I Hope They Don’t Call Him on a Mission

P and Elder N
Patrick with Elder Nielson, the first missionary he ever met, 1998.

In the greater Brisbane (Australia) city area, if there is a news report of a stabbing, armed robbery, police car chase or drug-related arrest, chances are it’s in the southern suburb of Logan. So, obviously, that’s where my sixteen year old son was called to serve for a week on his “mini-mission”.

Cue parental heart attack, anxieties and worry.

I dropped him off one Saturday morning to the missionary flat, where two elders came out to the car to help with his bike, his suitcase, backpack and groceries. A final “Bye Mum, love you” tossed over his shoulder and I was driving back home, an hour north of where I’d just abandoned my firstborn to the cruel uncaring world. The entire way home I was praying – pleading – with God to make sure Patrick would be well, and happy, and gain something positive out of his mini-mission (and not be mugged, or hurt, or…)

The week wandered past. My second child and I tried to adjust to it being just us in the house, while the dog wandered confused from room to room looking for the tall skinny one. Our family prayers focused more strongly on missionaries serving worldwide, especially those serving in … EVERYWHERE, I forced myself pray. I added prayers of calm and peace for the families of missionaries serving. My personal prayers scurried like ninjas through my day, leaping tall catastrophes (imagined but still possible!) and fighting monsters (potentially lurking where my missionary was) and still suggesting, asking, bargaining and pleading with Heavenly Father to be sure my son was safe and doing well.

Saturday finally came, and in preparation of all three of us being in the car I watched a YouTube clip on how to remove the back wheel of a mountain bike. Except, when I arrived back at the missionary flat, everything skittered out of my head.

My son walked differently.

He held his shoulders differently.

His voice had a weird cadence at times.

He’d put on a tiny bit of weight – he had a visible (if you squinted) little paunch (a miracle I’d been trying to perform for ages). One week, and there was obvious change.

“Don’t worry about putting the seat down,” he said, grinning “my bike got stolen on Monday, so, yeah.”

“Stolen?” I repeated, still drinking the sight of him in as he shoved his bags in the boot of the car.

“Yep, stolen” and I didn’t hear anything else about it as he and his companions were laughing and joking together. Companions who were similar in height to what he was. Real life missionaries serving the Lord, right there in the Logan area, who were only a year or two older than my son.

All of a sudden, it hit me. Next year, my blue eyed boy is going to go on a mission. Nobody warned me about that when I took the missionary discussions. I watched the Elders and Patrick joke and I counted back: sixteen years ago, I met Elders Nielson and Orth, and shortly afterwards was baptised – my baptismal photo has Patrick perched on my hip, a practically bald eleven month old. Those Elders taught me, played with Patrick, searched for and found four-leaf clovers as we discussed the gospel, agency and eternal salvation. They didn’t – to my searching memory – say anything about my baby serving a mission. Wait! I thought back through time, I have a doubt!

Except… on the way to the mini-mission fireside Patrick told me how he’d eaten scrambled egg (which he loathes) because someone cooked it for them, and how all the meal servings were so enormous it hurt to finish it all, but they had to else offend. How he hadn’t had enough money really, but bus drivers would let the missionaries travel for free sometimes so he had six cents left on his bus pass. How he wasn’t sorry his bike was stolen, even though he paid for it himself, because “If they hadn’t taken my bike, they would have taken one of the Elders’, and they need their bikes way more than I do.” How he saw someone who just five years ago was in Young Men’s with him half a country away, now serving his mission in Brisbane.

Then at the fireside, my son stood up and bore his testimony. I know he has a testimony, it burns vast and bright, but he very rarely stands up in front of people to share it. That day he let it burn forth, and again the next day during Sacrament meeting, and my bones and teeth and heart ached at the love I felt.

I don’t love anyone in the world enough to send my son to them. Not even my closest, most wonderful friends or family. Nobody loves him like I do, nobody has fought and giggled and sweated with, beside and for him like I have, and I don’t want to send him on a mission for a week, forget about two years.

I don’t want to send my son on a mission.

I find myself counting backwards still. Almost seventeen years since he was born, sixteen years ago he watched wide-eyed as I was baptised.  Fourteen years ago he played toy cars with Elder Clayson (who I’m convinced was sent on his mission to convert my husband), so ten years ago we could be sealed together as a family. I can’t deny the countless blessings and joys that have come to my life as a result of young men going to serve God far away from their families and mothers.

