Yesterday, my beautiful sister Hillary came home from her mission in Brazil. Since I wrote her a small book before she left entitled, “How to Be a Missionary,” I thought I would write her a book about being a returned missionary as a welcome home present.
There are a lot of things that I talk about in this little 30-page booklet, but I thought I would share one of these entries with you. If you have ever been on a mission, or know someone who has, you will recognize many of these items as being uncomfortably true to life. Fortunately, I didn’t add the one that all the ELDERS I know wanted me to put on the list. You’re welcome.
5 Things You Want to Do When You Get Home, But SHOULDN’T (Yet)
I know that you have been home about a week and are feeling a little itchy about all the stuff in your life that is not “inviting the Spirit.” I know that you’re anxious to get on with the tedium of being in-between parts of your life and want to move quickly to the next phase. Before you do anything drastic, I thought I would tell you the things that you are going to want to do at this tenuous time but probably shouldn’t. Once you’ve been home for about 3 months, you can do all this stuff then. If you still want to.
You poor thing. We all do this. We get home from our missions, all full of the Spirit and ready to cleanse our formerly questionable tastes in everything. The music gets it the worst. You must stop this desire to clear the demons from your MP3 player. The problem is, these songs are important to your life from before. As you gradually remember what it was like to be yourself without the tag, you will want to hear your music or read your books more and more. If you throw them away in your first two weeks back, you’re just going to end up buying them again.
Trust me. I know.
2. Jump Immediately Back Into Normal Life
I already know that you have done this. You basically thought, “I’ll just go right back to school (or work, or whatever) and pick up where I started. No big deal, right?” Um, no. You have just been through an incredibly important experience. You have been away from family, friends, and have spent a lot of your life in a different culture.
You have to give yourself time to learn the ropes again. You have to get used to the food, the people (mostly white, now), and the language. Although you may not realize it now, there will be words in your college classes that you will have forgotten completely. Make sure that you have given yourself enough time to acclimate to the idea of wearing pants again before you decide that you will be jumping right back into completing college courses!
3. Giving Away All Your Clothes
If you didn’t already do it on your mission, you are going to want to do it when you get home. It is a part of the giant purge that you are going to want to do in order to make your old/new life match with the new level of understanding that you have just gained. Some people come home and decide that they no longer want to have a bed: they’ll just sleep on the floor like they did in Cambodia. Some people decide that they will be living more modestly, sisters throwing away jewelry and jeans like they were going to attract stray lighting bolts.
God will not smite you for wearing lipstick, I’m almost positive.
Anyway, the point is, you need to hang in there. Maybe you hate everything that is in your closets and on your walls when you get home. That’s okay. Just let it be for about a month and a half. If you still hate it after a month and a half, then get rid of it.
4. Street Contacting
The truth is, returned missionaries do make excellent member missionaries. The difference between when you are home and when you are in the field is astronomical, though. Whereas your job was to take care of an entire city for 18 months, to ensure that each person in that city had an opportunity to hear the truth, your new job is much different. As a returned missionary, you will have many chances to share what you have learned.
As you get further and further away from your missionary experiences, you will find that your missionary obligations change dramatically. You will begin to see that member work is about love and patience. Unlike your mission, you will have a lot of time to teach the people that are around you. Take advantage of this amazing wealth of time, something that you had so little of on your mission! This way of thinking eliminates the need for street contacting, or feeling guilty that you didn’t give the woman at the grocery check out a pass-along card. That’s not really your responsibility, and you don’t need to feel bad for just loving her and listening to her. You have lots of time.
5. Find a New Companionship
I’m not really in a position to talk about this, but I will anyway. When you have been with another person every minute of every day for almost 2 years, it can be weird to be alone. People deal with this in different ways. Some people get really involved in socializing, some people retreat into themselves. Some people get married.
I’m not saying that getting married is a bad idea. I basically did that myself. What I am saying is that you should stop and recognize the excessive zeal for matrimony as a sign that you might be a little lonely. Take a few months to re-learn how to be by yourself. When you do, if you still think that getting married is the right thing to do, take the opportunity to find that ultimate companion that you will be able to do good work with for eternity.
There are many more things that you are going to want to do that you shouldn’t, but I can’t list them all right now. They key to remember is that you are going to have a crazy desire to make massive changes in all areas of your life to reflect your inner changes. Seeing those same paintings on your walls that you had when you were in high school are going to drive you crazy. Why? They seem to testify that nothing has changed!
Make a note of the things you have learned and how you have grown, and reread it as often as you can. If you keep your inner changes at the forefront, you won’t be as anxious to stop the natural process of compromise that will happen between the missionary part of you and the part of you that you thought you left behind.
Other Crazy Things That You Might Want To Do When You Get Home from Your Mission…
- Buy a one-way ticket back upon your arrival home.
- Burn every white shirt and tie that you have ever owned.
- Become Catholic.
- Call your mission president and ask for his daughter/son’s address and phone number.
- Go through your phone list and challenge all your friends to be baptized, even if they already have been.
- Go to the rough part of town and look for friends who speak your new language.
- Go to the temple every day it is open.
- Keep calling your investigators once a week, or call the new sisters to make sure they’re doing their job right.
- Hand out Books of Mormon to people stopped at red lights.
- Do companionship inventories with your roommates.