Sunday, July 26, 2015

14 Ways Technology Blesses Missionary Moms

This week my dear friend sent her oldest son to the MTC. 

Oh, the mother heartache! I totally understand. My stake president coined the term just right. It is "torturous joy." You wouldn't want your son wasting away playing video games in the basement; you want him moving forward in life, serving the Lord, bringing souls to Christ, growing into an amazing man!  But still... it HURTS. 

Any time a friend has a child getting ready to serve I like to pull them aside and tell them two things: First, being a missionary mom is more special and sacred than I ever expected; I think I just thought it would be hard. Second, I am astounded at how technology has increased the blessings of being a missionary mom. 

Our MTC day for our oldest son at the end of October, 2014. Elder Adam Edwards is now serving in the Paris, France mission. 

Here are 14 ways technology blesses my life as a missionary mom. 

Note: I got permission from the missionary moms whose stories I share in this post.

1. Weekly emails mean speedy turnover. 

My sister's letters took six weeks each way from Bolivia. Back then if your missionary felt discouraged, it could be three months before he or she could receive some tailor made encouragement from Mom. Now with email I can write a letter on Sunday night and receive one back on Monday morning. It's awesome. P-day Monday is a delicious day indeed. 

2. Digital voice recordings are sweet!  

I love hearing my son's voice soon after he records it. Adam played a Christmas piano song for me. He and his companion sent us a happy new year song, along with an update of how their new year was going. My husband and I sometimes send our letters as an audio recording, which is faster than typing. I don't know if every mission allows digital recorders, but they are a blessing for missionary moms! They also make it easy for missionaries to record journals while they walk or ride. 

3. Blogs are great. 

I love posting Adam's letters and pictures on his blog, which makes it easy to reminisce all I want in one place. Same thing for grandparents or anyone else. I often post his weekly letter on Facebook to invite relatives and friends to take a look at his latest news. 

My son Adam on the left had just arrived in Paris, France and was assigned this Elder for his first companion. I loved seeing this photo on our mission Facebook group. 

Also, before your son or daughter leaves, it can be such a gift to read a few blogs of missionaries in his or her own mission. This meant a lot to me and my son. When my son got called to Paris, France, my instant reaction was to be thrilled, as my husband and I had both been there, and because Adam wanted to serve in a place where he could share his gift of playing the organ in beautiful old cathedrals. Then people started telling me about the pornography in Paris, how some missionaries never get a baptism, and how people can be cold and unwelcoming. My excitement started melting into discouragement and sadness. Then my friend connected us with her niece's Paris mission blog. Her posts were upbeat and showed true joy in serving in that mission. We eventually found a few more, and it became one of Adam's favorite ways to spend a few spare minutes in the months before he left. Each time he read a blog he would say, "Mom, you gotta hear this!" He would read an enthusiastic blog post from a missionary he had never met, but every time, he got more and more excited for his own mission. This was a HUGE blessing. 

4. Many moms email their missionary's weekly email to a list of people who ask to be on the email list. 

Some missionaries are allowed to receive emails from friends and relatives, and others just from immediate family. Either way, spreading your son or daughter's weekly letters is a cinch with email. 

5.  I love making friends with Adam's companions' moms! 

Thanks to Facebook, I have become friends with some of the moms of Adam's companions and roommates. I love this! We have been able to share pictures, support, and friendship. I now have new friends in Sweden (thanks to Google Translate), California, Salt Lake City, and Georgia. 

6. Facebook mission group and mission family group. 

I don't know if all missions have these, but I love that ours does. The mission president's wife (or office staff) posts pictures to the mission Facebook group. They posted a video of our "greenies" walking off the plane in Paris, as well as pictures at the airport, the mission home, and of their first companionships with their trianers. For a brand new missionary mom, these tangible signs of my son safely arriving in the mission field were priceless. They also post pictures and videos of conferences and other activities. 

The mission family group is where family members can post. This is where we see pictures of each transfer, where moms invite each other to tag their sons and daughters. It's where moms often first find each other after their children become companions. Here we got help with our shopping and packing questions before Adam left, and questions about shipping care packages since then. 

At transfer time, our missionaries hold up a number representing how many transfers they have been in the mission field. My son Adam is on the right. In this picture he had been out three transfers. The Elders holding up numbers 31 are holding their numbers backwards. There aren't that many 6-week transfers in a two-year mission.

7. Missionary Momma's Facebook group. 

This is a large group of missionary moms from around the world. The feeling of sisterhood is tangible as we share stories, questions, compassion, and encouragement. Some of the moms were like little kids last Christmas, as they could hardly wait for their Christmas Skype or call with their missionary. Then the posts right after Christmas included some stories that made me weep!

