Yesterday was Mother's Day and, on that day, my son made his final call home from the mission field. He will be home in two months. I can't believe how fast the time has gone.
During our conversation I asked my son if he had any dinner appointments for Mother's Day. He said no.
He was transferred into this area only recently and he said they have a large ward and an empty dinner calendar all the time. No one feeds the missionaries in the ward. In his last area, the missionaries were often double-booked for dinners. Here they will go all week without a single invite from the members for anything...dinners, appointments. This ward just does not have a connection with their missionaries.
Well, I reacted as any mother would. I asked for the Relief Society President's name and number and said I would call and get things taken care of!! We laughed together and then he said no dinner appointment just meant he could visit with me longer.
Despite his laughter, my son is struggling to adjust to his last area. He loved the area he had been serving in and the work there kept four missionaries busy all the time. Now he is trying to stay focused on finishing strong in a ward where missionary work is being neglected by the members. Sadly, there are many wards like that across the church. Is your ward one of them?
Whenever missionaries have been in our area, I have regularly invited them for dinner...not because we could afford it easily but because I am a mother. I feel it is my duty to take care of these young missionaries in the same way I would want my sons cared for on their missions. Apparently other mothers do not feel the same way.
As a result of yesterday's phone call, here is part of an e-mail I sent to my son this morning:
As you mentioned your area, I had a couple of impressions come to me and maybe you've already had them. When you are younger in life, it is easy to think that decisions are made to "punish" you. I remember elders thinking they were being sent to certain areas or certain zones or linked up with certain companions because they were being punished by the mission president and that the mission president didn't like them. At times it was easy to think maybe the elders were right.
However, as I've gotten older I realize that adults do not make decisions based on what would be worst for someone. It is just the opposite. Adults look at a situation and they think...what would be the BEST decision here. I am sure the mission president looked at the area and he, too, thought, what would be the BEST decision here. Who would be the best missionary to send there? What does that area need to help the members start to click with the missionaries and get the work started? He sent you there because you were the BEST choice.
As for the empty dinner calendars...there is only one reason ward members do not invite missionaries to dinner...the missionaries. If your ward has not been inviting previous missionaries to dinner you will need to continue to work on earning their trust and friendship. It can take several months for a ward to change their attitude toward the missionaries if they've had some bad experiences in the past.
Most of the priesthood (those who have served missions at least) understand that all missionaries are imperfect. They tend to accept new missionaries faster than the women, so work with the brethren. Get involved in Young Men's and with the elders, etc.
Unfortunately, most women in the church have NOT served missions and they tend to expect the missionaries to walk on water all the time. When they notice a missionary is really just a young man who still gets mud on his shoes and splashes water on occasion, they can get very upset and turn away from the missionaries...kind of like what happened with your companion and the blessing situation before you arrived; or even with you and the mission leader's wife earlier in your mission.
Yes, as Paul advised young Timothy...who was suffering similar problems..."Let no man despise thy youth but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity...Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by the laying on of the hands...Meditate upon these things and give thyself wholly to them." (1 Tim 4:12-14)
"Them" could mean your talents and the Lord, but it could also mean the people in your area. Give yourself wholly to them for these last two months. Use your gifts and special talents to bless them and the work. The mission president did not send you there to punish you or forget about you for the last two months of your mission. He sent you there to change hearts and attitudes toward the missionary work, starting first with the members of that ward. He sent you there because he looked over his mission and knew that this decision was BEST. They need YOU whether they recognize that or not.
So, MEMBERS--I'm talking to you now--as you work with missionaries in your area remember they were sent to your area because they were the BEST for you. Remember, too, most of those missionaries are still in their teens. All have sacrificed tremendously to be in your area. They are supposed to learn and grow and be guided and helped by members on their missions. They aren't supposed to be perfect anymore than you are.
Still don't think the missionaries are 'worth' your effort? Notice the other teenagers around you and what they are doing right out of high school. Now look at those missionaries serving in your area. They don't even compare.
So, even if an elder shows up a bit muddy, a bit wet, or even very green...
...if you don't like his hairstyle, his tie, his gospel knowledge, or his personality...
...always remember he has made a choice and a sacrifice to serve God. He gave up something to be there. You can give up something to help him.
Remember, also, that God's ordained leaders--from apostles to mission presidents--have been guided by the Lord to send him to your area, your ward, your doorstep. Do not close the door on him. Do not reject the Lord in that way.
And always treat him as you would want some other mother treating your missionary son.