Two years of precious memories pile up fast. Even 18 months in the field are packed with pictures, letters, notes, journals, and souvenirs. With this in mind, deciding on a method of preserving them as they happen will make life easier when you go to preserve them for posterity.
Journaling is the traditional method of personal record keeping. Many returned missionaries have their memories catalogued between well-known blue or black bound covers. If writing comes easily to you, this could be perfect! However, don’t discount the value of other materials.
Elder Weber of Utah supplements his journal by titling each day and recording that title on a wall calendar to provide a visual index of his experiences.
Elder Kitchen, also of Utah, says he hopes to follow an example he heard about for preparing journals after the mission: “You take all your missionary journals and pick out the most important parts. You compile them into one, like what Mormon and Moroni did with the Book of Mormon.”
Writing, however, isn’t everyone’s favorite activity. Pictures are easy to share, quick to snap, and fun to review when your time is done. You can also easily share with family and friends while you’re still away. Unfortunately, pictures do tend to pile up and it helps to have a method to keep them save and easy to review.
Sister Gruber of Minnesota loves using pictures to keep her mission memories: “Pictures can be like your journal. Use a thumb drive to keep more than just the pictures you send home, or post online. You’ll want all of them!”
Decide on how to organize the pictures as you take them in order to make review easier later. Consider using the date, or a code for your area, possibly the name of your companion or number of the transfer. If printing them out, write this information on the back to prevent later confusion.
It may be surprising to see how much extra stuff missionaries bring home with them. Aside from obvious souvenirs, precious things accumulate as well, like notes from ward members or investigators, mementos from favorite spots, or even a napkin from a memorable meal. Collections will happen, so leave a little room for them.
Sister De Vuyst suggests making a simple pocket in front of your journal for notes, business cards, pictures, or clippings collected over time. Sister Gruber collects business cards from people she works with and places she’s been.
Some missionaries consolidate these memorial bits by setting aside a book for them. The missionaries you serve with are powerful friends. Bring a notebook to large mission conferences to collect signatures, notes, and contact information from departing missionaries you’ve worked with.
Look for your own creative approaches, and leave options open to change things up as needs arise. Keeping records enriches the experience, especially one as fleeting as a mission.
Pro Tips from the Field
Elder Cody Kitchen:
- Study journals, like your notes and things, are a great way to track your growth
- At the end of your mission, compile what you can out of your various journals into one single journal – a bit like how Mormon approached assembling the Book of Mormon
- His journaling system: have a title for every day. Write a bit in a journal, but also write the title on each day square of a conventional calendar
- If possible, have all your emails sent and received saved
- Pictures, pictures, pictures; use a thumb drive or other device to keep more than just the pictures you send home or post online
- For people who aren’t great journal writers, pictures can become your journal
- Write a little every day
- Mark mission “birthdays”; use month marks
- Collect business cards from meaningful people, places from your mission
- Keep the names of strong investigators; date you met them and their baptism dates
Sister De Vuyst:
- Use a voice recorder; it can be easier to talk about things than write
- Journal: spiritual experiences, “miracles”; this can help to measure your growth by what you recognize during your working day
- There are lots and lots of funny things, so record them and who you were with
- I mark the 3 month intervals: that’s two transfers, and each one is sixth of the mission
- Make a pocket in front of your journal for papers, letters, and/or notes
- Find a service that will turn your letters and things into a book at the end of your mission
- Some missionaries record the initials of their companions on the backs of their name tags
- Some do “goodbye” books; get the signatures and a message from the missionaries you served with when they leave – like a yearbook, but progressive and not all at once