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The church has grown a lot in the past 50 yrs in Iowa. There are 6 stakes in the mission, and they are strong stakes.
The wards were pretty well established in terms of how long they had been around, but they were varied in how large and how small they were. Some were branches that had been around for fifty years but only had ten members, and others had full wards with strong, life-long members. If members seem hesitant to get involved, it’s not because they don’t want to, but rather that they feel insecure in how to start, jump in and teach the members how to trust you and get involved. From the day you arrive, be friendly and outreach to the members. Begin learning their names and create a friendship with them!
“The church was pretty young in any areas of Iowa. In some Spanish branches in Des Moines, most members are converts within the last 5 years. The members in the Des Moines branch were the best member missionaries and are always willing to come out with the missionaries to lessons. Other areas were pretty good at member missionary work and they were starting to catch the missionary spirit. To a new missionary coming to my area, I would say to just focus on loving the people. Forget yourself and go to work and LOVE the people.”
“The wards and branches vary a lot in Iowa. For the most part we always had at least a few stellar members that would always be giving us referrals and who were willing to have us in their homes for lessons. It seems like there were always a few that didn’t want our help with the work but they were always friendly with us and willing to feed us. Every missionary in the IDMM WILL know about the Elder Zwick questions and the oval diagram. Learn it. Love it. Live it.”
“Quite a few areas with college students and they are awesome missionaries. Work with bishops a lot”
The majority of missionaries in the Des Moines mission will have access to cars. However bikes are very common as well and don’t neglect the tradition method of the left and right foot (walking is the best way to meet people). Make sure to get warm boots for the winters!
Some larger areas will have split cars between companionship. Members are also a resource for larger distances. In some areas public transportation is a common method of transportation and the best part about contacting on a public bus is that you have a captive audience, the person you meet can’t go anywhere until the bus stops!
“We had our own car in every area I was in, but know that there are so many missionaries a lot of areas are in car shares now. The towns and cities in Iowa are spread out so every companionship has access to a car. A lot of elders had their own bikes and we used public transportation in the bigger cities.”
“Car, walk, bike, bus
The Midwest is extremely safe. A lot of locals will leave their houses and cars unlocked, even feeling so safe as to leave their car running in front of the store while they run for a quick errand. Missionaries however should still follow standard safety procedure and lock their houses and cars.
The biggest safety concern is the ice. If you have never walked on ice you are in for a treat. Be careful during the winter months and pay attention to the weather.
“Weather was tricky. Especially during the winter. There were several days where we were not allowed to drive the cars. I only saw one tornado while I was there. Plenty of service opportunities come from less than awesome weather. Iowa is a pretty safe place!”
“Know the plan for tornadoes and floods. Nothing to fear just know the procedure. If you are prepared ye will not fear”
During the summertime there are always lots of fun activities going on around the state. One such activity is the Iowa Games, a fun series of fun summer activities the Church and missionaries help put one. The Iowa State Fair is a big deal and Iowans take their corn serious. Literally, there are celebrations about corn! Locally Halloween is called “Beggars Night”
The people of Iowa are a kind and openhearted people. One missionary said, “Mostly people are just really down to earth, practical and wonderful”
“Every small town has it quirks. The state fair in Des Moines is incredible.”
ʺA couple three,ʺ meaning two. Unless it means 3, 6, or 5. “so you have a couple three donuts thereʺ
ʺA farseeʺ a unit of measurement that was ʺas far as you can see.” As in ʺGo a few farsees until you reach your destination.ʺ
ʺAnymoreʺ (instead of nowadays)
*Waterproof jacket, warm winter coat and gloves, those little pack you break and they heat up, and long johns (even for sisters for under their skirts or under their tights…yes tights for the winter).
*Warm winter boots will make you life soooo much better! Definitely worth investing some good money into a good pair of boots. If your feet are cold/wet, your whole body will be cold.
*Layers. It gets super hot in the summer and super cold in the winter and you’ll want to be prepared for both. But there is a Walmart in every town so if you need something on P-Day you can get it.
