Quality of life in the mission field relies heavily on a missionary’s social and personal skills. Companionships shoulder the responsibility of meeting their own physical needs in addition to the spiritual needs of those they teach.
Young missionaries frequently report to training centers having never lived away from home, without experience in the self-reliance necessary to coordinate the needs of life. Keeping this in mind, mission preparation should incorporate experiences that foster skills for independence, self-sufficiency, and social awareness.
Home mission preparation commonly includes learning to address immediate physical needs. Elder Weber of Utah makes this specific suggestion regarding nutrition: “Learn and practice simple, healthy recipes you actually like.”
Once a call is received, missionaries can anticipate what ingredients will be locally available, making this advice a bit easier to follow. Basic cooking skills, however, can be applied anywhere. Missionaries should prepare by practicing with a variety of vegetables, meat, starch, and spice so that wherever they serve, they will be equipped to feed themselves a balanced diet.
Cleanliness is also expected in missionary service.
“My mother,” says Elder Cazier of Wyoming, “made sure I was doing my own laundry at 16. She had me learn it myself rather than teaching me how.”
Clothing care, at least so far as cleaning, is only the start. Missionaries are responsible for their own living space, and some missions require periodic inspections of apartments and vehicles. For this, their health, and for an increased measure of the spirit in their study and practice, preparation should include practice cleaning clothes, dishes, kitchens, bathrooms, and a consistent standard of tidiness and organization.
Less commonly mentioned, but most important in application, are social skills. A large percentage of missionaries struggle to initiate gospel conversations with strangers, which sometimes results in feelings of anxiety, high stress, and poor performance in the early months. While this is a challenge experienced differently by each individual, the transition can be aided with early practice.
“Go through the checkout lines at the grocery store,” says Elder Kitchen of Utah. “Start up a conversation with your neighbors, and with your server at restaurants and other places. Your social skills should be equal to your gospel knowledge.”
Elder Loyola of Micronesia had the added challenge of learning English, and his struggle talking with everyone is common to most missionaries learning a language.
“Talk with everyone,” he says. “The more you talk with everyone, about them and about their belief, you will get confidence. Now I really love talking with everyone.”
Conversations about gospel topics can be rare outside of church. Preparing missionaries should welcome any opportunity to practice bringing up belief in normal conversation.
Living independently, especially on a mission, is important, but the purpose of a mission is to connect with, teach, and serve the people who live there too. Missionaries who prepare for both aspects of a mission will have an advantage in the field.