How to Come Home: Tips for Returning Missionaries

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Does the question, “How are you adjusting?” drive you crazy? Does the place where you served your mission feel a whole lot more like home than returning home? If you are having these feelings as a returned missionary, just know that you are not alone.

I was sent a letter from a close friend a few weeks before I returned home that changed the way I looked at leaving a mission. Some of the following suggestions will begin with excerpts from the letter from my insightful friend. These 13 suggestions are intended to make your  transition easier.

1. Don’t Forget, but Move Forward

Returning missionary choosing which escalator to go up.
Making the most of your mission does not require leaving your mind in your mission.

Letter Excerpt :

“You have felt the pain of an ending to a mission you loved so dearly. As you know, there is a timing and order to all things. There is a reason missions are fixed in length; they are to be springboards, not resting stops. You came on a mission to leave a mission. You came on a mission to serve the Lord, to become specially trained and return to the world.”

Know that people will not fully understand what you have experienced, because they did not walk with you every step of the way. Nevertheless your charge is not to try and explain but is instead to remember.

Heed the Savior’s admonition to rememberRemember what you learned, remember what you witnessed and gained. Use these lessons to move forward. Be content with the new opportunities for growth Heavenly Father has now given you as a returned missionary. The years after your mission should be just as fulfilling as those you spent on a mission, just different.

2. Give Yourself Time to Adjust

Man's Wristwatch
Transitioning home from a mission takes time, give it to yourself.

Adjusting to life at home does not mean that you revert to how you were before you served. Absolutely not! Hold tight to the ground you gained as a missionary.

  • Each returned missionary gets used to being home at a different rate, so be patient with yourself.
  • Allow yourself to feel the emotions you feel, and do not be too hard on yourself if you feel a little out of place for a while.
  • Know that the Lord is mindful of your situation as your life transitions.

3. Choose to Be Happy Where You Are

Sad man in a suit walking on sidewalk
Focus on a positive attitude when you return home, rather than on what you lost.

Letter Excerpt:

“You join those of us who do not wear a black name badge with the Savior’s name. A badge is not required to be counted as His.”

Happiness is a choice. Just as you had to choose to be happy as a full-time missionary, you must continue to choose happiness as a member missionary. Keeping a grateful list of things enhances your ability to see the good in your life. Coming home may be difficult, but know that gratitude can help you account for all the blessings being given to you.

President Thomas S. Monson said, “When we encounter challenges and problems in our lives, it is often difficult for us to focus on our blessings. However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given.”

4. Put Your Heart into Something You are Passionate About

Man playing the banjo against a wood wall
No matter what your passion is, return to it after you return home.

Letter Excerpt:

“You have a calling, a calling that doesn’t require a setting apart, a calling for which you are never to be released. That calling is simple, that calling is that of a child of God, nothing more, nothing less. With this calling, you accept the charge to be like the Savior, who like you is a Child of God, your Brother.”

Have you prayed and asked God what He expects from you now that you have returned home? If you have not, do not delay and ask your Father in Heaven about His expectations. After receiving direction, determine what you feel most passionate about, and put your heart and soul into achieving your dreams.

Use your abilities to bless those around you. You are just getting started! Utilize your passion and drive to be a catalyst for change.

5. Fill Your Head with Good Thoughts

Returned sister missionary contemplating her life’s path.
Find the good and dispel any negative thoughts.

Often missionaries returning home fall into the trap of feeling like nothing could ever be as important as the work they engaged in as missionaries. To be frank, that is correct; no job is greater than being engaged in the Lord’s army, but you are still a part. Reflect on all the life lessons you have learned and apply them to being home.

Don’t let negative thoughts hold you back from thinking positively about the future and having hope that you can have missionary opportunities. A very powerful line from the song ‘Amazing Grace’ says, “The Lord has promised good to me.” You must draw hope from the reality that the Lord has promised good to you as His child.

Fill your mind with positive thoughts, stop negative thoughts in their tracks, and be assured that the best is yet to come.

6. Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Family Members and Friends

Returned missionary spending the day with her family.
Reacquaint yourself with your siblings, parents, and friends.

Letter Excerpt:

“You will show others the healing power of Christ’s atonement because you show the wounds that He has healed for you. You are living proof that the Savior lives and His atonement can heal them because He healed you.”

Jumping back into old relationships can be a difficult task for most missionaries, and most feel that they aren’t the same person as when they departed. Know that these feelings are natural and normal. Don’t expect every relationship with family and friends to be exactly the same, but seek to cultivate relationships and rediscover the people you love.

1 John 4:7-8 says,”Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God…God is Love”

The greatest gift God has given us is the people God has given us to love. Take what you learned about loving people and apply it to the relationships you have with family members and friends.

7. Keep in Contact with Those You Met on Your Mission

Returned sister missionary emailing friends from her mission.
Add those you met on your mission as Facebook friends, or send them a text.

