One of the most memorable moments of any LDS mission is definitely the homecoming. It is a time for a returning missionary to reunite with their families and celebrate their service to God. Emotional and poignant, a missionary homecoming will never be forgotten by anyone involved. Here are five do’s and five don’ts to help welcome your missionary home in both a memorable and appropriate way.
5 Do’s for LDS Missionary Homecomings
Collect things for them to reflect upon.
At the end of a mission there are two years or eighteen months that need to be digested. It is likely your missionary will be going over their mission experiences again and again, turning them over and trying to hold onto everything. Help them cherish and remember the good times by collecting things they’ve sent you. Make a binder of their mission letters or use a service like Missionary Mailbag to make a commemorative book. Print off photos, buy books specifically for returned missionaries, and reflect upon your own experiences while your missionary has been gone.
Prepare a familiar, yet spruced up space.
Missionaries often feel like they have lived a lifetime during their mission. The person they used to be is gone. It can be disconcerting to come home to a room that hasn’t been touched since they’ve been gone. Try to make your missionary’s room a comforting, familiar place while still making changes that reflect the change of heart they’ve experienced. Frame those photos you printed out, clean out the closet, and update family photos. Make sure they are well-stocked with the clothes and toiletries they haven’t thought about in a long time but will likely need, such as perfume or cologne, new makeup for sisters, or casual shoes for elders.
Have someone record it.
The actual moment your missionary steps off the plane or walks out of the mission home into your arms is a whirlwind for most people. You’ve waited for so long and now it is happening in a blur. Invite a friend or family member who won’t mind standing back to record the experience. Make sure the battery is charged and there is a new memory card ready to be filled. If time permits, consider recording the moments leading up to the actual homecoming; interview family members and have them leave welcome messages for your missionary to watch later.
Bring a welcome home banner.
Welcome home signs and banners are a great way to make your missionary feel special while providing a memorable keepsake of the occasion. There are a lot of places that make them, but we suggest these. They are five feet long, made of durable paper to lower the cost, and are completely customizeable. With multiple styles for elders and sisters, you are sure to find something your missionary will love. You can also have families and friends write messages on the back.
Stay close by.
Your missionary has had someone at their side for a very long time and it can be hard to be alone. Let your missionary set their own rules for adjustment, but stay nearby for a little while. Offer to go with them wherever they need to go. They may not take you up on the offer, but if they feel they need someone for those first few days they’ll know they can count on you.
5 Don’ts for LDS Missionary Homecomings
Encourage your missionary to get “trunky”.
You are excited. You should be! However, your missionary is probably torn about the idea of coming home. They’re ready for a break, but they can’t imagine leaving. Encourage your missionary right up until the very end to remain focused on their mission. Sometimes, applications or forms for school need to be filled out or travel arrangements need to be made. Handle these with as little fanfare as possible. Your missionary will feel a lot more joyful at the end of their mission if they feel they’ve been focused right until the very end.
Make concrete plans.
Travel plans are tricky. You never know when a flight is going to be delayed or cancelled. Make a basic itinerary for your missionary’s homecoming and first few hours back, but remain flexible. It will minimize the stress of an already hectic day and make it easier for you to change plans as you need to.
Throw a huge celebration after they walk off the plane.
Avoid a large party or gathering the day your missionary arrives home. Not only will the travel have tired them out, but dealing with a large group of people welcoming them home can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Save the big welcome home party for another day. The Sunday after they arrive home is generally a safe choice. If you’d really like to do something afterward the plane lands, consider a small dinner with close family and friends.
Pepper them with questions.
There is a lot you’re going to want to talk about with your missionary. How was the mission? What was your favorite part? Will they go to school? Will they move? Anyone they want to date? Trying to encapsulate an entire mission and your future plans can be overwhelming when you’re still trying to process what just happened for the last eighteen months or two years of your life. Keep the questions to a minimum and be specific. A good idea is to start from the end of the mission and work back. How was the flight? Who saw you off? Any updates since their last letter home? Chances are, your missionary is going to want to know what has been going on in the real world so come prepared to talk, even about the mundane things.
Be disrespectful of other missionary families.
It is hard to contain your excitement! It is totally understandable. However, in places where lots of missionaries will be coming home at the same time (we’re looking at you SLC Airport), there will be lots of families all trying to contain their excitement at once. Everyone deserves a good homecoming experience. If there are other families around, be aware of your space and what is going on around you. There is plenty of room and space for everyone. As much as all the mothers want to run to the bottom of the escalator, let the missionaries come down before you unleash the hugs. If everyone works together, it will be a great experience for everyone involved.