometown, state or country. For those arriving from North America the change in climate is pretty astounding. We watch all the missionaries gasp as they take their first deep breath as they exit the airport customs area and feel that first blast of humidity and heat roll over them. I remember myself, it's such a strange sensation, you almost can't breath. Even those arriving from different parts of South America and Central America are surprised at the heat. I'm certain we have one of the hotter and most humid missions in South and Central America.
Immediately they notice they aren't in "Kansas" any more. If Spanish isn't their native language . . . that language they just spent 6 weeks learning in the MTC is not very helpful those first few days. They wonder if they will ever be able to communicate or understand anything ever again.
The scenery is beyond description. From the beautify of the green jungle filled hills, to the blue skies on a clear day, the typical Honduras bright colors everywhere, animals roaming at will through the streets, busy horse drawn carts, people walking, sitting, standing outside their homes. To most missionaries it doesn't look anything like home. At first it's intriguing . . .
Each arriving missionary is paired up with a "Senior Companion", someone with experience in the mission. From that moment on . . . each missionary has the responsibility to stay with their companion, within eyesight and hearing of each other. It's a responsibility most have never experienced before and takes some getting used to.
Then there is the busy missionary schedule. They have long very structured days, free of television, video games, cell phones, computers . . . they spend several hours a day in personal and companionship study, preparing lessons to teach as they greet people throughout their day, learning and perfecting their language skills. Many are not used to waking each day at 6:30 am and continuing until 10:30 pm with a long busy day in between those hours.
Those first 12 weeks are certainly a period of adjustment to a very different lifestyle. Many missionaries long for home, their comfy beds, the security of home and family to surround them, familiar foods, someone who they can engage in casual conversation without having to attempt frantic translations.
To say that most missionaries experience stressful times during this time would be the understatement of the century. Some missionaries appear to sail right through it with scarcely a backward glance. Many missionaries struggle . . .
. . . especially those first 12 weeks.
The Good News
The good news is . . .
that it get's better :)
Soon they start to look around and appreciate the new culture. This most unusual way of life. Most develop great friendships with their companions. Many learn life lessons as they develop compassion, communication skills, an appreciation for ones different strengths (and weaknesses!). It's so interesting to observe these missionaries as they learn amazing life lessons we couldn't begin to teach them in a classroom. They develop skills that will bless their lives forever.
Empathy for Investigators
(a missionary term for those people expressing an interest in the missionary message and lessons - the missionaries meet with them regularly to help them progress in their studies)
Adjusting to this new way of life gives them great empathy for their investigators who are making their own lifestyle and cultural changes as they embrace the gospel in their lives. They experience much the same emotions as a newly arrived missionary in a foreign country. Both excited and nervous and always feeling very inadequate. But soon they can lead by experience and with the guidance of the spirit help their investigators learn to thrive in a new and different lifestyle. Becoming familiar with living the law of chastity, testing faith through paying tithing, embracing the word of wisdom, attending regular Sunday meetings each week, dressing modestly, honoring the Sabbath day.
Adjusting to Missionary Life -
During the 2013 Mission Presidents Seminar that we were so privileged to attend, the missionary department began to introduce a new resource to help missionaries adjust to the mission lifestyle. We are very excited to begin to use this program and teach some helpful skills to all newly arriving missionaries that they will be able to use throughout their lives as they encounter periods of change and new challenges and opportunities for growth.
It starts right after they receive their call in the mail with some pre-missionary training, continues at the MTC or CCM, we follow up especially during their first 12 weeks in the mission.
I thought it would be helpful to share the following suggestions for all newly called missionaries -
- Look for ways to serve others! Missionary work is a call to service. Begin now to look for ways to reach out in love to those around you, a kind word, an act of charity, or friendship.
- Focus on strengthening your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Seek the spirit through prayer, study, uplifintg music. Ponder upon how Heavenly Father will strengthen you to do his work.
- Develop an attitude of Gratitude - Offer a prayer of tratitude each day for those things you have been blessed with and the calling you have received.
- Be kind and patient with yourself - remember everyone gets frustrated or makes mistakes at times. Remember that thoughts of hopelessness and helplessness are not from the Lord. Know that the Lord understands and will be with you every step of the way.
- Expect the unexpected - the missionary experience is different for everyone! Be open and receptive to change!
And we will be there every step of the way as well!
An adjustment period for missionaries is entirely normal. It is not in any way a sign that they lack faith or a testimony of the gospel. They are learning the skills that it takes to be successful and that takes time. Life as a missionary will be different than anyone could ever tell you or try to prepare you beforehand.
"And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up"
-- Doctrine and Covenants 84:88
"know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee
experience, and shall be for thy good."
--Doctrine and Covenants 122:7
These things I believe . . .
These things I know.