Monday, July 30, 2012

How to write to full-time missionaries

Sending letters/packages to missionaries serving in the field is a common service activity. As a returned missionary myself, I can tell you that mail is a vital part of a missionary's life. What seems like a simple letter to us is a big deal to a missionary. It is their link to home, friends/family, and support. They may go weeks without anything in the mail, so when something finally comes (no matter who its from), they may read an re-read the same letter many times.

When I was a missionary, I received mail from relatives and friends, and occasionally from ward members. But I would have loved more -much more- mail. Once I received an envelope of letters from a family in my home ward who had obviously written letters to both me and their grandma for a family home evening activity. I only know this because I received the envelope with letters meant for grandma (thanking her for the birthday presents, etc), and I imagine that their grandma received an envelope with letters meant to encourage a missionary. :) The point is, any mail is better than no mail.

Me, serving a mission in Minnesota (1997)
While any mail is welcome, you do want to consider what you say in your letter, especially since it is so important to the missionary. An innocent question about the number of baptisms they've had might be painful to a missionary who is struggling to even find someone to teach. A letter with hints of romantic intentions might be really distracting to a missionary who is trying to focus on their work.
Our good friend, Elder Heiden, currently serving in Brazil

There is an excellent post on a blog called "Young Women Who Know," which has a chart that shows what you should/should not write/send to a missionary. I've copied this over from the "Young Women Who Know" blog:  

"Are you writing to a missionary?  Do you wonder what to say or write about?
Here are some ideas.  The most important thing to remember is to keep your letters light and  positive.  Your missionary needs encouraging, uplifting, even spiritual letters that make him or her better after having read them. 

Things to ask about
  • The work
  • Their schedule
  • The culture
  • Their experiences
  • Who are the teaching?
  • When they tell you about an investigator, follow up and ask about them
Things to share
  • Insights you’ve gained in the scriptures, seminary or Church lessons
  • Testimony building experiences you’ve had
  • News about mutual friends who are also serving missions
Things to avoid
  • Asking how many baptisms they have had
  • Don’t complain or criticize them if they haven’t written back to you
  • Mentioning problems that arise at home. There are some problems they should know about, but many that would only distract or worry them unnecessarily
Good Things in small packages
  • Missionaries love receiving thoughtful packages but make sure to honor the guidelines of their mission
  • Remember to keep your gifts simple. Include an extra item for their companion
  • Check before sending off a box to a missionary abroad-due to custom fees
Messages from Family and Friends
  • Tell them the important things that are happening in your life with school, family, and the gospel.
  • Encouraging, friendly, non-romantic letters
  • You can help them focus on the work of the Lord with uplifting letters and reassurance that they are where they need to be.

  • Avoid gossip stories or what party you went to last week
  • Do not write “I love you” “I miss you” “I can’t wait to see you again..this is very distracting.
  • Avoid romantic allusions

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