My family and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka Mormons. This post is aimed at those who are headed here as missionaries for the LDS church. I’m hoping missionaries from other faiths will take something from it as well. As I write this post, I draw on my husband’s experiences here as a missionary in the early 90s and my own observations as I’ve watched and fed missionaries here and been at church and around and about visiting families for my callings and Visiting Teaching. This is probably going to get long, and it’s probably going to get direct, and it’s probably going to be full of random bits and pieces of information. I reserve the right to turn this into a series if I need to.
The Philippines gets missionaries mainly from the Philippines itself, America, the Pacific Islands, and Australia. I believe there was someone here from Pakistan, too, but it may have been India, I don’t remember. Anyway, because of my personal background, I really have no choice but to aim this to American missionaries. I do apologize, but I simply don’t have the cultural literacy I’d need to gear things toward missionaries coming from other foreign locations.
First, a mission is hard work. Learning a language is hard work. Being in a different culture is hard work. Chances are very good that the first 6 months you are in the country will be the hardest thing you have ever done. Far and away. Unless you are that guy who was trapped in the canyon and had to cut off his own arm. That may have been harder. But that was 127 hours, and this is two years of being different, speaking a different language, eating different food, being wholly responsible for yourself without assistance from a “grown up” other than periodic check-ins with your mission president. You will be stared at and laughed at. (But the laughing will mostly be out of nervousness or will be good-natured, so really, don’t get too upset.) You will be mentally exhausted as you learn the language, on top of being physically worn out due to the demands the work puts on your body.
It will be hard.
But it will get easier. Incrementally. Over time. It will get easier. You will come to know the language and the culture. You will grow in ways you didn’t know you needed to grow. It will be phenomenal.
If you persist. If you study the language and your scriptures. If you obey the rules. If you admit when you fail and learn from it. If you admit when you are clueless and learn from that. If you are open to new things. If you resist the urge to scream on the bad days. If you don’t confuse homesickness and frustration with physical illness. If you get up every day and try again. If you pray for help and guidance. If you maintain a positive attitude. If you trust your companion to teach you what you need to know, especially if they are Filipino. If you speak your new language at every opportunity, including when you are at home or when you have an English-speaking companion. If you are understanding that American missionaries have a reputation for being both know-it-alls and whiners and resist both of those urges when they rear up in yourself. If you look for ways to solve problems that arise. If you stop thinking of yourself as an American in the Philippines and start thinking of yourself as a child of God in search of other children of God who are open to hearing the Gospel. If you realize that your mission is not about you, it’s about service to those around you here.
If, if, if. If you can do those things, it will be hard at the beginning, but it will morph into an amazing experience you will hate to leave, even with the thought of your old bed, friends, and family back home. Honestly.
Aww, heck. I’m nearly 700 words into this post, and all I’ve done is offer attitude advice. I am going to go ahead and make this a series after all.