Last night for FHE, we continued to learn about missionaries in our family through a mission letter written by my father, Robert Hatch.
We heard about my Dad's experience when he first realized that he had a testimony and decided he wanted to serve a mission in a previous FHE.
At that time, he shared the following, "...after my third semester in college, I came home to either get drafted into the military, drift off into who knows what, or go on a mission. I had a long tall mirror in my bedroom. I purposefully, intently, piercingly, prayerfully, gazed into that mirror. I looked long, hard, and deep into my eyes--into my soul--and asked myself at this pivotal moment in my life, which direction was I going to choose. Who was I going to follow? What kind of life was I going to lead? The decision was made. The rest is history."
As his daughter, I can attest to the fact that my Dad's mission, has always been an important part of his life. He has a very French identity. I remember him lifting weights in the basement while listening to French language records and most of his close friends lovingly call him "Robert" with a French accent when they say it! This might also account for why I have a French name. Although I don't remember my Dad telling a lot of "on my mission stories," a day hasn't passed when his love for the people of his mission and his mission experience wasn't evident in all that he says and does, and not just in his love for the culture but in his love for people in general and in his constant efforts to serve others.
In the letter that we read last night, we heard how he felt when he received his mission call to the Franco-Belge Mission and how much he still treasures the typed letter that he received containing his call and the signature of President David O. McKay.
My Dad started off by encouraging my little "Future Missionaries" to continue to do the things they are already doing to prepare to serve a mission such as "living the gospel in your own home, reading and memorizing scriptures, and helping and serving others." He admonished them to take advantage of the many opportunities they will have to serve others through Scouting, Priesthood quorums, and Young Women's programs, and to "Keep [themselves] mentally, physically, and spiritually strong, because it takes a lot of strength to serve a mission."
He also assured them that they will "serve in exactly the best place where you can do the most good: exactly where the Savior wants you to serve."
My Dad then shared different aspects of his mission experience such as trying to speak only French to the people on the train on his way to his first area, being dropped off in the "middle of nowhere", walking with his heavy suitcase to the address of his first mission apartment and finding none of his companions at home! He had to wait hours for them to return. (No cell phones in the late 60's!) Despite the challenges, the highlight of that first day as a missionary was participating in a first discussion which resulted in the baptism of the young lady being taught.
The best part of his letter, for me, were all the fantastic photos that my father provided. The kids REALLY enjoyed seeing "Papa" so young, serving valiantly...and without his signature mustache!
If you'll remember, my Dad earned a nickname from his fellow-missionaries while on a mission. They called him "Straight Arrow" because he was so obedient to the commandments and mission rules.
That's our Papa! But what's funny is that my Dad has a really funny/silly side and a lot of his photos show that! But he's never one to talk about himself much. So I mentioned to the kids that one of the things that makes Papa a great missionary is that he is someone who makes others feel comfortable in conversation. He's a good listener and puts people at ease. No matter who you are, you never feel judged by my Dad, only loved. I have seen this time and again. My Dad is not flashy or showy, but he is just the type of person who is so genuine and caring that people, especially children, gravitate to him. I can only imagine that this special quality that he has displayed throughout his life was an asset to him on his mission as well.
So for our activity, I challenged the children to try to emulate their grandpa in some mock conversations with "strangers". They were to listen attentively, speak kindly, and see to the needs of the person they were talking to. To accomplish this, we presented the kids with hypothetical situations, in which they were to emulate Papa's gift for compassionate conversation and share a gospel message that would be appropriate for the person with whom they're speaking.
It was really neat to see how it unfolded. Guy was asked to pretend he was riding a train on his first day as a missionary, sitting by someone he did not know. He asked his new friend about the necklace she was wearing, which lead to her sharing that it was a gift from her Grandma who recently passed away. Guy ended up sharing his love of family and his testimony about how families are forever and inviting her to find out more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Scarlett practicing listening to the needs of a friend at school and responded with love when her friend expressed a desire to cheat on a test instead of working hard and studying. She set a good example and encouraged her friend to try harder and be honest, and that this would make her happier in the long-run.
Autumn pretended to be a grown-up Mommy chatting with another Mom friend while their children played. She listened to her friend's problems raising her five children, and Autumn shared some things from the Word of Wisdom and that she's learned from the Apostles that helped her with raising her family. She also invited her friend to come to church with her.
The whole exercise was pretty much made up right there on the spot, but was really fun to role-play and think about how we might be better friends and better missionaries to those we see every day.
Once again, we are so grateful for the example of our righteous ancestors and relatives who are sharing their missionary experiences with us. It is strengthening our little ones' resolve to share the gospel in love and service to others.
You can read more of our family mission letters here.