I remember it vividly, as if it were yesterday. I felt like even though I gave everything I had, I failed. I was wasting everyone’s time and my parent’s money. I’d been diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis 15 months earlier while serving in my first area in Scotland. It ravaged my health. A disease wasn’t something I’d planned to take home from my mission.
I wanted to work, but my body started shutting down. I couldn’t walk or exist awake without pain and I fell asleep everywhere. One companion’s favorite picture of me is of me laid out on our kitchen floor totally asleep. That was as far as I could go that day. . . .
Hopefully my experience can benefit others who welcome missionaries home earlier than expected. Following are 8 suggestions on how to approach an early returned missionary.
Understand That Your “Gift” May Not Be a Gift to Them
We all give and receive love and compassion differently. I love gifts of time and communication. Others prefer just the opposite.
We all want to be helpful, are generally well-intentioned, and want to make a difference. A very wise friend once told me, “We all want to serve in the worst way—–and we usually do.”
Be aware that what you feel may be a wonderful gift to the returned missionary, may not actually be a gift to her at all.This not-really-helpful mode of service is most obvious to me in off-handed, though hopefully well-intentioned, comments.
“Well, now at least you won’t have to worry about another horrible winter on your mission.” “Somebody else must be supposed to finish teaching that family the gospel. Maybe they’ll get baptized now.” “At least you can still stand up when someone asks the returned missionaries to stand.”
Actually, most comments of the I’m-not-sure-what-to-say-so-I’m-going-to-try-to-be-funny-or-hopefully-make-a-great-point variety are generally more hurtful than helpful.
“Welcome back, I’m glad to see you” is an awesome way to acknowledge a returned missionary’s service and share your love.