Those months while your missionary is out serving can feel long and lonely. You’re proud that they’re out there in the world doing good things, and you’re also a little anxious for their return.
In the meantime, emailing or writing letters from home is a thoughtful way to support your missionary, and it might help you feel a little better, too.
There’s an art to writing an encouraging message. Of course you want to share your love, but you don’t want to distract them from their important work or make them feel guilty for leaving loved ones at home. Your letters and emails should empower your missionary to go out and serve with confidence.
Follow a few basic guidelines on how to write a missionary, and your messages will do exactly that.
Writing to Your Missionary
Before we start talking about what to include in your emails, here’s something you should always keep in mind:
A missionary is not a pen pal.
She or he might not answer every message, and when they do answer, their emails might be shorter than you would like. A missionary’s job is to serve, and it’s your job to support them.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write to them regularly. You should! Getting messages from home is an important source of comfort and strength during a mission. Even if they don’t write back to every single thing, keep sending your love and know that it’s sincerely appreciated.
Stay positive, write often, and stay focused on serving.
What to Include
Even with their mind on their mission, your missionary wants to stay in the loop about things happening at home. They still need that connection, and without updates, they can feel like their home life is moving on without them.
Focus on positive stories and important updates.
You don’t need to send a detailed description of every day – just the highlights are okay. If there’s nothing to share, then don’t share anything. There’s plenty more you can write, including:
2: Scripture and insights
Studying scripture helps you get through the emotional ups and downs while you have loved ones away on missions.
Some families coordinate and study Preach My Gospel with their missionary, and their emails back and forth share their insights and thoughts. This is an effective way to stay close and connected, and it’s often a huge help to the missionary to have an extra study buddy.
Even if you’re not following along in Preach My Gospel, your spiritual support means a lot. Share scripture that you find particularly insightful, and perhaps discuss some of the personal meaning and truths revealed by that insight.
Don’t you just love receiving pictures from your missionary? They want to see your smiling face as much as you want to see theirs, so share your snapshots!
Remember that social media access might not be available on a mission, and even if your missionary has access to Facebook for his or her work, they’re not going to spend time scrolling through everyone’s updates. Since they don’t see your selfies and posts, it’s nice to include some of that in your messages.
It’s easy to attach pictures to an email, so share photos of events, people, and anything else that will inspire a smile.
4: Simple recipes
On some missions, food is abundant. On others, it’s harder to come by nutritious meals. In addition to care packages, it’s helpful to share good recipes that a missionary can make quickly, cheaply, and with food items that are already on hand.
Try to consider ingredients that are cheap and plentiful in the immediate area. A person will almost always be able to find dry beans and local produce for low prices, so share your best recipes for rice and beans or veggie casseroles.
Foreign missionaries probably miss their favorite foods from home, too, so include the recipe for the comfort food dishes they love the most.
What to Ask About
1: Their work
You know when you have a conversation with someone and they only ask you questions about yourself? It’s always nice! Your missionary is doing awesome things and they want to talk about it. Ask them specific questions about the things they mentioned in a letter or questions you have about what they are doing.
2: The culture
Missionaries always say they love the people they served. Ask questions about the people, the culture, the food, and the place they live. Experience it with them! When they get home you will hear everything, but why not hear about it all while they’re there? You might decide that you want to visit or pick them up when their mission is over.
3: People they’ve mentioned
Maybe they mentioned a guy named Frank in passing but didn’t actually mention who Frank is or how they met him. Ask them about the people and they will gladly tell you more.
You could also ask them about their companion! If they seem close, then ask questions about what they do and where they’re from. Missions are all about service and people, and that’s what missionaries like to talk about. It’s okay to let them talk about themselves a lot.
What to Avoid
It’s easy to dive into the dirty details of life. Probably stay away from the gossip about friends and family. It’s easy to talk about drama and divorces, but your missionary might not want to hear it.
It’s so easy to slip into complaining or negative talk. Keep it away from them as much as possible.
Try not to criticize them, their appearance, or their companions. It’s true, missionaries can be awkward. Stay positive as much as possible. Stay away from criticisms about how often your missionary writes or talks to their family. Maybe it makes them homesick to talk to people at home too often, so they want to limit the interaction. Criticizing their letters only adds a layer of stress that they don’t need. Keep it positive!
3: Asking about their number of baptisms
Some missionaries have a lot, some have none. It can be a sore subject for missionaries, and the number of baptisms really doesn’t measure the success of a mission. Just don’t ask about it or compare their number to another missionary’s number. They will mention baptisms if they want to.
Remember That They Want to Hear From You!
Your missionary wants letters! Almost every returned LDS missionary talks about how their letters kept them going when things got tough. Who doesn’t want to feel loved and remembered while they’re in a new place having new experiences?
It’s fun having a missionary out, and it’s short-lived. In a matter of months, your missionary will be back with you to talk on the phone and text every day. Until then, use these ideas to keep your missionary letters positive, fun, and productive.
Have anything else to add? Tell us in the comments! We’re always looking for advice on writing awesome letters to our Mormon missionary family members.