Keeping a journal is important at every stage of life, but during the intense and transformative period of an LDS mission, missionaries have hundreds of powerful experiences, learn countless vital life-lessons, and make more new friendships than they ever thought possible. With all of this crammed into the span of 18 months or two years, it’s even more necessary than at any other time of life to keep track of all the details that will be so treasured for years to come.
But any Mormon missionary mom knows that an elder’s or sister’s experiences aren’t just important to the missionary. Every word in every letter is poured over by concerned, excited, and loving family members and friends. Many moms especially have discovered that they learn almost as much as their child from their son’s or daughter’s mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Missions can be a busy, stressful time, and many missionaries, after returning home from a long, tiring day of work, struggle to find time and motivation to write about their day. But it’s rare that a missionary will miss the opportunity on preparation day to write home and tell their family and friends about their precious experiences. To make sure that not only the missionary but everyone in the family can keep these memories forever, parents can collect a missionary’s weekly letters to create a makeshift journal that won’t take away any extra time from their child’s busy mission schedule.
How to turn letters into a multimedia record:
Give instructions. If your child hasn’t left on their mission yet, now is the opportunity to train them on good letter writing. Even if your child is already serving, it isn’t too late to send a helpful email to make sure your missionary and everyone else can get the most out of his or her weekly emails. You can tell your son or daughter about how much he or she will want a detailed record of a mission for the rest of his or her life, and how much these experiences will inspire and affect those who will read them. Encourage him or her to refer to people by their full names and give clear dates of important events. This will help clarify events for those reading about them. And, though, it might not seem like it at the time, it’s amazing how quickly these details can fade from memory. Also, make sure to tell your child about the importance of frequently writing down his or her testimony and sharing challenging experiences and what he or she was able to learn from them.
Ask questions. In your weekly emails, ask your missionary specific questions to ensure you and other family and friends are able to better understand the highlights of what your missionary is experiencing. Your missionary may also want to devote a letter each time he or she goes into a new area to describe what the city, environment, and climate is like. Another letter could lay out the details of a typical day. Another could spend time explaining the culture of the state or country of the mission. One day, your missionary will be so grateful for these details that will make his or her missionary experience come to life each time these letters are read.
Collect photos. In addition to filing away every email, also make sure to include the photos your child sends you. As many missionaries now have access to tablets and smartphones, pictures are easily taken at any moment, but less often are they looked at or displayed where they can be remembered. Encourage your missionary to send you many photos and you will be able to use them to enhance the stories told in your child’s written letters. Make sure to file them by date and, if possible, make a record of where they were taken and who is in the photo. Do your best to attach them to the applicable letter sent from your child, and one day future generations will have a visual story of their ancestor’s mission available for them to learn from and cherish.
Print a journal. At the end of your child’s mission, you will be so grateful to have your missionary safe at home, but it’s likely your child will be missing the places, people, and spirit of his or her mission. It’s at this point in his or her life that a gift of a physical journal, filled with letters home, snapshots of places and friends left behind, and even notes and thoughts from mom will be more valued than almost anything else.
Don’t let the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a mission pass your family by. It will make a dramatic difference not only in your child’s life but in yours. Through a journal, you can preserve these memories to make sure these positive changes will make an impact for the rest of your missionary’s life and inspire countless future generations as well.
We recently launched MissionJRNL, a digital journal platform that makes it easy to create and print a journal for your missionary. You can turn emails and photos into a journal that can be accessed online or on your phone or tablet. Every entry is securely backed up, searchable, and organized so you can view them all in one place. When you’re done, print archival-quality hardcover books as a gift for your missionary and to share with friends and family. Take comfort in knowing that you can always print another should anything happen to your original copy. Create your account at MissionJRNL.com.