Picture this: You are sitting in Sacrament Meeting and you notice that your friend or neighbor has returned early from their mission… Immediately you jump to conclusions and start wondering what happened to them & why they came home early! You think of several possibilities and don’t know what to say to them, whether or not you should approach them, and so you sit awkwardly and ignore their presence. Haha! Truth is-I am very guilty of all of the above practices! It is hard to know what to say or do when a missionary returns home early. It can be awkward for both you & for them!
Having returned early from my mission myself, I want to address a few of my own challenges and concerns that I have faced. I also want to help you know how to react and what you can do to help out your friends who may have returned home early! That way you can avoid all that awkwardness, right? 😉 Here is what I wish people would realize about missionaries who come home early:
- Coming home early is a NOT an easy decision. In fact, it was probably one of the HARDEST decisions I’ve ever had to make. It is something that I fasted and prayed about for weeks-maybe even months on my mission! I fought hard to stay out on my mission. I didn’t want to be seen a quitter-or to be seen as someone who wasn’t strong enough to make it. However, my health was in jeopardy. For me, it took the kind nudge of a church member who was genuinely worried about my well-being to help me realize that going home was an honorable option too! After talking with that member, I felt so much peace come over me. I had resisted the decision to come home for so long, and as soon as I let go of what I wanted-I FELT LIKE A BURDEN had been lifted off of my shoulders. That is how I knew that I had made the right decision. That is the feeling that happens when we align our will with the Lord’s-no matter how hard it can be, it’s worth it!
- No matter how long a person serves, a mission is successful in the eyes of the Lord! God loves all of his children! Ultimately, he is proud of anyone who dedicates time to the Lord and to building up his Kingdom. If you have returned home early, I’m sure you had a similar experience as me where you felt the peace of the spirit comfort you in your decision. The adversary will do ALL he can to make you doubt your decision. He will try to make you feel like a failure. I know-I’ve felt it. It has been so important for me to reflect upon the spiritual witness that I received when I made that decision to first come home. If you have returned early from your mission yourself: Please never doubt your decision to serve in the first place, or your decision come home!!!! There will be days when you doubt your decision or feel like you weren’t successful. & that is normal! That is okay! But it’s important to reflect upon the positive experiences you had and to reflect upon that original witness you received from the spirit. Because GOD IS proud of you! Any missionary who serves with all of their heart, mind, might, & strength is a successful missionary!
- Missionaries who come home are BRAVE! They have gained all of my respect, that’s for sure. It takes a lot of courage to go against the church “norm” and return early. I have noticed that there can be such a negative stigma associated with missionaries who come home early. & it can be a challenging for missionaries who do come home. It is important to realize that everyone’s situation is so different! There is absolutely no room for judgement! The most important thing we can do is to love the missionaries who serve-no matter where, or how long they served! Personally, I love whenever people come up to me and ask me how I’m doing, or how my mission was. Sometimes it can be hard for me to talk about it, but I’ve found that by being honest and open about my feelings, it often lifts me up higher and has helped me through some of my hard times.
So what can YOU do to help those missionaries who return home early?
I think the most important thing is to LOVE them no matter what! Treat them exactly like a missionary who served for a whole 18-24 months! Really it should be no different. Of course, it’s going to be natural to have judgements and to not know how to act. But you don’t know anything about their mission experience. Most people would never have guessed I was super sick and miserable for most of my mission haha! You just never know! 🙂