Here is a precious video a missionary mom, Lisa Lee Helton, made to celebrate her son's one year mark on his mission. If you're a missionary mom, go get Kleenex before clicking play.

8. Christmas and Mother's Day Skype or Call. 

Being able to see our son's face on Christmas and Mother's Day melted my heart! I LOVED sitting in front of a screen talking face to face from across the world. It was priceless.

9. Google Earth lets a mom see her missionary's area.

I'm a visual person, and I like being able to picture the area and building my son lives in as I pray for him. Okay, call me a stalker; I don't care. I love my boy. An older couple in our ward are like adopted grandparents to our son. They helped Adam fall in love with playing the organ, so each time he gets transferred, they check out the new area to see if there are any old cathedrals with organs nearby. Isn't technology great?

10. We share great ideas! 

I've seen lots of fun ideas for gifts, packages, ways to make letters into hardbound books, and such using the Facebook groups I mentioned. Here are a few ideas I wouldn't have learned without the gift of technology. 

One Elder sent his mom (my friend Ann Meeks) a Book of Mormon he had read and marked and included personal notes all the way through with his mom in mind. He included his testimony in the back. Wow, what a precious gift. Then he asked if she would annotate the same copy in a different color ink and send it back so he could learn from her insights!  How cool is that? 

I got this idea from my friend. I made a painted fabric tree, and invited family and friends to mail paper ornaments to Adam, so it would be fun to receive many envelopes.

How cool is this Christmas gift for a son barely home from his mission?  His mom said it was by far his favorite gift. 

A missionary mom posted this list of great question ideas for your Christmas or Mother's Day call or Skype. Very handy! 


This is a service that makes it easy to send paper letters or packages to your missionary.

12. Stories that make me weep. 

This picture makes me weep every time. Oh my goodness. 
"Our two missionaries getting to meet their new sisters that have come to our family thru the miracle of adoption! Sweetest moments ever!!!!" 

Here is Elder Blake Solomon serving in Carlsbad, California. 
And his brother Elder Andrew Solomon serving in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Here is another story that touched my heart. 

An Elder in my son's mission didn't get his twelve-days-of-Christmas package until December 23. On Christmas day, during his Skype call home, his mom asked how it was to get all the twelve day packages in one day.

Elder Cardon served in my son's mission. His story is below. 
"My son says to me, Well we took all the presents apart and combined the candies and the other things and put them in bags and took them to investigators, members and at doors we knocked on. He said I'm sorry and I hope your not upset with me for doing that, how could I be upset. I then moved on to the sweaters I sent him and I asked how he liked those? That's when he got a really funny look on his face and said well about the sweaters. They are against mission rules because they had a design or a little pattern on them, so there is a member family that doesn't have a lot so I gave them to their family, for their teenage sons. I could tell that he thought it was going to make me feel bad that he had basically gave all of his Christmas away, but there was no way I could be upset. As I watched him and saw the look on his face and as he tried to explain how he felt and all he could say was I feel so much joy and I know the difference between happy and joy, and I feel nothing but complete joy. I could feel the love that he has for the people that he has met and that in his almost two years of being there he has learned things that I could never teach him. That through our Heavenly Fathers love and through the atonement and sacrifice that Christ made for us, my son knows with all his heart what it means to truly serve others and to love unconditionally. What a great example to me of what Christmas really means and to keep things in perspective, I think this is the best Christmas we have ever had. I'm hoping that in our home we can keep that knowledge and remember the meaning of Christmas and that we should remember that the first gift ever given was the birth of our savior Jesus Christ and that we can find joy through him. I love all that I am learning from my son while he is serving a mission." 
Here is one more.

"Fun Story! My son is serving in the South Africa, Johannesburg Mission. They have had 4-month-long mail strike (that has now ended) so for Christmas it was easier to put money in his account. Grandma put $100 in his account, and he and his companion went and bought 20 soccer balls and passed them out to the kids in the township on Christmas Eve."

14. Sisterhood of support, encouragement, understanding, and giggles.

This note from a missionary expresses how much our support as moms means to those precious sons and daughters serving the Lord. 
"Hi Missionary Mommas!!! I am using my moms account to write this, sorry for intruding on the page but I just couldn't help it! I just returned home last week from the Oakland/San Fransisco Mission. I loved my mission with my heart and I love being home with MY missionary momma Valerie Barlow Harris. I just wanted to give a shout out to all you wonderful mommas who do so much to help the missionaries. I am so grateful for my momma and her constant love and support while I was on my mission, as well as those beautiful sisters who acted as my " mission moms" . You mommas do SO much good!!!! Keep loving your missionaries and know that your prayers are heard by our Heavenly Father and definitely felt by your dear missionaries! Sending so much love to all you cute mommas!!  Love, (Hermana) Echo Harris

Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite way to use technology as a missionary mom! 

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