Dear Elders and Sisters: A Letter from home(ish) #3
The wave of missionaries continues to build at the MTC. The choir was over 1,500 again tonight. President Matt Holland, (President of Utah Valley University) presented a devotional on Joseph Smith. It was so spectacular! I was reminded of the words of his father, Elder Jeffrey Holland. He told the missionaries to tell the Joseph Smith story if they were ever having problems during a lesson. He promised them that the Spirit would come to testify of its truthfulness.
For perhaps the first time, it was actually hard for me to go to choir tonight. My oldest daughter is moving with her husband to Arizona in the morning. As I sat at the dinner table not wanting to leave, I told my family about Joseph Smith’s imprisonment in Liberty Jail. For nearly a year he was confined to a room the size of our kitchen–locked away from his family, home, and friends. I was reminded that Joseph did his part in the restoration, and now the Lord is calling on me to do mine. That’s always good to remember as a missionary. You have your own part of the restoration. You will be restoring the gospel to places, people, and hearts that have not had the gospel for a long time. For some, they have not had the gospel since they left heaven!
What Can I Do when I Feel Like Going Home?
I have had several parents express to me their concerns about their missionary children who are struggling with feelings of wanting to come home. I promised one Mom that I would include in this letter some ideas that might help. These are not official statements by the Church, but what I have learned by personal experience.
1. Keep Your Eye Focused on Your Purpose: Every missionary knows that His or Her purpose is to invite others to come to Christ and to help them to receive the restored gospel. When you lose sight of your purpose you lose your power. In 1952 Florence Chadwick attempted to swim the 26 miles from Catalina Island to the California coastline. After 15 hours of swimming a thick fog set in. She began to doubt her ability, but continued to swim another hour. After 16 hours, still unable to see the coastline, she asked to be pulled out. After she was in the boat she learned that she had stopped one mile short of the coast. Two months later, she tried the swim again. Again, a thick fog set in. She reported that this second time she kept a mental image of the coastline. She became the first woman to complete the swim. Keep your missionary purpose in the forefront of your mind!
2. Understand that Missing Home is Normal: Last month during an MTC devotional, the speaker asked for all of the Elders and Sisters who had thought about going home to stand. The vast majority of Elders and Sisters stood. Wanting to go home is normal. You have just left (maybe for the first time) your family, home, and lifestyle for 18 or 24 months. Loving your family and home does not make you a bad person, nor a bad missionary. If you feel homesick, do not panic. You are o.k. Acknowledge it and move on!
3. Do Not Focus on Your Homesick Feelings: As a young boy, I sat around a campfire enthralled by motorcycle riders swapping stories. An older rider told about his young son smashing his leg against a rock during a high speed desert race. To my surprise the one telling the story said, “He should have never looked at that rock!” All of the other riders shook their head in agreement. I assumed they were joking with each other until I questioned the validity of the story. The man said, “It’s the absolute truth! Never look right at something you don’t want to hit. Once you fix your eyes on something, you will take your bike in a direct path towards it.” What a lesson! “Fix your eyes on something and you will take your life in a direct path towards it.”
This is true of positive and negative thoughts and feelings. If you begin to fixate on a desire to go home, it becomes a real possibility. So what can you do? You might want to acknowledge your feelings then redirect them to your missionary purpose. Don’t let the negative thoughts linger. Let me give you some examples: “Boy, I feel homesick. Going home would be so nice, BUT, I know I was called by the Savior to this work and I love Him!” “I would consider going home, BUT, the people in this area are so dear to my heart!” “I would like to see my family, BUT, who will teach the gospel to the people in my area if I don’t?” Don’t fixate on the rock of “Going Home,” but on the “Coastline” of your missionary purpose.
4. Trust that the Lord will Help You: One of the greatest missionaries of this dispensation, Heber C. Kimball, told of a severe depression that he suffered during his mission to England. Eventually the emotions became paralyzing and he was unable to work. Then one night he had a dream. He was out in the ocean far from any land. He cried to the Lord for rescue. An angel appeared an placed his hand under Heber’s chin and bade him rest. After some time the Angel removed his hand and commanded Heber to swim. Heber recounts that he began to swim and went “rods with each stroke!” The Lord will help you. President Monson has made you this promise: “…when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help.”
Remember, this is the Lord’s work, not yours. He can do His work. He has asked you to help him. I have found that most feelings of anxiety are developed as we forget that fact and begin to think that it is all about us! Relax, and enjoy being in the Lord’s service!
5. Speak with Your President: This is perhaps the most important suggestion. Your President or MTC Branch President can and will receive revelation on how to help you personally. There is no shame in asking for help. Your President can recommend the ideas, thoughts, methods, and perhaps medical help that you need. If going home is really in your best interest and in the best interest of the work, your President will know.
You can do it! We love you. You are so wonderful. Follow the Spirit. Love your time as a missionary. You will never get to do it like this again.
Brother and Sister Eggett