It has been over two years since the announcement of the age-change for full time missionaries. This created a record number for missionaries serving. This wave of missionaries is now trickling back from their missions. The million dollar question:
How do I transition as a returned missionary?
That is what The Returned Missionary‘s website is all about. And this article shares 10 tips with links to related articles that will also help you.
Editors Note: This was written by Kerry Harding, a veteran leader of missionary efforts at the ward and stake levels, after talking with over 100+ missionaries about what they had learned about going home. He decided to write this article to give to missionaries the week before they went home. He has kindly shared this info with us for those who are coming home to transition in the best way. I have added some commentary and links to helpful articles that are related to what he said.
1) Accept that your mission is over. You spent your whole life preparing for that call. You spent two years magnifying it. When you take that tag off, your mission will officially come to an end. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to cry (more than once). It’s okay to be depressed..bewildered…overwhelmed…even a little lost. Let yourself go through the grieving process that it’s over.
If you are struggling to overcome depression, here are 7 powerful weapons to battle depression.
2) Prepare to talk about your mission. Don’t be one of those missionaries that just says “Great” when you are asked how your mission was. You made a $10,000 investment and worked 80+ hours a week for two years. Your missionary experience deserves better. YOU deserve better. Have a one liner available: “It was great because…..” Have a five minute response, “I learned so many things such as…” Then, have a handful of great interesting spiritual experiences to share that were unique to YOUR mission when people show a genuine interest.
If you really want to make a difference, contact Alex Balinski at PrepareToServe.com and share your mission stories on camera so that other missionaries who are preparing to serve can know what to look forward to. Click here to contact them.
3) Keep the good habits you made. On your mission, you learned discipline, planning and time management, making your bed every day, writing in your journal, personal scripture study, personal prayer. Keep all of those up the rest of your life.
4) Always be on the lookout for ways to share the gospel. There are still thousands of people that will cross your path that have never heard the message of the restored gospel. It’s not your job to convert them but you can plant a seed with everyone you meet in a loving, non-pushy way.
5) Realize it’s okay to have fun. You can do a lot of things now you temporarily gave up to serve a mission — video games, swimming and other water sports, skiing, dancing, popular music, hunting, fishing, fireworks — the list is enormous. Don’t feel guilty doing things that you are doing merely because they are fun.
6) Rebuild your relationships with family members and trusted friends. People change over time. Your family is different. YOU are different. Don’t be afraid to let them see the new improved version of you the mission created. Look for ways to build new bridges with your parents, grandparents, siblings and friends. Learn to talk about “real” issues in their lives and be open and vulnerable yourself. Life is short. Don’t waste it being superficial.
7) Avoid things that rob you of the Spirit. It may be that you have high school and/or college friends that don’t keep the Word of Wisdom and will invite you to parties and events where alcohol and even drugs are served. You will have a heightened awareness of where the Spirit it…and where it is not. One of the most common mistakes that missionaries make is giving in to the temptation of Internet pornography. With smart phones, laptops, iPads, etc. it is so much easier now to be exposed to that than it was when you left on your mission. You are sensitive and vulnerable right now. Curiosity leads to activity which leads to addiction. I know of very few return missionaries that haven’t had to deal with this issue. I also know of many RM’s who, now that their mission is over, have allowed themselves to be pressured into compromising sexual situations. It would be such a tragedy to lose the power of the temple in your life because of a few minutes of hormone-driven bad judgement.
8) Don’t let anyone pressure you who or when to marry. This is THE most important decision you will make the rest of your life. Don’t be in any hurry to make it, no matter what anyone — parents, bishop, stake president, friends — say. The advice used to be that a RM should be married within six months of coming home. A lot of people rushed into marriage without fully knowing who they were marrying or what it is they were getting into. Your mission taught you how to recognize and follow the Spirit’s promptings. Trust it (and no one else) to tell you first when and then who to marry. You will know without a shadow of a doubt when you have found the right one.
***Seriously, don’t rush this one. If you are one of those who have been home from the mission for a while and are unmarried, take hope, you are not alone, and you are a good person. Don’t give in to cultural pressures. Remember this quote from Elder Marvin J. Ashton:
I have yet to see marriage, by itself, turn an unhappy person into a happy person. A really happy married person is almost always one who was or could have been happy as a single person…While we are striving for quality conduct in our lives, we must ever realize that being single will never be as painful as being married to the wrong person. Avoid getting married just to be married1
9) Always wear an invisible name tag. As a missionary, you were an ambassador of Jesus Christ. You forced yourself to be a little more polite, a little more friendly, a little more cheerful and a little more kind. Always look for ways to love and serve the people you encounter every day.
10) Trust the Spirit to know what you should do with your life. You were given talents and skills when you came to earth. It may be that what you wanted to do with your life before your mission is not what you want to do now. Figure out what you love to do most — what truly makes you happy — and then figure out what careers will enable you to do that. Reach out to LOTS of people for advice. Build your network of useful contacts. Don’t be afraid to ask people you met on/through your mission to help you in any way you need. The people who got to know you will be willing to go out of their way to help you.
If you haven’t seen this video we created as well, please push play.