I was looking at my hands the other day. They looked vaguely unfamiliar. I couldn’t put my finger (a little pun for you) on it for a while. Then suddenly it occurred to me. They’re clean. No purple under my fingernails from canning a hundred quarts of grape juice. No cuticles stained brown from working in the garden or canning peaches. No paint residue. No wounds from saws and sanders. The nails have grown out, my calluses are gone – my hands look normal. How weird.
Life is a little weird here too. We have been dealing with problems that are hard to nail down. Some of our missionaries suffer from mental health issues. It is interesting that a mission can bring those things to the surface. In a strange way I think it may be one of the blessings of serving a mission.
Away from home and separated from a lot of the habits that relieve stress – sometimes in healthy ways (i.e. playing the piano or guitar, going to a movie with friends, baking cookies, watching reruns of the Waltons on youtube, going to the gym, playing games with your family or friends, etc.) and sometimes in not so healthy ways (i.e. hours of tv, headphones, computer games, mind-numbing music, surfing the web, etc) missionaries have to dig down deep and find answers and coping mechanisms within themselves. Some missionaries find that stress and anxiety build up and become a problem to manage.
Missions are hard – and wonderful. They are the refiner’s fire and, if we have the right attitude, a party all at once. Most of our missionaries figure out how to climb up on the positive attitude wagon and their whole mission is like two years at a very intensive session of EFY; lots of camaraderie, lots of high-fives, and lots of interaction with the Spirit - with some down-days and opposition thrown in just to make it interesting. But not everyone is the same and some struggle finding their happy place on their mission. I can see that this will be one of our challenges – to help those that struggle and to keep from struggling ourselves.
Love to all of you,