First of two articles
The initial surprise and excitement of a mission call should quickly give way to extensive preparations, all of which will make a tremendous difference during the first few weeks and months of the actual mission field experience. Remember to always counsel with parents when making personal mission preparations and then consider doing the following items.
Missionary (often with the aid of one or both parents):
The Missionary Packet
Review the Missionary Packet very carefully. A lot will not seem important or relevant the first time through, so plan to read it again in about a week and then again in another month. The questions you will have as you prepare for a mission are usually answered in the packet. Rereading alleviates stress, helps reorient your activities and aids in making to-do lists as you continue mission preparations.
Patriarchal Blessing and temple endowment
Upon receiving your call, also schedule a temple recommend interview with your bishop or branch president. Also, talk to your bishop about receiving a patriarchal blessing if one has not yet been received.
If there is one, find your mission’s website. Review it thoroughly, especially to find returned missionaries who may be living near you or are available by email. Asking questions and receiving answers from previous missionaries is invaluable as you prepare. Although you must balance their responses with the directions you receive in your Missionary Packet and from your mission president, they can clarify your anticipated experiences and make preparations easier.
Foreign language preparations
If a call includes speaking a foreign language, listen to enough of the new language — via conversations with returned missionaries or the Internet — to be able to recognize it. Then continue to familiarize yourself with the jargon and the sounds of words, phrases and sentences.
Mission preparation supplies
As a missionary begins to officially prepare, there are several additional items that can be useful to immediately gather or purchase and other lists to make.
• Clipboard: An 8.5-inch-by-11-inch clipboard for written lists will be useful as ideas come to you. Part of mission preparations will include making some difficult and sometimes tedious decisions. A clipboard and several lists will facilitate deciding what to do with this and that, where to put this and that, and how to wrap up this and that in your life
• Storage boxes, marking pen and packing tape: Sturdy boxes from a nearby copy center or office supply store will be necessary as a prospective missionary begins to sort, pack and separate items he or she plans to share with others. Also find or purchase packing materials to use as needed. Label the packed boxes and tape them up securely.
• “Items to Take” list: Begin with a preliminary written list titled “Items to Take.” Choose one place, preferably a sturdy box, to gather items you want to take so that when found or purchased during the next few weeks, they will have a safe home as you prepare.
• “Items to Discard” list: Begin a second written list titled “Items to Discard” as you will most likely need to go through personal items. Also label a box or container “Items to Discard” so you will have a place to put these items when you begin sorting.
• “Items to Pack and Store” list: Begin a third list “Items to Pack and Store” for those items going into storage before you leave. Make special note of those items that are particularly important to you that will need careful handling and packing to endure two years of storage. Then begin putting items in the storage boxes you have gathered or purchased. Pack carefully and tightly, adding packing material as needed. When a box is full, taped and labeled three times, set it aside.
• “Items to Share” list: Make a fourth written list titled “Items to Share” with your siblings, friends or extended family. Usually these are useable items you have outgrown, out-loved or just don’t need any more. As before, label a box or container for keeping these items as you gather them, and begin to share them with friends and family. Do not keep much of anything you have outgrown, no longer love or will not use again.
• “Projects to Finish and Put Away” list: Make a fifth list of “Projects to Finish and Put Away” for notes about ongoing projects that will need to paused while on a mission, like a book. Two years or even 18 months is a long time to leave anything dangling or without attention. Because forgetting is so easy with an 18-month to two-year absence, make written notes to yourself about what you decide, how you left things and how to being again.
If attending a vocational school or university on scholarship, it will likely be necessary to defer and scholarships. This takes some phone calls, an email or sometimes a visit to the scholarship office to fill out the necessary paperwork. Also prepare written instructions for parents on how to activate the scholarship, so it will be available upon your return.
It is also possible a missionary will have a relationship that might need to be put on hold. Make sure you are adequately verbal about your feelings and intentions so no misunderstandings linger after your departure. Even then, know that sometimes “Dear John” or “Dear Jane” letters might be received while serving.
• “Financial and Other Arrangements to Make” list: Make a sixth list “Financial and Other Arrangements to Make.” This includes appointing someone to be your “power of attorney” during your absence and getting the necessary paperwork completed and notarized. This person can act on your behalf and make financial arrangements, register you for school and otherwise handle your affairs while you are away.
Another way to address this need is to ask the appropriate institutions what your parents will need to act on your behalf. With schools, this often means a particular kind of letter of consent; with banks it may mean adding a parent’s name to accounts.
Because of new medical privacy laws, it may be necessary to sign releases for parents or another trusted individual to have access to your medical records, especially for a foreign mission assignment. This paperwork is usually included in the Missionary Packet.
Of course, all outstanding debts need to be resolved before leaving.
• “Usernames and Passwords” list: Someone trustworthy will need to know usernames, passwords and sometimes email addresses. Often this person will be a father or mother, but wisely choose someone who can be trusted. Prepare a “Usernames and Passwords” list so this written information can be kept safe. Include instructions on how and when you desire this information to be used.
Some higher education facilities require a username and password to access grades, register for classes and pay tuition online.
For online banking and bill paying, the appropriate usernames and passwords will also be helpful to anyone taking care of a missionary's finances at home.
A missionary may want to have someone check an email account. They will need access to the account, including an email address and password.
“And they fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God” (Alma 17:9).
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In addition to the physical preparations, fasting and prayer are essential so that mission preparations happen with the help and blessings of the Lord. Seek for guidance, ask for help in prayer, fast for direction and inspiration. This can be done again and again as you face difficult questions, consider complex situations and make important decisions during mission preparations. Always, always look to the Lord first for help!
Free mission preparation forms can be downloaded from www.houseoforder.com.
Marie Ricks is an experienced professional organizer.