I still don’t want to send my son on a mission.

But I will send him. I will send him with suitcases, prayers, kisses, my blessing and a wonky lipped smile. Because while there’s nobody in the world I love enough to send him to, he is the only person in the world I love enough to let go and do the things he wants to do on the Lord’s command.

How easy/difficult has it been for you to send your loved one off on a mission? How did you prepare yourself and your family? Any tips for an upcoming Missionary Mum?

About Kellie

(Blog Editor) lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing at selwynssanity.blogspot.com as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

33 thoughts on “I Hope They Don’t Call Him on a Mission

  1. I don’t have a relevant comment … but this is such a sweet post that I can’t go away without saying at least that much. Thank you. You make me think of someone else who did love this world enough to send his son.

  2. When I left on my mission I had already been going to college 2,000 miles away from home for 3 years. I really didn’t think too much about how my mission would affect my mom or if she’d miss me–I probably should have. I have about eight years before I’ll have a child old enough to go on a mission. At this point I’m more excited about it than scared, but that will probably change as they grow up.

  3. Yes, this is beautiful.

    My teens go out with the missionaries sometimes here in Mexico where they’ve had some interesting experiences. We’ll be living in Saudi Arabia when both of my oldest sons graduate from high school, so I suppose I won’t be able to complain too much when they get their calls. They’ll go very far away from me no matter what.

  4. Ah. My oldest son just got home last month. There are no words to describe the constant worry you have and yet also the peace that is there too. He served in Long Beach, CA. When we had visited there about 15 years ago there were security guards at the grocery store. So I knew it wasn’t the safest place. He had been away from home a lot before his mission. At 16 when he got his drivers license it seemed like he was always gone. He had a steady girlfriend and then went to college in Utah while we lived in New York. And now this bright, outgoing son who had just a fledgling testimony is so strong and solid and filled with spirit. He is already back to school (same school but now we live only 4 hours away) and my heart is bursting still seeing the changes in him. The non-member girlfriend is gone. He goes to the temple weekly. He checks in with his little brother and sister and encourages them. He makes me so proud and glad to be his mom (I was before too, but now…). So. Yes. It was hard to send him. But seeing who he has become let’s me have hope that sending my next son won’t be as hard as I think it will be (knowing how my worrying didn’t stop and how long 2 years really is). Can we send Patrick some money toward replacing his bike? I love this post.

  5. Way to start off the morning-I’m sitting here bawling!! My son has been home three months. And, though I’d trained him his whole life to accept a mission call, there were times, after he left, when I thought my heart was being ripped out of my chest!! This is TOO hard, I thought. This is too hard to ask of moms. I felt a little bit of bitterness. But it helped me remember my Father in Heaven, and how He sent His son.

    My son is back, and he is the same person, but oh, so different. His reply to someone who said he was not going on a mission “Why would I want to do that? What a waste!” was “Dude, you have NO idea!” Though I had my son for 19 years, it has been amazing to see what the Lord did for my son in a short two years. Someone put it this way: “The Lord gave me my son, a small baby boy, and when I took him to the temple for his endowment, I gave him back.”

  6. Yes. We just watched THE SARATOV APPROACH this weekend about kidnapped missionaries, so this has been on my mind. I will struggle with not talking to my boys. The thing is though, my almost 9 year old will be an amazing missionary. I learn from his faith all the time. The idea of him sharing his clear convictions and touching other hearts helps.

    1. I don’t think I can watch The Saratov Approach for maybe another 6 or 8 years Eliana, until my boys are safely back! Isn’t it amazing to see the strengths already evident in our children?

  7. No advice to offer, as I am many years away from sending off my boy. Just wanted to thank you for this tear-inducing post. I echo the first comment as well!

  8. This made me cry. The first email I got back from my son talking about how he was trying hard to be a worthy representative of Jesus Christ made me cry too. A few months before he left I had a talk with the Lord. The only One I love most enough to offer up my child to is Him. I think missions are definitely transformative for the missionaries, but also for those who send them.

  9. I strongly recommend seeing the new movie Meet the Mormons that the church is putting out in October. One of the individuals profiled is a mother, a convert, who is about to send her son off to a mission. I got to attend a sneak preview at BYU during education week last week, and her story was really powerful and I think will resonate with you deeply.

