by guest blogger Susan Peterson
There has been something on my mind for a while now. I think it needs to be addressed, and I think Susan Petersen is the one to do it! I met Susan months ago when she joined the Missionary Momma's FaceBook page. When her son went home, we became close sisters in the Gospel! She private messaged me through several hospital stays... I love her...I look up to her...and I respect her opinion! ~Heidi
Wounded in Battle
So, Heidi asked me to share what I know about ERM’s. It’s a relatively new term, but not something new. Being an ERM is hard! Being the mom to an ERM is hard! My son entered the MTC in August 2013. He loved the MTC and had some great experiences there. He was to serve stateside, so he was only in the MTC for a little over a week. When I talked to him from the airport, ready to head to his mission, he was ecstatic! He was ready to go! He has that kind of personality. He’s very outgoing, confident, happy, and loving… At least he was. I knew he was struggling on the mission. So I did my duty, fasted, prayed, attended the temple, sent uplifting messages, talked to the Mission President, and prayed some more. I finally got an email from him that said, “See ya soon!” Later that afternoon I received another email. It was from the mission home with his flight itinerary and I was floored! I cried, like for days! And I’m going to be honest, unless you’ve gone through it, you don’t understand. You can be sympathetic and try to understand, but it’s just one of those things.
He had been a missionary for 12 weeks! Twelve weeks! I didn’t understand, and still don’t. All I know is that, through my tears, the Elder that got off that plane was just a skeleton compared to the one I dropped off. His head was down, the light was gone from his eyes, and he was afraid to speak. It was heart breaking to see! He cried, I cried, younger brother and sister cried, and I cried some more! This was the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life! Harder than burying my 4 year old nephew. Harder than watching my dad die of a brain tumor. It was completely out of my control and I wondered what I had done wrong! What had I forgotten to teach my son? Did I support him enough? The worst part was the rumors and pity looks that I would get thrown my way. Everyone assumed he came home because he wasn’t worthy to go in the first place!
He had been going on 45 minutes of sleep for over 8 weeks. He would have panic attacks so bad that he would stop breathing. We stayed up that night, for most of the night, because he couldn’t sleep without having an attack. His scared little boy eyes looked at me and begged for me to help. It tore my heart out! He wouldn’t talk about what happened and was so hard on himself. He still is his toughest critic and that’s hard to watch.
What I’ve learned since November is this. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world, though I felt like it was. He’s lost and feels alone, but I need to be there to find him always, to be there for him, but he needs to come to me. He has the option of going back out clear up until he’s 24 years old, but if he doesn’t, that’s okay too. I found a ton of quotes on adversity, heartache, and struggles. I searched websites, read articles, and talked to a lot of people. These are humans! They are a child of God! Act normal. Ask them about their service. Talk to them. No pity, sad looks, etc. Bottom line: he had a willing heart to serve. He was endowed in the temple. The Lord assigns the place they will serve, but the computer assigns the default time 18/24 months. “It is anticipated that you will serve a period of 18/24 months.” Isn’t that what the call says? I’ve come to believe that those who choose to come home are valiant servants. They were willing and that’s all the Lord asks of them.
I’m not an expert. Every child is different. Every situation is different. I found peace by praying, attending the temple, reading articles about ERM’s, and being validated in my feelings. I still have tough days! It wasn’t supposed to be like this! Yes, I’ve adopted other missionaries. But I want to write to MY missionary. I want to anticipate Email . I want to see his plaque on the wall every when I go to church.
“Every early release missionary should be proud of his or her contribution and willing heart. I was told an analogy that has struck me inside again and again. In the military, the view of completing missions and of wounded comrades is quite different from our view of similar situations in religious missions. If soldiers rush into battle and are wounded on their first mission or 50th mission, they are treated the same. They are given medals. They are applauded for their service, no matter how long. Their brothers and sisters at arms risk their own lives to rescue and restore those soldiers to their homes. No one looks at them differently. No one says, ‘Well, you didn’t really help the war effort, did you?’ or ‘Toughen up, man. It’s just a bullet.’ These brave men and women are honored and respected for their service. So should it be with missionaries. We were willing to go where the Lord asked. Sometimes we get hurt. All we ask for is acceptance and love. We return with dread, hoping our partial offering will still be acceptable to those we care about most. My hope is that every missionary will be loved and respected. With your understanding and support, it can happen.” ~http://earlyreturnmissionary.wordpress.com/
What I wish I would’ve known. Go to the airport with signs and banners. It’s a homecoming and should be acknowledged as such. He hugged me at the airport and said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t stick it out Mom.” And I don’t have any pictures at the airport. I can’t get that back! Give lots of hugs. Let people know a head of time so they don’t have to try to mask their shocked faces or accidentally say something offensive. I was angry thinking he had just given up! As more of the story comes out, I feel horrible. Be open and receptive. Rather than praying for him to get back out there, I should’ve been praying that his testimony stays strong. I have since learned the error of my ways! I pray for his testimony and that he will be able to continue his mission wherever he chooses. I felt so alone and isolated. People would say it’ll be okay. I thought, “NO IT WON’T!” But it is and life goes on. It still stinks, but has opened my heart to be more compassionate and loving. I love my son. I love missionary work. I love this Gospel. I pray every day to better understand the Lord’s plan for me, and hope that one day I will.
This was the day he went to the MTC. My mom cried more than I did. I thought maybe that was his problem and I didn't love him enough!
He was never going on a mission. So when he came to me in March with his packet all done and submitted, I was floored! That being said, I still never thought he'd go and figured that until we drop him off, he could always change his mind! Once we dropped him off, and the younger sister is the only one that shed a tear, I thought we were home free! Him coming home never even entered my mind to be honest. I was always worried about him not going at all, not coming home early...