As I type this, our youngest son is preparing to leave in the next few weeks for the London South Mission. Interested and perplexed friends have often asked me, “How do you do this ‘missionary mom’ thing? How do you disconnect from your child for two years?”
When our eldest son left to serve his mission in Central Africa some years ago, it felt like my heart would break. The pain and reality of this separation hit me hard. I was unsure how I would manage one day, let alone 730. In many a quiet moment, I wondered if this was really normal and even doubted if it was worth it. Meanwhile I was not yet able to fathom that I would do this a second, a third and a fourth time.
As I have held each of our children tight and then let them go, as I have watched them walk away with purpose, courage and faith to begin their missions – each time in that heart pulling, holding tight, letting go moment I have handed them over to their Father in Heaven. In those moments I knew that their intense spiritual journey had begun, nurtured by the Spirit and parented by an all-knowing, all-present and all-loving Father in Heaven. In those moments, my heart filled with joy and an overwhelming sense of gratitude that we had made it to that point, and that they had made the righteous choices that had prepared them to be worthy to serve their Father in Heaven as a missionary.
Missionaries are placed in an environment of order, focus and discipline, where all is done in harmony with the Spirit, where truths are revealed, habits are improved, the atonement becomes real, and where glimpses of heaven on earth can be felt. I soon realised that I had little control over whether I could help them during their sad, disappointing or tough times, nor could I hug them in times of happiness, but I knew that the Saviour would do it on my behalf. It comforted me to know that they know who He is. I have felt their love for the Saviour, His love for them, and seen how, as missionaries, they have focused on loving as He does.
As we joyfully welcomed home our son and daughter and help prepare our next son to leave in a few weeks, I have no doubt that it is hard but it is worth it. Nothing can begin to describe the joy a mother feels as she welcomes her returned missionary back into her arms, when they return as women and men of God, having completed what they were sent to do with honour, testimony, hard work and filled with love.
As a missionary mother, my joy is full.