*Coats! The winter gets cold. Bug spray. Mosquitoes are vivacious.
How to Mail to the Iowa Des Moines Mission:
The normal U.S. mail system is very reliable. The mission prefers packages mailed to the mission office…so if you get transferred (unexpectedly or unexpectedly) they can get it to you in a timely manner.
A recent returned missionary said, “I would always go through the mission office and never directly to apartment. Always United States postal. No UPS or fed ex”
Other thoughts about the Iowa Des Moines Mission:
“The IDMM is seriously the best mission. Full of fun and quirkiness. The people out there are so kind and generous. I loved my time there and I go back every chance I get. Just remember PACE – a positive attitude changes everything.”
“I love Iowa, it is the next best place ever, and I would hope every missionary who serves there lives it as much as I do!”
8515 Douglas Ave Ste 19
Urbandale IA 50322
Straight from the Iowa Des Moines Mission field:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“Nothing of note”
“Everything was available!”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Well, we were often fed by members, which meant we had a great variety, though pizza and lasagna were relatively common. When we cooked for ourselves, sandwiches, pasta, and tacos were a staple for me.”
“Basic American food”
“I was a Spanish speaking missionary so I ate a lot of beans, tortillas, rice, etc. I eat gluten-free so some staples for me in my apartment were things to make green smoothies for breakfast, gluten-free protein bars that I could eat on the go and would keep me full for a long time and things like that.”
“I was Spanish-speaking, so I had so many authentically delicious steak tacos, wirh rice and beans. Latinos are excellent cooks!”
“Tex Mex. And meat and potatoes.”
“Pork Chops and Steak with corn, green beans, and potatoes. America.”
“Chili and Tacos.
People made us just good normal american foods. ”
“I served Spanish speaking so a lot of beans, rice, tortillas, and meat. When we ate with the white folks it was a lot of stuff from the garden and normal white people food. We ate A LOT! Its not uncommon in this mission to gain 20lbs so pace yourself! It’s super polite to take seconds so it’s wise to take a small first helping and then go back for seconds as you tell them how good it is. :)”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“I didn’t have anything too crazy, though one of my companions had squirrel soup.”
“Mayonnaise brownies someone made for us, fortunately I was given one as I was leaving the home and kept it in my mouth, then spit it out in the bushes, it was awful”
“Cow tongue…with the taste buds”
“Cow tongue…you could see all the taste buds and it was very chewy.”
“Rocky Mountain Oysters”
“Alligator, which is so good!”
“Posole – a soup made from cow’s hooves. Super delicious”
“Deer heart, beef heart”
“a Mexican soup made of fat”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“Practically everyone in Illinois (where my first area was) had a concrete goose on their front porch that they dressed up according to the season and holidays. My grandmother (who lived in Chicago for a while) had had one, but I just thought it was her. When I got out there, however, they were all over the place. I even began keeping track of how many new ones I saw each day in my journal.”
“How much poverty there was with people who lived by the train track in Illinois”
“It seemed like everyone had a church they were loyal to already but it was cool for them to realize how much we actually had in common. One random observation was that there were squirrels EVERYWHERE.”
“Iowa is similar to where I grew up. Everyone was super kind. The Latinos are extremely giving, loving, and fun people.”
“They weren’t as big of hicks as I had imagined.”
“They didn’t have an accent”
“A lot of people are super religious and already have great love for Jesus Christ. That and some Catholics go to church everyday, surprise!”
“Iowans in general are pretty laid back and easy going. We were able to have plenty of ʺrandomʺ conversations with people on the street. I was surprised how diverse Iowa was. Des Moines especially had a lot of emigrants from all over the world.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Iowa Des Moines Mission?
“The Midwest is a great area to go to. The people are kind, though many of them feel comfortable in their religion. Try not to Bible bash, focus on the Book of Mormon instead.”
