“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Feb. 1997, 17
It seems that all missionaries love mail from home. Whether you’re a brother or sister, a friend, or someone who has dated the missionary, you can help by writing uplifting letters.
From a missionary’s point of view, Elder D. Merrill White from Sparks, Nevada, serving in the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission, wrote:
“Missionaries love to hear from home, especially from close friends. What makes it tough to concentrate is what is contained in the letters. Write about their mission. Share personal missionary experiences you are having at home. Write about insightful things you’ve learned in the scriptures. It’s all right to write about home; just don’t dwell on it. Nothing distracts an elder more than talking about the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Don’t reflect on past dates or discuss when he will come home. People change a lot in the mission field and at home. It’s best to be only friends. A key to being a positive support to a missionary is to cut out any type of romance in your correspondence. If you are focused on his mission, he will be too.”
Letters are a great place to talk seriously about the gospel. This will not only help the one who receives the letter; it will be of great value to the person writing the letter. Include copies of stories you have read or clippings from magazines. Write down thoughts or poems that you particularly like. Record interesting or funny things that have happened. And keep a duplicate of each letter you send. These letters can be a nice addition to your journal.
To add just a little bit of fun to your letters, look for some interesting things to use as stationery. For example, occasionally use the backs of flyers or bulletins from church activities.
Don’t forget photos. If the mail system will allow, send your missionary some photos of family get-togethers. Be sure to write a description of what is going on, who is in the photo, and anything memorable that was said.
Missionaries who really focus on their missions are the happiest. They look back at those years as a time of great service and growth. If you want to help in making his mission a wonderful time, keep your letters upbeat and light. This is also a time for you to pursue worthy goals in education, work, or missionary work.
Many missionaries choose to memorize all seven verses of Doctrine and Covenants 4 about missionary work as a field ready to harvest. In verse five it encourages those who labor to have an “eye single to the glory of God.” This focus on the work makes missions more satisfying. Letters that encourage and uplift missionaries, rather than add to the homesickness, can help a missionary lose himself in service.
My parents dated for two years before my dad left on his mission. My mother wrote to him regularly. She supported him by writing letters which could have been read out loud by the mission president in zone conferences. Dad was just pleased to hear from her.
Send him things to help him focus on why he is on a mission. Everyone gets homesick, and having a focused goal makes it easier.
Lara Gordon, 17
Sometimes missionaries need our support to give cheer. I enjoy writing thoughts and sharing my favorite scriptures. I do not expect him to respond to my letter because I know he is so busy with his work. I pray for him to have strong faith to help him on his mission.
Donabel N. Abanilla, 19
Bacolo City, Philippines
I have many friends on missions right now. I find that writing to them helps me more than it does them. It gives me a chance to bear my testimony and talk about uplifting things. Writing to a missionary should not be something difficult. Talk about what you know both of you will be comfortable with—the gospel.
Suzanna Galbraith, 19
Webb City, Missouri
My brother just left on a mission. He wrote to me of his experiences in the MTC and how sad it was to see some elders constantly homesick for their girlfriends. He said they couldn’t concentrate on what they were supposed to.
My advice to girlfriends is to limit the letter writing and then write uplifting things about the gospel and not a lot about old times or memories the two of them have had. Tell him you support him, but you want him to concentrate on his mission. He’ll understand and will become a better missionary because of it.
Elizabeth Brinkerhoff, 16
Salt Lake City, Utah
Keep in mind that he will grow a lot spiritually, so you should work on improving yourself. Keep your letters friendly and never write anything that you wouldn’t want his mission president to read. Remember that he’s not your missionary; he’s the Lord’s.
Debbie Mitchell, 18
Rapid City, South Dakota
My advice is to not go on and on about how much you miss him and can’t wait for him to come back. Write encouraging letters. You might even want to put in a few inspiring quotes or stories.
Melanie Burr, 12
A missionary learns an enormous amount while serving a mission. What a wonderful experience to be able to share that. Give words of encouragement. Share you favorite scriptures and positive experiences. Include humor in your letters.
Amber Cross, 20