Challenges in adjusting to missionary life are real and need to be acknowledged, said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson as she spoke to new MTC presidents and visitors’ center directors Jan. 11 about the resource booklet Adjusting to Missionary Life.
Sister Oscarson, Young Women general president, was one of several speakers at the annual three-day seminar for the departing leaders and their wives.
“You will soon be meeting the actual missionaries who will be coming into your MTC or serving in your visitors’ centers,” said Sister Oscarson, who at the age of 25 was called to serve with her husband, Paul, as he presided over the Sweden Göteborg Mission.
“They have righteous desires to serve the Lord and they have strong testimonies. But they’re also just like most of us, and will at times experience challenges and struggles — especially in the first few weeks and months of their missions as they adjust to missionary life.”
She said missionaries experience major changes in their lives. “They are expected to step out of their comfort zones, talk to complete strangers and learn to live with a companion they didn’t choose — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They will experience rejection and at times feel discouraged. With these changes in their lives, there will almost always be some stress.”
Leaders can help them discover how to reduce stress, Sister Oscarson suggested. “We may simply need to remind them they already have many of the tools available to them which will be helpful in handling the stress they may be experiencing as they adjust to being a missionary. Among them are prayer, the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, their companion, work, their leaders, conference talks, this booklet and you!”
She showed a video clip featuring a sister missionary, Rachel Condie, who told of a particularly stressful and disappointing day she and her companion experienced. Her district leader referred her to a passage in the booklet that recommended lying on the floor, being still and breathing. The technique worked for both Sister Condie and her companion as they tried it for 60 seconds and found their stress reduced thereby.
Many times, physical problems among missionaries result from emotional stress, Sister Oscarson noted. “Your MTC will have access to professionals with a medical background who can be called upon to help you evaluate which cases require more serious medical care and which seem to be a result of anxiety, stress or homesickness. We encourage you to be very familiar with the information in this book.”
For example, the book directs missionaries to take things one step at a time, not set too many personal goals all at once and not expect perfection, she said.