Monday, June 8, 2015

LDS Missionary Care Package Tips

Mail day in the mission is one of the best days and one of the saddest, in my opinion. Imagine a group of missionaries gathering around a vehicle, giddy to see if they have received a package from home! They live far from the city so this is not a one week occurrence, and it is even more special than getting a regular email. Some missionaries hear their name multiple times and walk away with more packages than they can carry! How exciting! Everyone wants to see what knick knacks and food they got from home. Now, humor me and look at the bigger picture. Step back and look beyond the people crowded around the car. There are missionaries who don't even approach the car because they know their is NOTHING inside it for them. This leads me to my first tip of sending packages to your missionaries.

Tip #1: Don't forget their companion. You hear about your child's companion on a weekly basis. You more than likely know their name and maybe even a little about them So, why not send a little something just for them?  I'm not saying go crazy but wouldn't it be exciting if within that care package for your son/daughter you included a little something wrapped and marked specifically for their companion.

Tip #2: Don't go too crazy. I know this might make me sound like a "party pooper" but missionaries move around a lot and besides; they are missionaries and will be happy with whatever you send them. Some missionaries with large LDS families tend to get a lot of packages so try not to send too many things that they feel obligated to cart around. If it is something they need, great! If it is something fun, practical, etc just make sure they understand you won't be offended if they give it away to a kid or needy family before they leave.

Tip #3: Never send. There are things that definitely should NEVER, and I mean never, be sent through the mail/pouch. Cash should never be sent via mail.

Tip #4: Avoid Sending. I don't recommend sending perishable items. If you are sending these items out of the country they can may be lost, or lost and then found. Food will spoil before it even arrives.
Items may also be mismanaged so let's also include breakable items onto the "no no" list. But there are still those crazy stories of mom's wrapping their son's favorite glass bottled soda in bubble wrap and sending it to Argentina AND making it safe and sound. ( Yes Mom, I still remember you doing this!).
Also avoid sending things that are heavy, like books, see tip #2 to know why. They also have plenty copies of The Book of Mormon -- don't send them more unless they request them.
Keep in mind that every mission has different rules. Be sure to ask what mission rules are before sending music of any kind - some missions won't even allow EFY music.

Tip #5: To disguise or not to disguise. Some families I've talked to are dedicated to "camoflauging" their missionary packages with one or two religious stickers. They think this will keep dishonest postal workers from trying to steal anything because they will think it is mission/ religious supplies. Either that or maybe they are expecting that a sticker of Jesus on the front will keep them honest...? I'm pretty sure that postal workers have figured this out by now, but it is still worth a shot. I've always heard that these packages arrive so feel free to give it a try.

Tip #6: Things To Send. Depending on where your son/ daughter is serving there are certain things that are not available. For example Latin Americans dislike peanut butter and root beer. This fact makes it hard if not impossible to find these items. Unless your missionary lives in a big city, has access to a commissary (on base, military ID required, grocery store), or knows of specialty stores. As for sister missionaries some cultures avoid tampons -- thinking it takes away a woman's virginity. Whatever the thing may be that your missionary misses send it! They will be relieved/excited.
P.S. While I mentioned in Tip #4 not to send perishable items, things like cake mixes are a great way to celebrate your son's/daughter's birthday even if you can't prepare it yourself. Ideas like this are all over the internet so if you have any sites you want to recommend feel free to leave the links in a comment below.

Tip #7: The Things You Say: This tip can also apply to what you write in letters. Talking constantly about what they are missing at home, or having a girlfriend that is constantly sending love letters/ packages saying how much she misses him and wants him home, is not conducive to a productive missionary lifestyle. These things can make them lazy, homesick, and dare I say rebellious/ resentful (if perhaps leaving for their mission was not entirely their idea). Remember to send uplifting thoughts, missionary moments of your own, and gratitude for their willingness to serve. Saying you love and miss them is great, and encouraged! When in doubt read their emails/letters and try to see life through their eyes. This will make your messages more uplifting and quite possibly encourage you to become a better member missionary.

Tip #8: Things You Post: Have you ever Googled missionary blogs? I have and I've found A TON! Keep in mind that some things that your missionary would like shared on the blog/ facebook group may end up be seen by an "unopen" heart. Check privacy settings. Consider: omitting parts of emails, making your blog private,  asking for permission to share photos and stories, and/or changing names.
Remember that not only are pictures of your child up online for the world to see, and read about, but so are the pictures and stories of new members, investigators, and other people who have a right to their own privacy.

