Parental, family, and social support make all the difference to a missionary during preparation and in the field. Before your missionary leaves, remember that missionaries must stand on their own feet in the field. Allowing them to take as much responsibility for their immediate preparation as possible (scheduling and getting to doctor visits, interviews, supply shopping, etc.) is a vote of confidence and a chance to see what help they need before they report.
After reporting, missionary communication is limited. Emails, letters, and other updates fill the gap between holiday phone calls. Use these tools wisely. Understand there’s a difference of perspective between missionary and family about letters. Mission leaders encourage messages that build testimonies on both sides, so take time to share what goes on in your callings and ward, your own missionary efforts, and any uplifting experiences.
However, missionaries look for more from their families’ letters. In addition to wanting family news, Elder Nicolas Parra from Santiago, Chile, says, “Sometimes I have questions, the kind you ask your mom, like cooking questions or how to get a stain out. Sometimes they forget to answer, and that’s tough.” He adds news about friends to the list as well, since missionaries hear from them less often.
Then there’s packages. Parents agonize over what to send, particularly when their missionary hits the humble stages of the mission and, when asked, says, “I’ve got everything I need here, I’m fine.” Trust them, but also trust the spirit and pray about what you might send that will convey your love and support. LDS stickers (or other things to hold kids’ attention), teaching aids, and hygiene supplies are a start, but rely on your knowledge of your missionary for personal items.
Missionaries are individuals. Listen to what they’re going through to know what they need from a package home. Elder Porter Empey, from Idaho Falls, prefers a package of goodies to share with his companion. A package like that can soothe tensions and improve the quality of a companionship. Elder Parra, given the choice, thought a small package, meaningful only to him and his family, would be perfect.
If your missionary is still preparing, pay attention now to learn what they’ll need in the field. If your missionary is currently serving, reread their last few letters and see what you can do to show them you care.