Our son, Loren, had been in Germany on his mission for 2 months, after 2 months in the MTC in Provo, when we received a call from our Stake President telling us that he was struggling and wanted to come home. The Mission President and his wife, who was a psychologist, had been working with him and trying different things to help him feel better. He told us that he would keep trying and he did, but in the end it was too much for him and he had to come home. He said that at one point he thought that if he didn’t get on a plane right then heading home, he might go crazy.
I was quite upset, as his mother, and as I have since analyzed my feelings, I have come to realize that I was probably more worried about us being judged as parents and him being judged for not finishing, than anything else. These worries were valid as I have heard people in the church, including myself when I was younger, be judgmental about all kinds of things. I know this is one reason things happen to us, so we can learn to be less like the Pharisees and Sadducees and more like Christ.
By the time we met him at the San Francisco airport, I was happy to put my arms around him and I just felt grateful that he was home safely. I felt a lot of compassion for him, and imagined what it must have been like to be in a foreign country with a foreign companion and a foreign Mission President. I didn’t think it was something I would be able to do.
It was a little stressful having him home after that because I didn’t really know what to do with him. The plan had changed all of a sudden and we hadn’t prepared a Plan B. He wasn’t much of a talker but he soon decided that he would register for school again and return to college the following semester and we were supportive of that.
Then one evening after we had had the missionaries for dinner, Loren came downstairs and said, “I’ve had an epiphany. I want to finish my mission.” We were surprised but delighted. We talked to him about what he would do if he went back out and started to have depression and/or anxiety again. He said that he was determined to stick it out this time and that he would get whatever help he needed out in the mission field. He was called to go to Minneapolis this time.
A few months after being in Minneapolis, he began struggling again. We spoke with his Mission President and with him on the phone. I was impressed that night with his president because he left a Saturday evening session of stake conference, drove an hour and a half to where Loren was, and gave him a priesthood blessing. We all decided to fast the next day; us, Loren, the president and the whole zone.
While we were talking to Loren on the phone that Saturday night, I was being a little tough on him I think, reminding him of what he had told us; that he was willing to get whatever help he needed and stay and finish his mission. He and I were discussing it between us and then my husband began to talk to him in his soft, kind, loving way and I felt the spirit enter into the conversation. Loren got emotional and so did I. We then expressed our love for him again and said goodbye. I knew then that whatever he decided, it would be all right and I felt overwhelmed with love for him.
In his email to us the following Monday, he thanked us for our love and support and told us he would be staying. He was able to finish and he is happy he did.
A year or so after Loren’s mission my husband and I moved to Brazil for a year, for my husband’s work. There I found myself alone all day in our tiny apartment with no job, very limited language skills and no friends (in the beginning). One night as I stood looking out the window feeling very alone and depressed, the words came strongly into my mind, “This is how Loren felt in Germany.” That was a powerful experience for me and it helped me understand how it is for thousands of our missionaries.
I feel only love and compassion for those who are not able to finish their missions and they should never be treated any differently than those who do. I hope they will know we love them just the same. They did their best, and that’s all the Lord requires of any of us.