  10. It’s difficult to send your son? How difficult not to send him? When he doesn’t want to go? When his life and friends aren’t good? I’m sorry you cry when he goes. How many tears are shed by the mothers whose sons didn’t go. Those mothers can’t cry in testimony meeting; they cry alone at night.

    1. So true!!! AllieJ. I’ve sent one son out and he’s been home over two years now. The second son is the worldly one who is taking a vacation from church, as a dear friend likes to call it.
      For the mom who is scared–I found that the last year at home was tense and stressful, enough so that I was glad he finally made it to the MTC and I could turn him over to the Lord. I suddenly felt successful! Our nineteen year (at that time) training program had worked and he was gone. I would much rather have a son gone on a mission serving the Lord than, like his brother, worshiping the idol of a fast car, hanging with friends who drink and live in sin, etc. That is way more scary for me.
      We have two more sons approaching missionary age. I’m hoping to feel successful two more times. Then it’s on to getting them married in the temple. Parenting never ends, which is good because it prepares us for Godhood.

  11. You have perfectly and eloquently expressed my exact feelings! My eldest will leave in about 6 months and it feels like yesterday when I bought him home from hospital! As a convert there is nothing more precious that I can offer The Lord and I know it will be the best two years of my son’s life, so I sacrifice my precious time with him willingly – almost!

    My breath catches and my heart skips a beat as reality dawns closer that in 6 months our family dynamics will evolve. It has been a roller coaster of emotions as he has struggled to uncover his testimony, so whilst like Allie says, my heart swells with gratitude and relief that things finally seem on track and I have worked long and hard for this purpose- I haven’t found one word that adequately describes the nausea/absolute joy/unwillingness to separate/utter relief/ heartache that I’m experiencing.

    My next son will leave before his brother gets home (they are best friends), and when number 2 gets back my eldest daughter will leave (that will be a whole new level). Then a little gap before the next wave….but I’m aware due to their marriages, study etc the likelihood that we will all be living as a nuclear family together again is very remote and I hesitate at the thought of a discontinuance of these precious years I’ve been gifted with them.

    “I will go where you want me to go dear Lord, do what you want me to do” has always been my favorite hymn and personal anthem but recently I found my voice squeaking (more than normal that is!) and trembling alarmingly and tears welling in my eyes as I attempted to sing this song and it took on new meaning. Somehow it has been easier to offer individual sacrifices than it is to imagine this next one. But I will put on a brave face (as soon as I can muster one!), probably try blocking reality out for a few months so I don’t turn into a sappy mess … and eventually, with a heart which will skip many more beats, willingly do what He wants me to do – send my son out to serve Him. After all, I do realise that ultimately there is nothing more I want, than a child happy in the service of his Lord!

  12. Beautiful Kel. This story. Your boy’s future. And the way you see it all. The Father must have had similar misgivings about sending His Son, and yet He let him go too. To fulfill His grand mission. Alone. Aren’t we grateful?

    He’ll make a wonderful missionary. xo

  13. Thank you for sharing your innermost feelings. We have three sons, we had raised them in the gospel but none of them have served. I do recall feelings of dreading the time of their departure to serve, however, dreading what the world has offered them has put more fear in me than I care to dwell on.
    I’m one of the mum’s who sits uncomfortably at times when others around me are all sharing the successes and joys of their children serving. I do not in the least envy them I just wish I knew how they felt.
    It seems that instead of our sons serving, my husband and I have been sent on missions to love our sons unconditionally, just as the Savior loves us unconditionally. I know the Lord blesses us with the ability to bear up our burdens. Some of us have the heavy heart of missing our missionary sons, which is both full of joy and worry, while others have heavy hearts for our children who wander. I know we are all equal to life’s challenges and it is how we respond. Bless all the wonderful mums who have sent out their sons & daughters to serve. Some of your children knock on the doors of my less active sons and ‘remind’ them of their heritage.

  14. I have two sons, (and two daughters) and have been telling my husband that there is nothing that will get me to send any of them on missions. This post is the first that has cracked open my (cold, dead) heart even a tiny bit. (Granted, I have a good ten years before the first will be able to serve, but it may take ten years of reading this over and over and over again to get me on board!)

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