When a Missionary Returns Early

Missionary Homecoming
Image via lets-get-together.com

Aaron Olsen shares his personal experience with returning early from his mission and tips as to how to help those missionaries feel love and make a smooth transition into being home. The original article was posted by LDSLiving.com

It is the mark of a job well done, of two years of sacrifice devoted to God and others. Homecoming for a returned missionary should be a time for family gathering, congratulations, and reflection. For me, it was quite different—depression and bipolar disorder sent me home before my 10th month was up.

That doesn’t stop others from treating me like I am somehow less than I should be. For thousands of missionaries who come home early—whether due to rule infractions, health issues, or emotional struggles—much of the trauma lies in the treatment given by well-intentioned friends and neighbors.

Conclusion and Consequence

After returning from 10 months of service, I received several letters and comments from friends and acquaintances urging me to “not give up” and “go back.” While generally understanding, the expectations set by others crushed my spirit. I wanted to go back. I loved my mission. I hoped and prayed that, above all else, I could get better and return to the field. And yet I knew that I would not return. I knew I was in over my head. The good-natured but misguided pressure to “just cheer up” hurt deeply.

I learned quickly to keep my mouth shut. At college the few people who bothered to pursue the subject of my age would not accept “20” as a legitimate answer. Some accused me of being dishonest. Those who didn’t would likely ask, “How can you be home from a mission? Did you even go? What did you do to get sent home?” The worst part? I was still trying to sort out those feelings myself.

I recognize that much of the hurt I felt was unintended, or a result of inexperience with this issue. So, in an effort to educate, here are some tips on how to approach an early release missionary—whatever the cause of release—from someone who has lived the disaster.

Read Olsen’s tips and experiences at LDSLiving.com

Kylie is a writer at LDS.net and graduate of BYU with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She grew up in a Chicago suburb where she gained a passion for the Chicago Cubs. She enjoys writing and live event video production.