“To go with an open mind, knowing you are going to have a lot of wonderful and hard experiences, and to gain the trust of the church members”
“The Iowa Des Moines Mission has developed a great culture of obedience and that has truly brought miracles. It is a mission that sets goals and accomplishes them. The best advice I can give is to completely and totally surrender your will to Heavenly Father and strive to be a completely consecrated missionary for the duration of your mission. Total and complete consecration is the key to being happy on your mission.”
“Love it! I remember opening my call and being like, ʺWhat, Iowa?ʺ However it was perfect in every way for me. I know each person is called where they are needed and where they need to go. Make sure to get warm attire because they have cold winters, especially due to the humidity. On that note, the summers are nice and hot…and sticky.”
“Study the book of Mormon and learn to love Preach My Gospel.”
“love all people”
“Study the Bible, people in the Midwest know their Bibles. Although you will almost solely testify of Christ, the Restoration, and of the Book of Mormon they will find you more credible if you can relate to their questions about the Bible.”
“Get ready for some wacky weather. One week we went from 85 degrees to a blizzard. The church is pretty small out there so be prepared for a lot of weird questions or people that have never heard of the church.”
“Don’t buy brand new stuff and pack it all out there. There are extra rain jackets in the assistants apartment: free game. So many things that old missionaries are getting rid of out there. If some is not available then buy it out there.”
“1. Be Obedient 2. Work Hard 3. Love the People 4. Have Fun!”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“I wish that I had realized how much of the mission was focused on using social skills. I had a pretty solid knowledge of gospel doctrine and Church history, but didn’t have the social skills I needed until later in the mission.”
“That not all missionaries are “perfect” , that everyone is at a different place in their faith and testimony I was a convert of 2 years and basically had a lot I wish I had known!”
“I wish I would have known how hard missions actually are. You will have your highest highs and your lowest lows. I wish I would have known how hard Satan would fight to try and convince me to go home. I wish I would have known that the first 6 months in the mission Satan tries as hard as he can and will throw anything and everything at you–things you could never even imagine–to try to get you to go home. Just know that after the first 6 months, the mission gets SO much sweeter and the last few months in the mission are pure bliss!”
“Remember neither you nor your companion are in charge, the Lord is. Follow Him and the Holy Ghost. You and your companion ate not perfect, so cultivate patience, humility, and love one toward another. Help each other improve. By so doing the Holy Ghost will be with you and guide you. As PMG states, when the Spirit is with you, you are being successful.”
“It’s not about knowledge, it’s about having a spiritual testimony.”
“How many people were ready to be baptized in my mission.”
“I wish I had known I would serve to the end. I wish I would have known the great peace I have as a RM. I didn’t decide that from the beginning that I would finish my mission, and it was really hard because multiple times I wanted to give up and go home. I am glad for the friends I made in the mission that helped me stay and finish.”
“I wish I understood that working with less actives is still missionary work. The first part of my mission I resented spending so much time with them but as we started to see them progress I came to understand that we are fulfilling our purpose with them as we ʺinvite them to come unto Christʺ just as much as we were with the investigators.”
“The doctrine of Christ:
Faith- what it really is
Repentance and how change is possible and happens
Baptism- WHY its essential
Holy Ghost- we we receive it by the laying on of hands/different between the gift of the Holy Ghost and power of the Holy Ghost
Enduring to the end- what it is”
“I wish I realized how precious the time I had in Iowa was. the People are very open, and I wish I was more open to everything outside the box.”
“I went at a time when many thought females only served missions because they could not get married, I went because I was excited about the gospel and wanted to share that with others, I also knew someday my children would ask me why I didn’t go when I had the opportunity to go. So far 2 of my 6 daughters have served or are serving a mission.”
“Love your mission! It blessed my life! Cherish every moment…good and bad. It does go pretty quickly and you’ll never have this same experience again, so do not waste you time or the Lord’s.”
“Great people! Great church history sites, and a wonderful mission!”
“You are going to see a lot of people baptized, so be ready for it! If you’re not baptizing lots of people, improve your faith in your ability to invite and help people become baptized.”
“Best Mission Ever!”
**Did you serve in the Iowa Des Moines Mission? If so we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org**