You may have heard the phrase “He left as a boy, but returned as a man.” This is, in so many ways, a true statement – for young women as well. A young man will continue to grow taller, his neck may fill out, and his shoulders grow wider until he is about age 21 or even later. A young woman may mature physically sooner, but her general appearance changes from that of a girl to a woman by around age 20 or 21 as well. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
While serving a mission, your mind is opened to so many new ideas. In addition to church service, you will have been exposed to a whole new area – or even country – with all of the customs, foods, smells, traditions, cultures and languages that go with it. No one can remain unchanged after an experience such as that. While it should not be looked at as a vacation, you should encourage your missionaries to soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of the place where they are spending two of the are years of their lives. Take photos, collect recipes, buy a meaningful souvenir or two.
No matter how prepared to serve a mission someone is, they cannot help but grow spiritually if they are obedient to the mission rules regarding daily scripture study and personal and companion prayer. Besides that, the constant teaching of saving doctrines and praying for investigators and guidance will build and strengthen their testimony in ways that may take years otherwise.
When your missionary left, they probably went through some degree of separation anxiety and doubtless several rounds of homesickness. They had to learn how to cope with being on their own, recognizing and dealing with feelings, and missing out on family vacations and possible funerals or weddings while they were away. Learning to deal with rejection or disappointment is a great step toward a healthy and mature life outlook.
Confidence and Self-assurance
Attempting and succeeding at doing hard things builds confidence and self-respect. Finding their way around a new city, meeting new people all the time and putting themselves out there to share the gospel all help with confidence as well. Speaking in meetings, planning baptisms, and coordinating meetings will help them grow in their self-assurance. The 18 months to two years a young person is gone on their mission is a great time of change, inside and out. In so many ways they will still be the children you know and love, but they will be better, stronger and feel better about themselves. A Mission Tracker is an excellent way to keep track of the days and places that your missionary is serving during this pivotal time in their lives.