Education Week: Healthy missionaries prepare before the call

Elliott Miller
Missionaries sing during an introductory meeting at the MTC. Missionaries who prepare for grueling demands of missionary work are more able to teach effectively.

The amount of time that missionaries spend in a Missionary Training Center had decreased by approximately one third since the recent age change, meaning, among other things, less instruction time is spent on overall health and fitness.

As part of an Education Week presentation at BYU, Deanne T. Francis and Christine W. Lake team-taught a class about the importance of parents preparing their children to serve with “might,” by making sure that future missionaries are able to take care of their health and hygiene needs.

“The mission president should not have to teach missionaries how to wash their hands,” said resident nurse Francis.

Francis recalled how as a senior missionary in the Canary Islands, she volunteered to wash the sheets of a pair of busy elders who had been washing their linens in a bucket on their apartment roof. She had to run the sheets through the machine three times before the linens were clean. When the elders arrived to pick up the sheets from the senior couple’s home, they didn’t recognize their own linens; they were always so dirty they hadn’t noticed the tiny flowers on them.

Preparation for a mission begins in the home, according to Lake, who said the teen years are the time to set the bar higher for children.

Intellectual skills that should be taught in the home include how to plan and maintain a budget, creating and following a daily schedule, maintaining personal accountability and how to study for long periods of time without distractions.

Lake described how she has seen her children studying for school with the television on or while periodically checking social media, which is not possible as a missionary. Most children need to be taught how to study effectively, she said.

Lake said some Latter-day Saints help their children learn these intellectual skills by designating one day per week to be technology-free, so they can become comfortable without relying on devices as stress relievers.

Self-care skills young adults should know before leaving the home are how to cook meals without a freezer or a microwave, pick foods that create a healthy balanced diet, wash, dry and fold their laundry, clean with bleach, take vitamins and prescribed medicines at the proper times and be able to walk six miles or bike 15 miles.

Mission-specific preparations that need to be made can all be found within the mission call packet provided by the church, which is why both parents and missionaries should read the entire packet—especially since required immunizations to serve in a certain area could take several months to complete.

Information about the culture and food of the area may also be included in the packet, or should be researched by the missionary and his or her family so the missionary can learn how to prepare and eat foods that are popular in the area.

The better prepared a missionary is to make healthy decisions and to prevent illness, the more time the missionary can spend teaching the gospel to others, Francis said.

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