Words of advice to Rachel's brothers who are preparing to serve missions in the near future
I. Mission Prep
In preparation for your mission I found the following tips to be helpful:
1. Make sure you really study the Preach My Gospel manual (a lot). I've found I don't have as much time to study how to be a better missionary, as we study for those we teach. I'm still trying to balance what we study but I usually turn to Chapter 3 and find examples from the scriptures to help comfort others struggling or motivating examples to help members be better missionaries.
2. Learn how to set goals and accomplish them. You do it a lot as a missionary.
3. Learn how to really organize. I'm still struggling with this, but it helps when you know how to arrange notes, goals, planning and more. My companion is a pro and I'm learning by her example. I've found it also helps keep thoughts organized.
4. Since you can only read approved material on your mission, read the Power of Everyday Missionaries by Clay Christensen found at Deseret Book (especially if you serve in the United States). Take notes. Make printouts and bring them on your mission. No need to feel overwhelmed by everything in the book, but there are so many key points for helping members get involved in the work of salvation.
5. Don't wait until the last minute to find appropriate music. You may be stuck in the car, driving a lot, listening to the same songs over and over again.
6. Start exercising and learn routines. Bring plenty of exercise ideas and a few portable athletic gear (which you can possibly buy in the mission field) such as a jump rope, resistance bands, resistance tubes, or whatever you can think of. I'm not kidding. Even if you need to set up a file and print off workout ideas, do it. In the mission field we only get 30 minutes in the morning to exercise. Use your time wisely, but it can be easy not to know what to do if you don't have ideas or supplies. Elders buy weights in the field and carry them around for transfers and leave them at their last apartment. Sometimes they even have them at the apartment from previous Elders who lived there. Remember members love to feed, I'm just saying. I also made mp's of Insanity and put it on my IPod.
7. Once you receive your endowment, attend the temple as frequently as possible before you leave on your mission. Learn to love the temple and take advantage of the opportunity of attending. Right now I'm only allowed to attend every other Monday holiday. It's rough.
8. Keep saving up money.
And what I find the most important:
9. Spend quality time with friends and family. Sometimes you don't realize how much you love someone until you're separated.
II. MTC-Provo tips
1. There seem to be a lot of rules that don't make sense, especially in the MTC, but it's important to stay obedient.
2. The Cafeteria food can be good but it can make you gain weight easily. In the Cafeteria, my favorite go-to's were the Wrap Bar, the Cart with Parfaits and Salads (and the parfaits and prepared salads are from BYU and are expensive there--love it while it's free). Right next to the cereal area you can always make a peanut butter sandwich. Tip: If you want good BYU bagels in the morning, get some early...they run out quickly. In the corner area where the grilled/fried foods usually are, they have healthy options (nuts, granola, almonds, soy milk, etc.) Also, every Wednesday and Sunday is ice cream night and Friday nights the Cafeteria serves Papa John's Pizza.
3. Sanitize your hands often.
4. You will grow to love your MTC District. You will be with them all the time. They will be your classmates all day. Enjoy your time with them and have fun with them!
5. Take good notes in the MTC (they really can help in the mission field).
6. Every Sunday night you get to watch films of talks and Devotionals by Apostles when they addressed the missionaries at the MTC. The Character of Christ by Elder David A. Bednar (April 2011) is an incredible talk and many talked about it afterwards, even out on their missions.
7. You can upload pictures only on the computers in the laundromat. For emailing pictures, have a SD card reader handy (plus, the computers in the laundromat don't have a time limit...shhhh...but many missionaries already know about this little tip).
8. Bring healthy snacks to the MTC. Classroom hours are loooong and then you won't have such an urge to eat a lot in the Cafeteria.
9. BUY A CLIP FOR YOUR MISSIONARY NAME TAG IN THE MTC BOOKSTORE!
10. Be sure to take your picture by the world map, pointing to your mission.
11. Be sure to smell the tree that smells like orange cream soda near the laundromat. It really smells like orange cream soda!
12. Lined along all the hallways of the main building are photos of missions around the world - they are neat to look at.
13. There is the large gym everyone goes to that has the gym floor and track and a few equipment machines, but then there is the small gym not many know about that's by the MTC Bookstore where they have a whole wall lined with free weights. The small gym is also full of nice treadmills, ellipticles, and more. You even get to watch church films and plug in headphones (they can be bought at the MTC Bookstore for $1-2).
14. On P-Day go to the temple early and eat in the temple cafeteria, too.
15. On certain days you can get a mini Freschetta personal pizza on carts outside of classrooms (afternoons? I'm not really sure when - Sister Gledhill was just telling me about it).
16. (Before MTC): Take a little laundry detergent with you when you enter the MTC for as many loads as you'll do in the MTC. I stayed two weeks and had to buy a box of detergent for $7 or $8 (that's all they had)...that's for two loads on 1 P-Day...not worth it!!!!
17. Last but not least, always find opportunities to laugh. Laugh at the awkward moments, make your companion laugh, etc. My MTC companion Sister Barney and I were always finding ways to laugh and I believe it's what got me through the MTC -- making the whold experience more enjoyable.
III. Missionary in the Field (Whoot Whoot!!)
1. It really depends on where you go. Your mission may have different priorities than another one...for instance, who you teach and how you use your time (in the Massachusetts Boston Mission tracting from door to door is our last priority).
2. Take things one step at a time and take time to breathe! I was a little surprised that a majority of Brayden's main advice was to take everything one step at a time and to not let the little things get to me, but oh, it is so true! As you know I tend to often worry or stress, but missions can become stressful because it's a big responsibility and there's a lot to do. However, the Lord will guide you step by step as you put your trust in Him and do His will.
3. Make sure you receive the "Adjusting to Missionary Life" booklet when you enter the mission field. Since dealing with stress is a little different on the mission (for instance, my coping strategies were mainly being with friends, running, working out and listening to music) it provides great advice, scriptures, coping strategies and more for when you feel overwhelmed, down, or stressed.
4. Some other advice I've received from others that have helped are to think of the quote "By the end of your mission, which would you have rather faced...the pain of effort? or the pain of regret?" Other things are "Don't look back," "Don't delay," "People don't care how much you know, they just want to know how much you care," and "What would the Savior do if He had your opportunities?"
3. One last thing: this way of charting and planning is incredible. I encourage you and your companion to use it for weekly planning. Clayton Christensen, the author of "the Power of Everyday Missionaries," came to our Zone Conference (he's in our Massachusetts Boston Mission Presidency) and expounded on the 3 main areas of conversion. This means that yes, the missionaries teach lessons, but that's only part of the their conversion and we can help guide their whole conversion experience. Yes, there is agency, but at least we can help in any way possible. Here is the planning chart. Don't feel overwhelmed -- it will make more sense when you're on your mission. What my companion and I did was list the name of each investigator we are working with, their major specific needs, and how to get there.