Latter-day Saint Life

The change that came to 1 young couple’s home by feeding the missionaries weekly

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My husband and I moved to Deltona, Florida, in the middle of summer back in 2020. We started attending the local ward, and shortly after my husband was called as the ward mission leader.

The Sunday after he was set apart, my husband ran up to me and excitedly announced that he had volunteered us to feed the four missionaries in our ward every Monday night. I believe my jaw actually dropped as he told me his plan. I wanted to be supportive but didn’t see how we would afford to feed four extra mouths.

At the time, my husband was attending pilot school full time, and I was bringing home the bacon—but not the Costco-size pack of bacon. My salary was just enough to cover our bills and all of our necessities with very little wiggle room to set money aside for savings or anything else.

I knew how to budget food for the two of us, but now I needed to figure out how to feed four extra mouths once a week with no extra money or time. I felt as though a heavy weight had been placed on my shoulders. And to be frank, my husband’s enthusiasm for his new calling was downright annoying. How would I make this work?

Negative thoughts moved into my mind and began unpacking their suitcases, and I found myself constantly thinking things like:

Why do we have to feed them? 

I didn’t sign up for this.

I don’t have enough to feed more people.

We are just barely getting by on our own!

The first Monday the missionaries were scheduled to come, I felt like I was trudging through mud, completely unenthused about making a meal for six people. And I didn’t want to think about the cleanup that would take place afterwards when I was already so tired after a long day of work.

All six of us awkwardly crammed into our small dining room with a table just big enough for everyone to have a seat. I can’t recall what I cooked that evening, or how long the cleanup took afterwards—I just remember the sense of warmth (and not from the Florida heat) that took over my heart and spirit.

We laughed and joked and talked about our families and our testimonies. So many stories were shared throughout the night that gave us deeper insight into the lives of those missionaries. They were all far from home, missing their families, learning about themselves, and trying to navigate missionary life as best they could. Our little home was filled.

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The Gardners take a selfie with a group of missionaries in their home.
Courtesy of Mattie Gardner

And then I blinked, and all of a sudden six months had gone by. And then a year. My husband was released as the ward mission leader, yet Monday night dinners with the missionaries never ceased. I started referring to Mondays as “Missionary Mondays.”

It was incredibly special to meet elders and sisters who were reassigned to Florida because of COVID, or those awaiting the day they would go off to the missions they were originally called to. We said farewells to missionaries heading to France, Mexico, England, and Brazil. We saw brand-new missionaries who were shy and unsure gain courage and confidence. I was changed for the better through each set of missionaries that came into our home as I got to know them individually.

My husband and I did our best to make our dining room table a place where we could all share openly and without judgment. My heart softened each Monday night as I learned of their struggles and listened to them speak not only about the difficulties they faced being missionaries, but also their interests and hobbies and dreams for their lives. While my days were filled with work stressors and life stressors, on Monday nights I could forget all about myself and my struggles and spend time focused on others.

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I looked back and realized that we always had enough and sometimes more than enough: enough food, enough love, enough space, enough time. The Spirit was abundantly present in our home on Monday nights because of the messages shared and the discussions that followed. My husband and I had no family or friends in Florida, so the missionaries quickly became our family, and we took care of them as if they were our own. I’m 28 and my husband is 27, so they felt like our adopted teenage children.

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Missionaries helping with dishes after dinner.
Courtesy of Mattie Gardner

What I thought would be a terrible burden turned into a beautiful blessing and an even greater lesson. I am reminded of Christ’s teachings in Matthew chapter 6 when he says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. ... Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28, 30).

I believe that Heavenly Father is a God of abundance and blesses us and adds to our lives as we take care of our fellow brothers and sisters. I believe that we get out what we put into the world, and that includes what we do for others. We all made the choice to come here to Earth, and it is our incredible and joyful responsibility to look after and care for each other. So the next time you see someone in need and you think you can’t possibly make a difference because you don’t have enough—enough time, enough love, enough money, or enough patience, I hope you will remember that what you have is always enough. And just like the loaves and the fishes, Heavenly Father will multiply what you have over and over again, and you will slowly realize you have always lived in abundance.

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? ... for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:3133).

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