W. Austin Gardner
What to accomplish in the first two years 4
1. Immerse yourself! It is imperative that from your first day, you immerse yourself in the life of your new community. You should worship with the people. You should develop local friendships, which is essential for feeling at home.
2. Total immersion is the secret to the rapid growth of the Mormons around the world. The rapid international expansion of Mormonism is virtually all being carried out by short-termers, most of whom immediately move in with a local family and become belongers in the community. You will read that in many places, the missionaries who learn the language best are Mormons, and they are only in the country for two years.
3. Become bicultural! You will be neither totally American nor totally of your new country. The moment you got saved, you received a new citizenship in heaven. Now you are called upon to enter into a new culture. You must become “one of them.”
4. Bonding and going native are not the same thing. Going native generally implies the rejection of one’s first culture. A reaction that is seldom seen and may not be possible for emotionally stable individuals. Nor is being bicultural the same as schizophrenic. The person with schizophrenia is a broken, fragmented self. The bicultural person is developing a new self, a new personality.
5. Take on an insider’s name. Take a name that fits in the country where you are. It will be the new you. The you that is neither American nor fully “national.” This will say, I live here, I want to be recognized as one of you. For most North American missionaries, North America is home, but you must develop a different attitude. Live in your new country; make it your home. Visit America every fifth year. It will change all of your attitudes.
6. The problem is that when normal bonding is not established, rejection of the people or even abuse can occur. It is often reflected in the attitude behind statements like, “Oh, these people!” “Why do they always do things this way?” “Somebody ought to teach them how to live.” “Won’t these people ever learn?”
7. There is nothing sadder to see than a missionary who is not comfortable with the people. Many missionaries are not happy. They hide out in their houses, join all the country clubs, and only show up for church during regular services. The people know that they are not happy. Why would you spend the next four years of your life living like that? What a way to live!
Why do you want to go to the mission field? The key is; did you come to give aid or to give yourself? But if the giver is giving himself along with the gift, if he is reaching out and making himself vulnerable, sacrificing comfort and convenience, the people will see that and will be more likely to respond favorably.