by Kathy Penrod

I used to be eighteen. A long time ago. I really thought I was pretty smart and of course more mature than most eighteen year olds. But really? I was a little baby. A young kid who didn’t know much of anything. And it seemed like just last week.

With these thoughts coursing through my mind, I think of my son who returned from his mission last year, my other son getting ready to submit his papers and still another son only a year and a half away from going. I think of the missionaries I see on their bikes, walking around town and shopping for food at Wal-Mart. I think of the missionaries we have been blessed to have in our home. Usually just for dinner but, one year, we actually had the opportunity of having them live with us. They are 18 or 19 – maybe 20. They are just young kids. They are sincere, they are away from home & they need a good meal. 

My children have always loved having the missionaries over to our home. They bring such a sweet spirit; it is difficult NOT to feel it. Because my first four children are boys, I tend to compare the Elder (male) Missionaries to them. They always look so little – so much like my own sons.

I think of my boys, teaching and sharing the most important message the world has ever known and it warms my heart. I know first hand of the “happy-sad” feeling parents have from sending their children into the unknown. I know of the joy that comes from having a missionary off doing God’s work and I know of the ever-present ache that weighs on a parent’s heart from missing a child who is far away.

My heart tugs a bit for those parents who are sending their sons and daughters away for a while. I know how hard it is to not know exactly what may be happening in a child’s life. In some cases, these missionaries go to dangerous areas where only the angels of God can protect them. Parents have to learn to trust that Heavenly Father will keep His missionaries safe.

Though they are young and their words aren’t perfect, they will enter strange homes and bear testimony of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Their humility allows Heavenly Father’s spirit to abide in our home. And I love it.

And that is why I will always have food for the missionaries. I will always let them have a cold drink of water or a much needed snack. I may even give them a little extra grocery money when I see them in the supermarket. I will always smile and wave because I know that somewhere, they have parents who are praying for them and siblings that miss them.  

I hope for these missionaries that their feet won’t blister from hours of walking. Their hearts won’t ache with homesickness. I hope their mailboxes will be filled with letters and packages from home. I hope they will always have a fireplace to warm their tired bodies on a cold night and a cold glass of water on a hot day. And I especially hope they will never have a door slammed in their face, greeted instead with a friendly smile.

I wish that everyone could see the missionaries for who they are. Dedicated, selfless young kids who are devoting time from their lives – in most cases paying for it with money they have been saving themselves since their childhood. These are somebody’s children. They are lonely, homesick and probably hungry. They will keep going through the freezing rain or scorching heat. They only talk to their family a couple times a year – depending on letters the rest of the time. They are imperfect, awkward and still learning about life. But, they are committed to doing what they believe in. They are committed to following Christ. They are dedicated.