Monday, December 3, 2012

Dear Elder, Merry Christmas!

A blog by Elder Pope's mom.

It's been eight months since I last hugged James.  Aside from time served in Korea and a deployment to Qatar, this is the first holiday season we won't snuggle in to watch a favorite movie, decorate the tree and play card games together.  We missed James at our Thanksgiving meal, although his younger brother, Mike, did a nice job eating for both of them!  In spite of his absence, I couldn't be happier, nor more thankful.

James' Arlington, Virginia Bishop told me many blessings would come from James' service as a missionary.  It didn't take eight months to realize the truth in his words.  Starting with the fact that James has written me a letter every week that he has been away.  That's 37 letters, and some weeks he sent more than one.  Even more remarkable is the substance of James' letters home.  This is where the blessings are found.  

From his letter today, "Well, Christmas is fast approaching and I'm learning so much, such as this mission is the best gift I could have right now in my life."  "This mission is the greatest thing for me.  There have been some very important moments here and if I had never come I would have missed them all.  What a brilliant gift a mother could ever give to her son, that of a mission where he can learn to live with more Joy in his life."  Elder Pope's biggest concern is that he won't have given enough to his mission in two years time.

For those who aren't familiar, a missionary spends 13 hours a day for two years actively working to invite others unto Christ.  They have about 8 hours one day a week for personal time to write letters home and do chores, such as grocery shopping, laundry and errands.  The rest of their time is spent in personal and group scripture study, preparing themselves to teach, teaching the Gospel, managing a busy schedule, setting goals, and doing service for anyone in need.  With the exception of special occasions or for work related activities, they do not watch TV or movies or make personal phone calls.  No dating, no napping, no "hanging out" with buds.  These young men selflessly dedicate two years of their lives serving someone they love and believe in:  Jesus Christ.  And we all benefit.   

The growth in James through this service in the last eight months is remarkable in itself, let alone the many ways in which he has influenced me personally for the better.  The quality of his character and selflessness shine through as I read his letters home and make me thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings it has brought my family.

For the first time in my life, I feel the true meaning of Christmas.  
Merry Christmas, Elder Pope!

p.s. I didn't say Missionaries don't have fun.