Any other tips? Share them with us in a comment below.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

RM- Post Mission Transition in 3 Steps

I've had my fair share of interactions with returned missionaries, RMs. I've seen them in the post mission dating world at BYU. On an even wider scale I've heard their complaints and emotional rants as I am still nestled comfortably in the mission home of their former mission. Everyone's responses are different. Some missionaries I've talked to believe that if you worked hard in the mission then you will have closure, making leaving the mission easier. For some people this thought did make the transition easier; however, mission life is definitely different than real life. All of a sudden you are expected to make big decisions for life outside of the mission world NOT to mention removing your beloved Elder/Sister nametag! Instead of having a schedule filled with meetings, you need to consider a job, school attendance, choosing a major, and dating. That's enough to make any co-ed's head spin. But throw in the lack of thinking/doing any of those things for the past two years and it is a whole other world.

So here are my two cents on everything a returned missionary needs to make return to real life a little easier. (And by the way - taking off the nametag has broken many a missionary heart. I don't know how many times missionaries told me that they thought it was going to be something special prior to removing it. But often the stake president just tells them to take it off. (May want to mention this, just in case it happens).)

1. A missionary NEEDS some kind of schedule. In other words they need something to do. They are used to adhering to a a set time to sleep, study, work. I've seen it happen way too often. A missionary, without structure, is a perfect example of why an "idle" mind... hands... etc is a bad thing. They lose momentum and often become stagnant or, even worse, falter.

2. They NEED a "companion".  I'm not saying they need to find a relationship with someone of the opposite gender, but they do need a friend. I say "companion" because they need to find a friend that will give them that nudge in the right direction. A nudge of encouragement to continue living a spirit filled life. After two years of being required to be in eyesight of your companion, personal space can be nice, but it can also feel foreign and even lonely. If all of their friends are away at college and they are stuck at home this could be harder to find. But a companion can be found in your own family, especially your ward family.

3. They NEED to feel useful. A calling, things to do around the house, goals, school applications, and even a job. All of these things will help them maintain some kind of schedule and find the "companion" that will make the transition easier.

Every RM is different. If you are an RM reading this maybe you have some additonal input. We would love to read about your ideas in the comments and depending on what you say we may even include it. But this post is also for those missionary mommas who are turning to the internet to help their valiant young sons and daughters. So Moms, this is especially for you because we know you are listening.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Planting the Seed: Grew into a Tree

The day after I met Cora (Planting the Seed: Knocking Doors) my bags were packed to leave Argentina. Meeting Lucas'  and Cora's family made my trip worthwhile. I also had a wonderful time with my internship, teaching the self-reliance workshop, and getting to know the Argentina young adults who became my friends.

Before I left I had one last thing to do. One last stop at the office to turn in paperwork and say goodbye. In the lobby I saw a friend, Natan. Natan was one of the first friends I made in Argentina and we hung out on a fairly regular basis. I told him I was leaving for the airport soon but I was hoping to return someday with my Dad. I made reference to the areas my Dad had served in (all of which I knew by name because of my Family Home Evening emails). As I listed the names Natan perked up when I said Godoy Cruz.  He told me that his family was from Godoy Cruz and long time members of the church. We agreed to keep in touch and that he would ask his father if he'd known a young Elder [T].

I returned to the U.S. feeling closer to my Dad than ever before. With Father's Day fast approaching I collected pictures I had taken of Lucas, Maria, Josue, and Cora's family.  I labeled each photo with names and something I had been told about my Dad. Then I received an email from Natan with photos and knowledge that his Dad had been friends with Elder [T] and had fond memories with him. Amongst these memories were recordings of my Dad singing and even dancing a traditional gaucho dance to entertain local members.

So, did my Dad's mission matter? Does yours? It may be hard to witness but your mission sure does matter to them. The bond that is created reminds us that we are all brothers and sisters no matter where we live or what we look like. The truth that you bring to their door allows them to realize there is something bigger than themselves and they aren't alone. The testimony you bear very likely could give them the strength to take  a chance and start their own business -- providing for their family and more missionaries to go out and serve.

