What to Expect in the MTC & the Mission Field:
Mission are great. You’ll meet so many incredible people, have amazing spiritual experiences, & learn so much as your testimony grows & you become more of who Heavenly Father would have you be. It’s such a neat experience to focus on the gospel 24/7 and to know your purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ.
Having said all of that, I know that preparing missionaries can experience a lot of anxiety. It’s hard to prepare yourself & feel like you’re ready when you don’t know what to expect. So, for those who need a little more information, I’ve shared what I can about the MTC & the Mission Field. It’s not perfect, & I’m sure some things will still catch you off guard when you get there, but it’s a start.
The Missionary Training Center
My Advice for the Missionary Training Center:
- Be content but not satisfied. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not as good at the language as you want to be or because of this, or that, or whatever– be happy. Be content, but also be determined to keep working and keep improving. We can always be better.
- Wait to buy flashcards; the MTC has some great ones. Or you can take note cards & a Sharpie to make your own.
- Talk to everyone. The senior couples, the workers, the missionaries in the lunch line, & your teachers. It’s a great way to meet new people & everyone is so kind. You’ll likely meet some of your best friends on your mission.
- Definitely bring flip-flops/shower shoes for the shower. They’re cleaned everyday, but you’ll still want them.
- Bring pictures of the Savior, Temple, & your family. They don’t really sell good pictures of the Savior at the bookstore, so if you want one, bring it with you.
- Keep a little book with you at ALL times that you can write in. I don’t care what you put in there — feelings, frustrations, spiritual thoughts, new words you’re trying to learn, experiences– whatever. It’s a little journal full of an assortment of little things and it’s such good therapy when you’re out serving the Lord.
- Wear your watch on the inside (bottom) of your wrist rather than on the top. It’s much easier to sneakily check the time when you’re in a hurry or need to end a lesson.
- Just make it to Sunday. They always tell you your first few days there, “Just make it to Sunday!” They’re not lying. Those first few days will likely be long ones, but enjoy it, & just hang in there until Sunday.
- Go early to devotionals to get good seats. Bring your scriptures and a study journal so you can get some good study time in while you’re waiting for it to start.
- Become familiar with PMG. Especially if you’re learning a new language. Teaching is so much less stressful when you’ve got all the lessons down and you know them like the back of your hand.
- Stay busy. The best way to avoid homesickness is to stay busy. Study, serve, repeat. Nothing lifts my spirits or calms my heart more than digging into the scriptures or scheming about a service project. Get creative!
- Keep a journal, I’m begging you. It’s so important to keep a record of the things you learn, see, and experience while you’re on your mission. Figure out a way to make keeping a journal work for you and then write everyday. You’ll never get this time back & you’ll want to remember it.
- Be a good companion. Make it your personal goal to be the kind of companion that every missionary deserves. It’s not easy, but life is so much better when you have that mindset, I promise. Serve your companion & love them, even when it’s hard.
- Have a nice water bottle & keep it with you. Water bottles are lifesavers.
For those learning a language:
- Set goals & then work hard. Try to memorize a set number or words, phrases & scriptures a day. By the end of your experience in the MTC you’ll know so much.
- When you hear a word you don’t know write it down. Carry a notebook & pen with you always & at the end of the day look up the words or ask your teacher what they mean.
- Do personal study in your native language. The whole point of it is to strengthen your understanding & help you to receive inspiration for your investigators. The spirit speaks to you in your native language so save reading the scriptures in your mission language for language study.
- Take flash cards with you everywhere.
- Pray in your language as much as possible.
I’ve never been happier than I was on my mission & I miss it every day. So don’t let the hard times get you down. Time passes much faster than you can imagine, and before you know it, it’s all over. You only get to be in the MTC once, so make it count.
The Mission Field:
If you’re wondering what a normal day as a missionary is like, watch The District or click here –if you scroll down you’ll see the missionary schedule. This will help you understand the expectations & responsibilities (The Missionary Handbook) of a missionary.
The First Weeks in the Mission Field:
You may have heard that some missionaries really struggle during those first few weeks, which is true. Not a lot of missionaries will talk about this, but it’s completely normal to feel homesick, overwhelmed, & exhausted. Just be patient with yourself & remember that this adjustment period will not last. I promise your whole mission won’t feel like you’re on the verge of tears. It won’t last forever. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling (that’s what companions & leaders are for) & use the Adjusting to Missionary Life book, it really is a life saver. They’ll give you this book your first day in the mission field & it justifies everything you’re feeling & then offers suggestions.
There are a lot of things you can do to make the most of your time in the mission field, but these are my personal suggestions to you.
- Talk to someone: When you’re having problems, if you’re homesick & want to go home, if you’re struggling to adapt or meet expectations, etc. Whatever it is, talk to someone. Talk it over with your Heavenly Father, but don’t stop there. Take action & seek the help you need, whether from your companion & leaders or the Mission President. Please don’t keep it all to yourself. No one can heal in isolation.
- Find ways to serve everyday. Make breakfast for your companion, take a treat to a ward member, or take flowers to your investigator, but find little ways to serve, it will bring you so much joy.
- Look for the good. On a mission you’ll face rejection a lot. Progressing investigators will stop progressing & you’ll have days where nothing seems to go right. So, look for the good. You can keep a gratitude journal or keep a list of all the good things that happened each day, but find a way to deal with the hard things in a way that lets you more fully appreciate the good things.
- Take it seriously, but remember to have fun. Laugh, savor Zone activities, talk with your companion, join in the ward soccer game, I don’t care what it is, but remember that you’re allowed to enjoy your mission, so find something you can do that brings you joy. Having fun is 100% essential for your mental health. Be serious and work hard, but take some time to laugh & tell stories while you’re walking or driving. Be friends with your companion. Missionaries run into emotional trouble when they let the stress of the work & the pressure of numbers & expectations take over.
- Avoid Competing with Other Missionaries. The mission can foster a competitive feeling among missionaries. You’re trying to reach goals, get high numbers, learn the language, & excel in so many areas that it can become a little discouraging when you feel others are progressing much faster.
With all you’ve heard about a mission & all I could tell you, I still don’t think anyone can be completely prepared for a mission. You’ll still get there & be surprised & realize it’s not what you thought it was, but it will work out. All you really need to know is that a mission will change your life for the better, & that’s the best expectation you could have; & the motivation needed to give your best effort.