So this is Elder Muller's mother, Amy Schaefer. I am the one who is posting Elder Muller's letters and pictures to this blog. I decided that I might add to this blog by sharing my thoughts and feelings as a mother of a missionary son.
Since this blog is being seen by many of my friends and family who are not members of my faith, I thought it might be helpful if I share some explanations of the things you are reading here. And not only will I share explanations of words and things, but I will also share my feelings as a mother of missionary who is devoting the next two years of his life to serving the Lord, and to serving our Brothers and Sisters in Belgium and the Netherlands.
These last two weeks have not been easy for me! I will just put that out there! My heart aches for my son I still haven't been able to face going into his room and straightening it up. I still have time, right? I go to my phone to call him or text him, and realize that I can no longer do that. I reread the last few text messages that I had from him! I don't have a smart phone, so on my little flip phone I have to erase my text messages in order to have room for new ones! So if you were to look at my inbox, you would find text messages from "Bryan Muller" that are really old, but I have saved them because they are the last "communications" I have had with him. Some of them are as old as last year when he first went off to college and he sent me a text telling me he loved me! Or simply just texted "Good Night!" Yes, I am a sentimental fool!
That is probably the hardest part of the mission for me...not being able to talk to my son. In order for them to stay clearly focused and dedicated to their work, they call home only twice a year....Mother's Day and Christmas. The only other communication we have is the weekly email that you see me post on this blog. That is what makes it so difficult for most mothers! Myself included.
Let me get to some of the questions that I have been asked by people.
Perhaps I should begin by explaining just what Bryan, I mean Elder Muller is doing. Elder Muller was found worthy, both spiritually and morally, to be a representative of Jesus Christ. He has put his life on hold for two years. The Lord has called him to labor in the Belgium/Netherlands Mission. He reported to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah on September 17, 2014. I believe our Church has 15 Missionary Training Centers around the world. Elder Muller will be in the MTC for approximately six weeks. In that short time, he will learn the Dutch language. Yes, these young men and women learn languages in a short span of time. I think one might call that "the gift of tongues"! Obviously, he will still need to refine his language skills in the mission field, but he is in a complete immersion setting right now. His first week in the training center he was already teaching lessons in Dutch to Dutch speaking people!
So what is a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? It is the time in the life of a young man or woman in which they put their lives on hold and, instead, devote their lives to serving the Lord. Young men are able to go into the mission field as early as 18 years of age. They serve for 24 months. Young women are able to go into the mission field as early as 19 years of age. They serve for 18 months.
These missions are funded by the young man or young woman and/or their family. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not pay for the over 83,000 missionaries serving in the world today. We also have senior missionary couples who can also go into the mission field and serve. Having a son or daughter in the mission field is a great blessing to that young man or woman and also to their family, but it is also a sacrifice in the sense that it isn't "free". Elder Muller has been working since he was 16 to save the necessary funds he needs to be able to serve. I am incredibly proud of him for all the hard work he put forth to be worthy to serve a mission, both spiritually and morally. But I am also grateful that he was willing to work, be a full tithe payer, and still save money for his mission.
He is in a trio companionship. Typically our missionaries have only one companion, but Bryan is lucky enough to have two! Several companionship are then put into groups called districts. Elder Muller's district is comprised of his trio and six Sister missionaries. Elder Muller has been called as the District Leader for the first few weeks. That means he is responsible for making sure those missionaries in his district are okay. The District Leader (or DL) will report to a Zone Leader (ZL). A district of missionaries is put into a group called a zone. The two leaders of this zone then report to the Mission Presidency. This is done so that all missionaries are looked after and helped while on their mission. These young men and women learn so many skills while in the mission field!
A mission is also made up of transfers. A transfer is when missionaries will be moved around their mission area. These are done every six weeks. It doesn't mean that a missionary will be reassigned every six weeks, but there is always a lot of things going in in a mission! The Mission President prays and receives inspiration as to which missionaries should be put into a companionship and to where they should serve. It is not done by pulling names out of a hat! It is done with much prayer and inspiration. So you can imagine how grueling the life of a missionary can be. They learn to pack their bags quickly, say good bye to people and places quickly, relocate and start all over with new companions! And missionaries are never without their companion. They must always be within eye sight and hearing distance of each other. This, again, is for their safety and protection. All these "rules" can seem very harsh to people who do not understand what a mission is all about. But these young men and women have to learn to adapt to living with roommates 24/7! It teaches them good people skills....and humility to adapt to whatever their new situation may bring.
The Mission Presidency is made up of three men and their wives. A Mission President and his two counselors. These men and women also are devoting three years of their lives to serving in this calling. None of our leadership is a paid position. These men and their wives will be called by our First Presidency of the Church to serve in different mission areas around the world. Their calling is usually a three year assignment.
So this is probably enough for now. I don't want to overwhelm you! But perhaps this gives you a better understanding of some of what these young men and women are doing. So when you see these missionaries, either on foot or on bikes, please be nice to them! Offer them a drink or a sandwich or even a hello! Just a smile and a hello will make their day! There are enough people yelling at them, calling them names and generally just being rude to them! A smile can make their day a better day! They are out in the elements all day long--wind, rain, snow, sleet, heat, you name it...they are working in it!
Till next time.....keep these missionaries in your prayers as well as their families! Our sons and daughters are leaving their families for 18 to 24 months so that they can show you how your family can be together forever!
The Book of Mormon is true! It has changed my life, and it can change yours as well. Check out LDS.org or Mormon.org for more information.
Sister Amy Schaefer
A Missionary Mama