On January 3, 2019, I became a full-time missionary for The World Race. I packed up my big pack and a small pack and made my way to onto an 11-month mission trip to 11 different countries (plus one month of me traveling Europe for fun). I have never been camping, I did not know there were different types of sleeping bags that varied on warmth, I had to drop a bunch of money to fulfill this missionary shopping list, and I had to say goodbye to everything that made me comfortable in America, except for the TV show Friend. I still watch an episode here and there.
When you leave the country for a year, you leave behind a job, a family, friendships, relationships (we signed a year contract holler), your belongings, and some of your favorite foods. That list can go on forever, but the experience you get as a missionary makes up for it 100%. If you know someone that is a full-time missionary or is considering it, be a good friend and do your research. I have realized some things being on the field the past three months and it is that there are some things I love that people do at home for me and some…. Not so much. I am going to break it down for you so you know how to act around a full-time missionary without giving them major FOMO.
Letters and notes
My parents wrote me mini letters that I get to open on holidays when I'm feeling sad and random occasions. I get so excited to open these even if the note is small. It lets me know that someone is truly thinking about me. One girl on my team had a best friend who went above and BEYOND in this department. Not only did she write her like 60-70 notes for holidays, different moods she could be in, or random occasions, she also made a huge envelope for each country she was going to filled with pictures of them, funny memes or GIFs, little letters, encouragements, and bible verses. I don't know this girl, but I even get excited to see her monthly letters and what is in them! Be creative, send your missionary out with something they can look forward to from you.
Things that remind us of home
This is a big one too! Send them out with little things they can fit into their pack that they don't think they need like Trader Joes "Everything but the bagel" seasoning. A girl on my team brought that and WOW it makes a lot of difference in our food. Send them with good coffee grounds, some of their favorite candy, or matching bracelets. Sometimes, it gets lonely on the field and knowing you are gone for a year can bring a lot of stress. At a time like this, download Venmo and offer to pay for their coffee or Coke. Missionary budgets are small so sometimes we don't get to enjoy the things we would back at home. Offer to pay for an extra box of Mac and cheese, donate towards their fundraising fee, or towards their day trip to Machu Picchu.
You reaching out first...
I hope this part does not come off needy but I hope you understand where we are coming from. I try my best to reach out to my friends and family back at home as much as I can, but I'm currently working in an orphanage and doing service projects while investing in my team and our host family… sometimes, I need people to reach out to me and say "hi what's going on?" We are not ignoring you. It is not that we don't care about you anymore. It is that we are living in this whole other world and we want to be present and sometimes, we don't have WIFI. Just know that and don't ignore us because you think we don't care anymore because WE REALLY DO. And we really need you.
Three things we don't LOVE that much:
People making moves
You want to know how many people decided NOW was the time to slide in the DM's or create a friendship with me? More than you think. Different organizations have varied opinions on this topic but for the World Race, we signed a contract that we will not be in a relationship for the year of our trip (unless we were in that relationship before getting accepted). I get it because personally being on a relationship during this crazy year of my life would be hard when we should be present in the now. Plus WIFI looks different every month, so I couldn't even truly invest at home (read what I wrote about reaching out above). So yes, if you have questions about my trip and what I am doing, go for it, but if you end it with "we have to keep in touch until your back," my foot is already out the door. Everyone's intentions and experiences could be different, but from my personal story, this is frequent. Just be mindful about the situation and what the missionaries are trying to get done!
Fear of missing out (FOMO) of America
THIS. IS. THE. STORY. OF. MY. LIFE.
I graduated college a semester early, then left on the race so my FOMO is strong because sometimes it feels weird I'm not back on my college campus with my friends. It's not even just the people I miss, but I miss my favorite restaurants, drive-thru coffee places, movies that are in English, driving my own car and listening to music, my personal trainer, and having a bed that does not include my sleeping bag. I know, I know, it sounds like I'm complaining, but these are the little things we really miss. So my advice to you is to not send Snapchats from the Chick-fil-a drive-thru saying "this made me think of you." I am sure you get the point now. Sorry, we are sensitive at this point in our lives, a lot is going on.
Being left on read.
This is the opposite of asking you to reach out to us. This happens ALL THE TIME and sometimes it is when we really need you. I know there is a time difference, but if you see a message about a current struggle, financial or any bad situation, respond when you can because, to be honest, we can feel lonely in the situations! Sometimes we need an outside voice or opinion that isn't from our mission field. Do you know who is good at being there for me? My mother and father!!! Be like a mother and father and please do not leave us on read!
My teammate and I crafted this list so we could have kept going, but these are the top three of each category! If you have any more questions, send me an email and let's chat…. When I have WIFI.