Being a Missionary Mom
by Juliana

Mormon missionary journal

I had a visit recently from angels. En route from Austin to Chicago, they were sleepy and travel worn, but nonetheless angelic. As soon as the van rolled to a stop, an 11-year old boy jumped out, cradling a carefully wrapped package in his arms and shouting, “We have something for you!”

And the gift that the angels traveled so far to bring me? Inside the cardboard and packing tape and bubble wrap, I found an oil painting and a journal, mementos from my oldest son, who just passed the halfway point of his 2-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). But the real gift was the chance to chat with Jen and her wonderful children, to hear of their love for my son and to catch a glimpse of the Hanu-Kwanzaa-Christmas-birthday celebration they threw for Devin (um, Elder Larsen) in the middle of a hot Texas August. For the mother of a missionary, those reminders that someone watches over your son when you cannot make all the difference.

Just over a year ago, Devin joined the ranks of roughly 55,000 LDS missionaries serving throughout the world in areas from Mexico, Missouri to Oaxaca, Mexico and Rostov, Russia. Like thousands of his counterparts, he rides a bicycle in suit pants and a white shirt and tie, his black name tag identifying him as a servant of Jesus Christ. He put college on hold, tucked away most of his books and music, swore off dating for two years and committed to early morning study sessions and days spent preaching the gospel in all sorts of weather. If that alone fails to make his friends shake their heads in wonder, he also pays $400 each month for the privilege of serving a mission and counts himself blessed for the opportunity.

Those of us back home watch in wonder as the boy we waved off on an airplane last year becomes a man. We look forward with great anticipation for each Monday morning email and the twice-a-year phone calls on Christmas and Mother’s Day. We learn after the fact about bike wrecks and illnesses, the sweet moments when he listens to someone truly talk with God for the very first time, and the frustration of doors slammed and insults hurled. We read about the impromptu doorstep lesson Devin taught in Spanish, a language he does not speak. “I can do all things God needs me to,” he says.

The other day, after my angels climbed back into their van and drove away, I pulled out the missionary journal and, with my son’s permission, spent the next hour reading. One Monday in June, Devin wrote, “We cannot measure our success by what others do with their agency but instead what we do with ours. It is not about how many people have decided to get baptized while we were there, but by how hard we worked, how many people we invited, how eagerly we sought the Spirit as we taught.” Good words to live by, not only as a missionary but as a mother, a teacher, a leader. My heart filled to bursting as I read, and the tears streamed down my cheeks. These are missionary mom moments to treasure, these times when love and joy nearly break your heart.

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