Editor’s Note: As the members of Class 31 begin to leave for mission, we thought it would be helpful to write a post geared towards the missioners who are leaving, as well as the missioners who are already overseas. What can you do for your friends and family before and after you leave to make this transition a little easier for them?

A few days ago, we shared some ideas of what you can do if someone you know is going away on long-term mission. But what about the other side? What about the missioners themselves? If you’re the one going on mission, you may be wondering what you can do for your friends and family to bring a smile to their faces on those days when they’re really missing you.

The idea of giving cards and photos still applies from this side. Why not leave a stack of letters and some of your favorite photos for your loved ones? 

Jeff Sved, a current missioner in Bolivia, left a plant to his friends’ care before he left for mission. “Two close friends were living together after college and they took care of the plant, which they actually renamed ‘Jeff the plant,’ said Jeff. “Specifically for my friend Billy, the weekly watering and care for Jeff the plant was an active way of holding me in prayer.” Jeff elaborated on this plant and its symbolism in a previous blog post

For his mother, Jeff took a different approach. He shared, “I forget exactly when this tradition started, but at some point in college I began hiding a dozen green plastic army men every time I visited my mom during holidays/breaks. In between visits my mom would find the army men in random places around the house, and it would be a little surprise that would make her day. Well, the night before heading to the airport, I spent more time hiding army men than packing! Instead of a dozen, I hid around 150 and three years later my mom has only found 80. They always seem to pop up on days that she needs a laugh or a smile.”

One of the army men in his hiding spot

One of the army men in his hiding spot

Inevitably, you’re going to hit rough patches while you’re on mission. During these times, don’t shut off. It might seem that since friends and family aren’t with you and don’t see what you see, they can’t understand what you’re going through. And to an extent, that’s true. But don’t let that stop you from reaching out. One of the hardest parts for the people back home is that they’ll feel helpless at times. If you’re going through a hard time, they’ll want to help you. Let them.

Although you should build a support system in your new country, don’t dismiss the support structure back home. These are the people who know your past and lived it with you. Don’t underestimate how powerful that is. Ask for prayer. Ask for help. Let your friends and family be a part of your journey. Keep them informed.

At the same time, ask friends and family what’s going on with them. Make it clear that despite the physical distance, you still want to be part of their journey as well.

Featured image: adaptation of photo by Pixabay user schaeffler – labeled for reuse