“One day I was a missionary with an identity, a routine, a steady monthly allowance, responsibility, authority, and respect. The next day I was an awkward, broke, 21-year-old who didn’t know where he was, who he was, or what he was doing. I knew who I was spiritually. I had a testimony. I just felt so out of place in the world I returned to. I didn’t know how to function.”
Those were words I wrote in my own journal after returning home from my mission. I read those words now and I am so grateful that I’m not longer in that place. It’s nice to be past that stage.
If you are reading this website then it’s likely you may be a returned missionary who feels like a fish out of water. Just remember, if you feel like a fish out of water, it’s probably because you are a fish out of water. And it’s not a comfortable place to be.
My brother McKane and I both served two-year missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). I served in Buenos Aires, Argentina from January 1995 to November 1996. McKane served in Chile from August 1996 to June 1998. We loved our missions and received honorable releases from the commitment after serving our designated two years.
We were both successful missionaries as we defined success, i.e. obedient and hard-working. Both of us happy to return home. However, while we both experienced considerable successes in our post-mission life, we also passed through significant struggles, struggles we later learned are common to many returned missionaries. At the time, both McKane and I thought we were unusual for struggling. We were wrong. It is quite common. We perceive that there is a lack of resources to help returned missionaries with their post-mission adjustment, so we set out to write a book that would help others understand that such struggles are common, perhaps even expected, and that there are things missionaries can do to ensure a that their transition isn’t nedlessly painful. The book was never published. However, this website contains the contents of the book (including some unfinished chapters that we’ll complete – and then remove this sentence!).
Each LDS missionary typically receives either three weeks or two months of mission preparation in the Mission Training Center (MTC) before entering the mission field. One of the greatest benefits of the MTC is that it gives missionaries an adjustment period in which they prepare to leave their former routines and duties and enter into knew ones. This change is made with the support of many other missionaries around them who are going through the same struggles and changes. However, when they finish their missions and return home they are afforded no such luxury. There is no three-week or two-month period of training for their post-mission life, for their new routines and duties. There is no Post-Mission Training Center. From one day to another their lives abruptly change. Many of them experience system shock. One of the missionaries we interviewed, when asked about his return home said, “It was by far the hardest transition I have ever had to make. I think I was a lot more prepared for when I left on my mission than I was when I came home.” Another returned missionary we spoke with confided, “I thought I was weird, that something was wrong with me. I felt totally alone and even a little ashamed. Over time, talking with others, I learned that those who didn’t have big [post-mission] challenges were the exception, not the rule. I thought, why didn’t anyone tell me this was going to happen? Why didn’t anyone warn me? Why didn’t anyone prepare me for this?”
The responsibility for helping missionaries is left to their families as well as home ward and stake leaders and members, and to the missionaries themselves. This is, in our estimation, the right way to do things. However, we feel that bringing attention to some of the ways the missionaries struggle, and compiling ways missionaries have been helped by others or have helped themselves to overcome the struggle, is a helpful undertaking.
As a church, we sometimes lose returned missionaries to inactivity, sin and apathy. Many encounter obstacles and have struggles. Some lose faith. Others lose sight of their goals and forget who they are. A percentage of those who get off on the wrong foot never make it back to the path. Others get back, but lose time and opportunities in the process.
What we offer here consists of our experiences and the experiences of others we have noted through friendships and interviews. We do offer some interpretation of scripture and quotes from various church authorities when we feel it is helpful. Our interpretations may be erroneous. The conclusions are ours alone and we do not speak for, or on behalf of, the LDS Church. Before acting on anything we may have suggested, we ask that you that you prayerfully inquire of God whether or not such course of action might be appropriate for you and counsel with other trusted sources as appropriate.
In its most basic form this website spells out what we wish we knew about post-mission life before and while we dealt with its challenges. It aims to provide suggestions to overcome the challenges returned missionaries often face. We attempt to illustrate this through our experiences and the stories of others. Some of the website consists of the words of the missionaries we interviewed. Our intent is to help returned missionaries with their post-mission adjustment process so that they can experience a happy and productive post-mission life soon after returning home. Our ultimate goal is to help build the Kingdom of God, by helping those who compose the Kingdom help themselves.
with McKane Davis
Please note that chapters 1-5 and 11-14 are published. Chapters 6-10 are coming soon and treat the following topics.
— Chapter 6 – Meaninglessness, Unimportance, and Low Self-Esteem
— Chapter 7 – Reverse Culture Shock and Backwards Economics (Temporal Affairs)
— Chapter 8 – School, Work, and Other “Worldly” Pursuits (Making Your Way in the World)
— Chapter 9 – Spirituality, Church, Goals, and Service
— Chapter 10 – Music, Movies, and Other Entertainment