It is explained in the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis that small things can gradually derail us and send us down the wrong path. Let us not forget that the same goes in doing good. A knock on a door, a contact on the street, a single lesson on the Plan of Happiness. This is how we plant the seed my brothers and sisters. Missionary work continues on to water it and someday it will grow into a beautiful tree with a strong foundation that can reach out on its own and plant even more seeds. It is my prayer that we will remember that every missionary matters and the mission never ends. I share these things with you in His name. For as we represent Him we will not fail. Amen

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Planting The Seed: Knocking Doors

It's easy to say you make a difference in someone's life when you baptize them. "But what about knocking doors?" you ask, "I spent more time on the streets than in a font." These questions lead us to the next story. The day my Dad met Cora.

Cora, was out watering her plants when she saw two young men in shirts and ties knock on her neighbor's door. In that moment she heard a voice, "I did not send them for your neighbor, I sent them for you." Cora was so afraid that she dropped the hose, ran inside, and locked the door. She heard the knock on the door and thought, "My husband will send them away. He doesn't like religion."

To her astonishment Mario greeted these young boys and invited them inside.

Shortly after this, my Dad was transferred to another area. He received letters from her and she had been baptized, to her family's disapproval.

[2008] My Dad's emails continued each Monday and even included the name of a former missionary currently living in Buenos Aires. Spencer had met Cora on his mission and had reached out to my Dad. He told him that Cora always referred to the missionaries that knocked on her door as her angels. 

Spencer and I went out for a steak dinner where he proceeded to give me Cora's phone number. I was excited to find out that she had also moved to Buenos Aires. Neither she nor Lucas (see Planting the Seed: Part 2) had resided in the Buenos Aires province when my father met them. In fact, Buenos Aires wasn't even part of his mission.

My internship was coming to an end and I feared I wouldn't have a chance to meet this woman. So my last week in Argentina, I sat down and dialed her number. I couldn't contain my excitement  as the phone rang. Cora answered and I tried my hardest to stay calm and speak the best Spanish possible.

"Hi Cora my name is [Jen S.] I am the daughter of the missionary [Elder T]."


 "I'm in Buenos Aires working for the church." 

....."I have to meet you"

My last day in Argentina I took the train to Cora's small town. I didn't know what she looked like and didn't know how I would find her. Suddenly, a woman in a black dress walked around the corner. We made eye contact and hugged. She drove me to her home where she started telling me her story. The story I thought I knew. 

She talked about the day she met my Dad and started to talk about her angels. I mentioned that my Dad had told me that she called him and his companion that. She corrected me and said "No, your Dad was my angel". It was his countenance, that mantle given to him from our Heavenly Father, that made her husband let them in.

My Dad didn't baptize her, he didn't even teach her, but just by knocking on her door he changed her life.

Cora accepted the gospel even with her family's disapproval. Within a year she had baptized her entire family and has gone on to teach many others. Her husband told me to tell my Dad that "He planted a good seed in good soil when he found Norma."

NEXT WEEK: Join us on May 10th to read the last entry of our Planting the Seed series.

This is a featured post by Jen S. Names have been changed for privacy reasons. To share your pictures and stories please email them to us at

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Planting The Seed: Teaching and Baptism

In 1969 my father was in his first area with no one to teach. Other than practicing Spanish and looking for people to teach he had been assigned to play the piano in church. In a small chapel he sat and practiced three hymns on the organ when a man (we will call him Lucas), having heard his playing, walked into the chapel and asked "What is this place?" My Dad, in his newly learned Spanish, explained that it was a church and invited him to learn more. Lucas set up an appointment and this young missionary beamed with joy.

Lucas and his wife met with my Dad and his companion and were quick to accept the gospel. Lucas was the first person my father baptized. He embraced the lessons about tithing and wanted to begin before even being baptized. My father encouraged them to find something that allowed them to earn money together and testified that they would be successful. They had faith that the Lord would provide for them and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit found a future endeavor that would, in time, would bring them great financial successes. With this financial success Lucas has gone on to encourage and even pay for young men to serve their missions.

