The Realities of Missionary Life -
Now that we have been here for 15 months . . . and have experienced the arrival of approximately 200 new missionaries since our arrival . . .
I think we can say that . . .
many young people arrive in the mission field with a clear
understanding of what mission life is all about . . .
(Scenes from our recent multi-zone conferences)
The Power of Example -
But some have had not the example of other missionaries in their families, father's and brothers who served missions, neighbors who served missions, friends and classmates . . .
Many are the first members of the church in their families.
Many are the very first missionaries in their families!
(And hopefully the beginning of a long tradition of missionary service)
Some missionaries do not arrive with a clear understanding of what mission life is all about.
So I thought it would be helpful to review the realities of missionary life . . .
(Zone leaders and Sister Training Leaders)
A Basic Introduction -
The life of a young missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can actually be very challenging and strenuous! Being a missionary means that you are providing service as a full time representative of the Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Church every day . . .
all day . . .
24 x 7 . . .
Not a part time representative . . . not a 3/4 time representative . . . but a full time representative for the 18 to 24 months you committed to serve. Missionaries are expected to work hard, be obedient and follow the missionary schedule.
Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are VOLUNTEER representatives . . .
(A Few More Zone Leaders)
Missionaries do not receive payment for their service -
That means they do not receive payment for their service. In fact, the missionaries or their families, or both will contribute funds to maintain themselves in the mission field each month. Many young missionaries save their money all their lives to be able to pay completely for or provide a large part of the financial support necessary for their missions and service as representatives of the Savior . . .
Many young men and women work long hours, and save and sacrifice the money they could have spent on other things, dating, cars, graduation trips, motorcycles, clothing . . . to set it aside to serve the Lord and share their testimonies of the restored gospel with others.
(Multi Zone - Conferences)
In past years missionaries paid for their actual living expenses in the mission field. That became difficult when some areas of the world had exceptionally higher costs of living than others. Currently all missionaries pay to the Church, the same flat monthly rate no matter where in the world they serve. The church then redistributes this money to the missionaries who are serving, in an amount proportionate to the cost of living for each individual missionary.
Therefore, during their period of service, missionaries will receive a small stipend from the Church to cover the costs of basic expenses in the mission field, for instance food, haircuts, rent for your apartment, transportation, and other personal necessities. Learning to make the money stretch until the end of the month is an important skill to learn, and contributes to discerning basic needs from wants and desires. Missionaries are expected to use their own personal money if they desire to purchase personal items in the mission, such as additional clothing, gifts, camera's, cultural items etc.
Then there's that rule about companions! -
Upon arrival at the MTC / CCM or in the mission field each missionary will be assigned a companion. It is extremely important that a missionary stay with their companion at all times. Believe it or not, this rule really is for the missionaries protection. The only time a missionary should be separated from their assigned companion is when using the bathroom. This is a difficult rule to follow but is of the utmost importance! Each missionary should be prepared to follow this rule and commit to staying within sight and distance of hearing one another's conversation at all times.
All missionaries are expected to maintain a high moral standard of worthiness, both in preparation to serve a mission and in the mission field. Before the mission, and while serving, missionaries should do all in their power to maintain a high level of physical, mental and emotional fitness.
(A visit to the Missionaries, members in Tela - where our Senior Couple is serving)
P-day stands for Preparation Day -
The Missionary schedule is a busy, full schedule each day, including P-day . . .
Some missionaries mistakenly believe P stands for "play" day . . .
But it is really a day dedicated to making preparations to be a missionary of service the remaining six days of the week. Preparation day is a day when missionaries still rise at 6:30 am . . . follow the study schedule for personal and companionship study, and from 10 am until 6 pm, make their preparations for the week. Activities such as laundry, writing letters, shopping, getting haircuts, cleaning apartments, shining shoes, repairing clothing items, and writing the mission president are accomplished on Preparation Day. A missionary apartment should be cleaned each P-day!
Safe recreational and cultural activities are also permitted on Preparation day, once the important personal preparations have been taken care of. In our mission, occasional changes in the schedule can be arranged with permission from Zone Leaders, Assistants to the President, or mission president. Due to a hot climate, frequently zone activities can be switched to the early morning hours with preparation activities and studies to be done in the early afternoon.
