Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Set Goals and Make Plans"

Like many recently returned missionaries, the first few weeks at home were, well, challenging. But looking back over the past two-plus years, it has been a wonderful and exciting period of time. Soon after I returned home, I knew I needed to find something productive to keep me occupied and excited. That something turned out to be Christopher Columbus, and I set a goal to write a book about Columbus that would place him squarely in the position that Nephi described: "a man among the Gentiles" who was "wrought upon the Holy Ghost."

Early in that project, I set a goal to not only write a book about Columbus, but to focus for the next few years on writing a book every year. The Columbus book is now published and available for sale. Last week, just a little over two years from returning home, Kathleen and I submitted the manuscript for a new book to Deseret Book.

Our new book is a short guide for recently returned missionaries. The idea for this new book came to us in the months after Kathleen and I returned home from serving in the Spain Barcelona Mission.  We had served together for three years, me as mission president and Kathleen as my companion. It was a glorious experience – unquestionably the most remarkable and rewarding three years of our life to date.

When our mission was over and we were released, we were glad to again be with family, delighted to personally meet grandchildren that had been born in our absence (four of them), and excited about the next stage of our life. But we were also reminded of something that my brother, a former mission president, had said to us before we left: “The fourth year is the hardest.”

Between the time that we received our call and the time we entered the Seminar for New Mission Presidents at the MTC, we received forty pounds of instructional material. Three years later we received a single-page letter extending a release and expressing thanks for our service.  This pattern is true for all missionaries: there is a vast amount of literature and instructional material to help elders and sisters prepare for missionary service, but very little available to guide recently returned missionaries through the transition to post-mission life.

As we met with and renewed our relationship with many of our former missionaries who had returned home before us or who returned home in that “fourth year” of our mission, we began to realize that coming home from a full-time mission can be difficult and challenging for many missionaries. We had many conversations with recently returned missionaries, and began to see some trends.

This new book grew out of those conversations. Kathleen and I began a series of interviews with returned missionaries, conducted a survey of several missionaries, and corresponded with others. The book was made possible by their input. You may recognize something you said that found its way into the book! We are extremely grateful for your input, your candor, and your wisdom. We expect the book to be available late next summer.

It is immensely satisfying to set goals, make plans, and then carryout those plans. It's been a good two years!