Back in 2008 I was working and attending church in Argentina. After asking questions I found that a leader in the church, with a familiar last name, was indeed the baby that once listened to my Dad's missionary lesson. I introduced myself and before parting ways we took a picture to show my Dad a grown up Josue, his wife, and a baby of his own. Josue reached out to his mother. He had heard about the missionaries who had taught his parents and knew she would want to meet me too. A few weeks later Mariana greeted me at church with a well worn Book of Mormon in her hands. She handed the book to me and as I opened it I found a small picture of my 19 year old dad in the back cover. Beside this photo there was his hand written testimony and a signed baptism certificate. Reading the strong testimony of my future dad was eye-opening and made me feel even closer to him. I got to read his testimony while he was building its foundation; it touched me that someone else loved and appreciated my father and his testimony. They were grateful enough to remember him and cherish a young boy they knew so many years ago.

On Easter they invited me over for dinner to meet Lucas. I was nervous as the intimidating 6'3 figure in a handsome grey suit stood over me. We exchanged pleasantries and visited while they shared their food, candy, and their home. Later that night, after dropping me off outside of my apartment, he realized that I wasn't a missionary and could hug people. He leaned over my small frame, wrapped his arms around me, laid his head on my shoulder, and wept. He told me how much he loved my Dad and how he changed his life. I reassured this grown man that my Dad loved him too and I would bring him back to Argentina one day.

In such a short time I too had grown to love this family and their story.

My Dad's mission, although it had been almost 40 years prior, had linked our families. There was a love and a gratitude there that had not faded with time.  They had the memory of their missionary and that was enough to show love and hospitality to his youngest daughter.

This is a featured post written by Jen S. Names have been changed and more personal/ spiritual details have been omitted. Your stories can be featured on this blog too. Contact us via social media or email.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Planting The Seed

Every missionary will at some point before or after their mission wonder, What have I accomplished? How can a missionary serve with all of their heart, might, mind, and strength with a question like this weighing on his/her mind? With some missions being more difficult than others this can take a toll on their minds as the adversary seeks to tear down these valiant young men and women serving the Lord.

Knowing this I have sought to share my experience with missionaries and help them realize that although they may not see the fruits of their labor, one day there will be a rich harvest from all they have done. It is my hope that within my personal story you will see this illustrated and be able to share this with current missionaries, as well as those who have long returned. 

In 1969 my father served in the Cordoba, Argentina mission. At the time, mission boundaries were immense and my father's mission was no different, it was one of two missions in Argentina (as of July 2015 there will be 14). My father served his full time mission, returned honorably, met my mother at BYU, married her, and started a family. It is a fairly familiar story among the LDS community.

Fast forward to 2008 where I, the youngest of my father's four children, was attending BYU and on my way to a semester abroad in his beloved Argentina. I would be living in Buenos Aires as an intern for LDS Church Services and teaching the self reliance workshop. This internship was by far one of the best decisions of my life, but little did I know the things that I would learn and the amazing people I would meet.

My Dad, feeling nostalgic, began writing a weekly "family home evening" email. He shared the areas he served in, the people he met, and the struggles of being a missionary. These detailed, journal-like emails led me to find three of the families he spoke of. In these next few blog posts I will share my father's stories from the past, and my journey of reliving them.

I hope you will come to answer the question, "Will/Does/Did my mission matter?" with a resounding "YES!" as you read of my encounters.

Join me on April 26th to read the first story of these three families - my father's first baptism. Planting the Seed: Part 2.

This post is a feature post submitted by Jen S. You can submit your own stories, thoughts, etc through social media or email. See the badges and links on our blog.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Keep On Trying

As I attended church this week I found myself reminiscing on the past weekend and the wonderful words of LDS General Conference. Twice a year we have the opportunity to be uplifted by these wonderful men and women who serve in the name of our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. This past week Elder Dale G. Renlund told a story where a mother tells her daughter

"The Church is like a big hospital and we are all sick in our own way. We come to church to be helped.” 
General conference is the same. We listen intently to receive inspiration on the trials that ail our minds; hoping to be rejuvenated. It has only been a week since General Conference but do we still remember the things which were taught? Will we only refer to the notes we made during the broadcast when our "sickness" returns, rather than before it does? We can't expect to make a full recovery if we start to feel better and expose ourselves to the bad conditions once more. We visit church every week but sometimes fall into the monotony of it all, forgetting to take it as what it is - our hospital where we must all seek out our own personal remedy.

May we all build the strength necessary to keep going and remember to keep taking our medicine.