(Preparation Day with Tocoa Zone)
Obedience brings increased blessings -
Missionaries are expected to read, study and be accountable for following the Missionary Handbook. This handbook is one of a missionaries main resources for finding success in the mission field. Inside the handbook are found the rules outlining dress and grooming, entertainment, music and media, finances, communication with family and friends, and other expectations of missionary life.
As missionaries are obedient to the schedule outlined in Preach my Gospel, they will certainly see the hand of the Lord in their lives each day, and in their work, and in the fruits of their labors. They will feel the comforting presence of the Spirit in greater abundance . . . not just during their months and years of missionary service, but for the rest of their lives as well.
Each missionary serving agreed to live by the standards outlined in the Missionary Handbook when they accepted their call. Remember each day who you are, who called you, and the importance of the work.
Let's talk about the opposite sex!
I knew that would get your attention . . .
There is a tendency with the lower age changes for missionary service, for more problems to develop in regards to the opposite sex in the mission field. The Missionary Handbook specifies "never be alone with, flirt with, or associate in any other inappropriate way with someone of the opposite sex". This includes other missionaries! Missionaries and their companions should not visit individuals of the opposite sex unless another responsible adult (greater than age 18) of your own sex is also present.
Inappropriate ways would include, but are not limited to . . . relationships with members of the opposite sex that reside within mission boundaries, including other missionaries, sending text messages, telephoning, emailing, writing letters / notes or accepting letters / notes from members of the opposite sex that live within the mission boundaries.
The best two years . . . say what??
What some don't realize is that their time of missionary service is extremely short . . . it's their only opportunity in this life to be free from the cares of the world, to serve Heavenly Father with all their heart, might, mind and strength everyday. Once the opportunity has passed . . .
It is passed . . .
And it won't be coming back around again. At least not for a very long time . . .
Really . . .
A mission is unlike any other experience you will ever have in your life. Someday it will be behind you and before you even know what happened, you will be getting on that airplane to go home.
And when you arrive home, it will be nearly impossible to describe the events of your missionary service. Words will be inadequate . . . to express your thoughts and feelings and emotions of the roller coaster you are just finishing.
(Preparation Day with Zona Olanchito)
Words will be inadequate -
The struggles with learning a new language and not understanding a thing for the first few months, the frustrations, the feelings of inadequacy. All the showers with a bucket of cold water, toilets that don't flush, food that you can't even begin to describe. Realizing that carpet and grass don't even exist here, hand washing all your clothing in a big tub, the smell of insect repellent everyday, all day . . . feeling soaking wet everyday, all day . . . either from the crazy rain, or just the sweat running down your back . . . the bugs that are everywhere, and the bug bites that scratch and itch endlessly and cause giant welts in unlikely body areas, the dirty dusty streets, skinny emaciated dogs . . . and cows . . . and pigs and horses . . . fungal infections, bacterial infections, dengue carrying mosquitos, intestinal parasites . . .
But neither can you describe that realization when it dawned on you that you now understand almost everything in your new language . . . when did that happen? Or how much you missed that companion when at first they drove you crazy . . . finding that first real contact, the one who is prepared and has been searching for help, searching for the truth . . . the one who wants to change his life, and watching them do it and experience their first real joy in months, maybe years . . . finding a golden family, preparing them for baptism, and they get baptized and begin to prepare for the temple . . . and you realize you just helped them become an eternal family. The hard work, discouragement, that leads to increased faith in God, our Heavenly Father . . . the realization that he does answer your prayers. That the Atonement is not just for the worst of sinners but for you as well . . . everything you have been teaching . . . is true, and applies to you in your life right now.
It's all true -
Finally comprehending the reality of your testimony, that it was built once piece at a time . . . a knowledge of how the Book of Mormon changes people, changes lives . . . including your own. Joseph Smith was a prophet, he did restore the fullness of the gospel to the earth once again. God is our Loving Heavenly Father, he does love all his children. He has a plan for each one of them. The power of the priesthood is here upon the earth once again, never to be removed. Jesus Christ is the Savior, he will return to the earth . . . and you want to endure . . . endure to the end . . . no matter what the cost.
Yes . . .
Those are the realities of mission life . . .
And if you're lucky . . . you will experience every one of them. And comprehend these
experiences for the great blessings that they are.