Every day on my mission between 8:30-8:47am, I had one eye on my missionary-approved books and the other on a long window that overlooked the car park. I wasn’t looking out for investigators or members. I was waiting for the quick flash of yellow, a familiar smudge on my peripheral vision. When that happened, it was mail time!
Books would close as quickly as my chair legs screeched on the hard tile floor. I would run to press my ear against the front door, hands in place on lock and door handle, waiting for the echoey slams of apartment mailboxes. This signaled the departure of our “postie” and the “green light” for checking the mailbox.
Mail from back home was worth its weight in gold. My mission wasn’t easy; no one’s is. Whatever I received in the mail became a little slice of “escapism,” which gave me a much-needed break from the demanding lifestyle of missionary work.
With this in mind, I’ve put together some ideas to help you enrich, boost, encourage, fortify, and support your missionary so you can both get the most out of your correspondence. This can also apply to emails, but we all know that there’s something really exciting about good, old-fashioned snail mail.
Whether they’re serving a few cities away, or halfway across the world, a mission isn’t easy for anyone. Start your letter with encouragement. “Your Father and I are so proud….” You know the drill.
It was during some of the hardest times of my mission I’d happen to receive a letter from a friend or relative. It was almost like Heavenly Father stored them up at the “mail sorting center” until I was going through a difficult patch, and then he’d send one out. I suggest that the start of your letter be like a mini pep talk. You know, the kind moms give, not football coaches.
Now comes the bulk of the letter. They want to know the ins-and-outs of family life, church life, work life, and social life. In all honesty (and I don’t know if I’m even allowed to write this, but let’s be frank) they want appropriate gossip! The scoop, the newsworthy, and the not-so-newsworthy news. Who’s little sister dating? Who’s got a new calling? Who’s just spent way too much money on a new car? Who got onto the football team and who didn’t?
What many missionaries (but not all) don’t want is a testimony meeting. Think of it like this: the last thing a doctor wants to do after coming home from work is to switch on the TV and watch ER.
In this same vein, it’s good to remember that missionaries love the gospel, they love faith promoting stories, but not pages and pages of testimony bearing. They do that all day, every day.
Be Engaged In the Work
It’s also good to let your missionary know about other people who’ve received mission calls, or people who have made the choice to go on a mission. Let them know how the home ward/branch is doing with its missionary efforts, including who’s been reactivated. Let them know how family members are progressing in the gospel. If there are events like baptisms, EFY camps, seminary graduations, or temple trips, send them a couple of photos. Missionaries become way more interested in missionary work back home when they go on their missions. Sharing this helps them feel a part of a worldwide team, and that missionary efforts don’t go unnoticed. So get to know your local missionaries.
You know the human-interest story at the end of a news broadcast? “Cat-up-a-tree” kind of deal? Add something like that. Finish up with something light like a funny moment, family story, or personal interest bit. The lifestyle that missionaries lead isn’t light; it’s intense, and the weight of the salvation of their whole teaching pool rests of their shoulders. Offer them something jovial, interesting, or funny. Make them smile.
So that’s it. These are not hard-and-fast rules to letter writing. You know what your missionary loves and it likely hasn’t changed. Write about it! Even if you don’t write much, they’ll love you for taking the time to let them know that they are remembered and loved.