From the moment they set foot in their missions, new mission presidents and their wives feel the responsibility to see to the physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual welfare of the missionaries in their charge.
At the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, the departing presidents and their companions were instructed in this responsibility by the presidents of the general women’s auxiliaries of the Church on June 28.
The young men, young women and senior couples serving as full-time missionaries “are going to be looking to you as examples for inspiration and direction and for the extra help they might need at times,” said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president and a member of the Missionary Executive Council, who conducted the session.
“That thought can feel a bit daunting, quite frankly, at first,” acknowledged Sister Oscarson, who, beginning at the age of 25, served with her husband, Paul, as he presided over the new Sweden Göteborg Mission from 1976 to 1979. “So we would like to help alleviate your concerns and remind you of the many people and resources which are available to help you and support you as you care for your missionaries.”
Sister Oscarson was joined in the presentation by Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, and Sister Jean B. Bingham, sustained in April as the new Relief Society general president. For their presentation, they invited nine recently returned wives of mission presidents to come to Church headquarters and respond to questions. Clips of some of their recorded responses were played during the session.
“Although you and your husbands are called to the same location and have the same purpose, there are differences in your responsibilities,” Sister Bingham said, addressing herself to the wives of the departing mission presidents. “The question, ‘How can I accomplish all that will be required?’ might represent the summation of all other questions in your heart and mind.”
She assured the wives that the Lord knows exactly who they are and the talents and characteristics each possesses that will bless the lives of the missionaries in the locations where they are called to serve.
“Love is a key to hearts, and that is what the Lord requires of effective missionaries: the heart and a willing mind,” she said. “As you love each of those assigned to labor in your part of the vineyard in the Savior’s way, you and they will be lifted and strengthened.”
Sister Jones addressed the matter of health concerns that may arise among missionaries that the wives may be called upon to help resolve.
“To assist you in determining the needs of a missionary who isn’t feeling well, the book Adjusting to Missionary Life will be a great resource. Asking questions to understand the missionary’s symptoms and to assess his or her condition may prove to be insightful in determining the next steps.”
The wives will often be the first responders, but they don’t need to be the doctors, Sister Jones said. “You will have access to wonderful help from health professionals in your area as you contact them and ask for their assistance.”
They should make early contact with the area medical adviser assigned to the mission after they arrive, she said. “Find out where he is and what the preferred number will be to reach him. Find out where the clinics and emergency rooms are for your mission.”
Sister Oscarson spoke of homesickness and other emotional or mental health issues that beset some missionaries. “Don’t underestimate the role the Holy Ghost plays” in the process of reaching out to and ascertaining the needs of missionaries, she admonished.
“Just being observant of their body language, if they appear to be happy or not, if they are interacting with other missionaries appropriately or withdrawing during those social times, these are all good indicators to watch for,” she said.