Keeping in contact with members, companions, your mission president(s), and converts will bless your life and help you feel the Spirit. As you keep contact with these individuals throughout your life, you will be amazed at how much they bless your life and future family.

As the white handbook says,

You share responsibility for strengthening your converts in the Church. You may not be able to continue to visit them, but…an occasional note will reassure and comfort them and rekindle the joy they felt at the time of their conversion…When you go home, do not forget those you have taught. At all times live worthy of their trust. Write them occasionally and encourage them to be faithful.

8. Attend the Temple

Returned missionary going to the temple friends.
The temple is an opportunity to refocus on your spiritual life.

Make the temple part of your habits of worship. Doing this shows the Lord that you still are practicing the pattern of being obedient, as you heed prophetic direction to go to the temple often. The temple will arm you with strength and power to continue your earthly mission.

President Benson gave the following promise when He said: “I promise you that, with increased attendance in the temples of our God, you shall receive increased personal revelation to bless your lives as you bless those who have died.” (Ensign, May 1987, p. 85).

9. Read Your Patriarchal Blessing for Council and Comfort

Patriarchal Blessing
As you look for new paths, your patriarchal blessing can be a source of great inspiration.

As a missionary, you learned to love letters. Your patriarchal blessing can be like a personal letter from your loving Heavenly Father. Before reading your blessing, take out a sticky note and write down a specific question that you may have. Next, read the patriarchal blessing with that question in mind, and seek for answers. Answers will flow to you if you read the blessing humbly.

LDS.org says that “Those who have received a patriarchal blessing should treasure its words, ponder them, and live to be worthy to receive the promised blessings.”

10. Have Meaningful Sunday Worship

A woman attends sacrament meeting
Your ward can be a place to make friends, serve, and continue to draw closer to Jesus Christ.

Here are three suggestions for making your Sundays spiritually rejuvenating and beneficial:

  1. Even though you will not be looking for investigators coming through the door, keep your eye open for missionary opportunities to fellowship those who need a friend.
  2. Think of the reverence you would have if it were the Savior offering you the sacrament tray. Remember the sacred nature of the ordinance and use the sacrament as a time of revelation and reflection.
  3.  Although you will not be a full-time servant of the Lord, use the sabbath to serve others.

11. Continue to Set Goals and Make Plans

Black and White photograph of a notebook, phone, and pen on a table
Remember to plan as a returned missionary

Letter Excerpt:

“Remember the training you received at the hands of the Lord.”

Continue the good habits  you developed as a missionary, such as  planning, exercise and conversing with people. Outline specific standards that you feel you need to uphold. Seek the Lord’s guidance, as you set standards and goals for all aspects of life (dating, education, entertainment, employment, etc.)

Although you may not have two hours to study like you did in the mission field, set aside time for meaningful study. Make sure to use a study journal and utilize the study habits you developed as a missionary. Continue to progress. Your mission should not be the pinnacle of your conversion. Each day add to the knowledge you have already gained.

12. Don’t Get Hooked on Social Media and Video Games

Man's face disappears behind his iPad
If you’re not careful you can disappear into technology and other bad habits.

As a missionary, you were accustomed to planning every hour of every day. Therefore, many people struggle with filling their time as well as they did as missionaries with meaningful activities.  Choose uplifting and worthwhile activities.

Let the Spirit be your guide in how you use your time. Practice moderation when it comes to using social media and playing video games. Instead of spending countless hours aimlessly, decide to develop new talents and cultivate useful skills.

13. Decide to Live the “I’ll Never Be the Same” Principle

picture of the interior of an airplane
Welcome Home! God has so mu inch good in store as you continue teaching others of Him.

Letter Excerpt:

“You join the ranks of those of us who now fight to awake early and study our scriptures. Who voluntarily read from Preach My Gospel. Those who desire guidance on how we can be better missionaries in the world we live in.”

Reflect upon the question “What does/ did my mission mean to me?” Decide to adopt the mantra,”I’ll never be the same….” Allow the changes you have made, the people you have taught, and the grace you have felt be motivation to continue your journey as a stalwart servant of Heavenly Father.

Returning Home from a Mission MemeNow is your time to decide how the rest of your life will be. Take these suggestions and move forward joyfully. Be grateful for your mission and have hope for the future. Shake off any tendencies toward complacency, and choose to act. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Take with you all you have learned as a missionary and accept that God is giving you yet another gift that you do not now understand.The best is yet to come!

And lastly….

Welcome home.

What helpful suggestions do you have for other returning missionaries as they are transitioning? Comment below with your advice for returned missionaries. 

 

Danielle is a writer for LDS.net and is a self-proclaimed lover of words. She is a returned missionary from the Washington Tacoma Mission. If laughing were an olympic sport she would be in the running for gold. For the record, the world should know that she is the favorite aunt of her 17 nieces and nephews. She also enjoys sharing the gospel, composing poetry and proudly claims that she is a Utah State University Aggie.