Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Christmas Story or A Family Sacrificing for Children's Missions

Recently I have been exchanging comments with people about sacrifices they have made in serving missions. I think most families in the church all have interesting stories to tell about how they financed their children's missions. I don't think the majority of missionaries earned every cent by themselves but that most had help from others whether a parent, a sibling, or someone else. I disagree with a few hardliners who insist that if a missionary didn't earn every cent they won't value their mission or give it their best effort.

This year I attended my daughter's wedding in Salt Lake City. She had gotten home from her mission in March from the Korea Daejeon Mission. She served a very successful mission and brought several people in to the church. She met a nice returned missionary at BYU and was sealed in the Salt Lake City Temple on 23 December 2008. Her sister also served a mission to Italy Rome Mission and came home in August. She also served a successful mission and brought people in to the Church. She hasn't found anyone to marry her yet. My third daughter who graduated from BYU--Idaho two weeks ago is going on a mission to the Taiwan Taipei Mission in January 2009.

As we were riding back in our Nissan Quest minivan with our other four children and my third daughter we had a lot of time to talk as it took thirty hours to return to South Carolina where we currently live. She told me about some unselfish things that my second daughter had done that had served in Italy.

It reminded me of a quote about sightseeing and what is of value to missionaries by Joseph F. Smith in his Letters to his Missionary Sons:

Too many of our missionaries spend their time idly, sight-seeing or wandering around in the parks, attending theatres of places of amusement.This should not be. It is all right to go to the theatre once in a while, or to go out in the parks, where it is nice and cool, for recreation, but to lounge around idly during the day or sight-seeing and spending the time that should be devoted to missionary work is not right. Neither is it the proper thing for missionaries to sit up late at nights, and then stay in bed in the mornings when they should be planning the work to be done. Many of the elders sleep away and idle away the best part of their lives when they should be up and hustling.

The elder who is devoted to his work, who is energetic and who puts his trust in the Lord and is dependent upon Him for his support, is the best missionary. The one who has all the money he desires and spends his time in idleness and sight-seeing and putting on airs with fashionable clothes and cane, who attends theatres when he should be visiting Saints or holding meetings or improving his time, will never be happy and faithful as the boy who has to make the best of his time and means. (Joseph F. Smith, From Prophet to Son:Advice of Joseph F. Smith to His Missionary Sons, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981, p. 119).
Last year when both my daughters were on missions our family was living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where I went to save money to go on a mission in a few years. I only made about $60,000 but it was all tax-free and I had for a brief time about fifty thousand dollars in the bank. Since we had sporadic postal service where the mail persons occasionally keep things my wife and I didn't send a package to either girl on their mission since it could have disappeared in the custom's black hole. I discovered from my third daughter a story I didn't know. The daughter telling me the story is in to sending missionary care packages so she sent my two daughters a few snacks from Rexburg. She asked if I knew that my wife had sent my two missionary daughter's some money last year. I said I didn't know that. I didn't know that my wife had also given each daughter two hundred dollars for Christmas because she handles the money. I have walked around for the past twenty years usually with nothing in my pocket. I have gone without lunch for that period of time to help my eight children have advantages like music lessons etc.

The first or oldest daughter in Korea did what most missionaries do in foreign countries, she bought souvenirs or unique keepsakes so that she could remember her mission. The other daughter was teaching with her companion some poor Italian young adults a missionary preparation class. She used her Christmas money to buy every youth over sixteen in the ward an Italian Preach My Gospel manual.

This year for Christmas we stayed in a cabin that we had rented in Heber Valley. Our finances were tight since we had to pay about six thousand dollars for the wedding. We also discovered our fourth daughter who is an engineering student had all her prerequisite classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so no one would hire her since she could only work Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. It turns out her sister who had served in Italy who was now working as a carpet cleaner twenty hours a week had feed her the entire semester. We weren't told about this fourth daughter's financial situation because she knew I would be angry since I told them to get a part-time job or starve that I would help them with tuition, books and/or missions. This daughter had made about three thousand dollars as a nanny in the summer working in Michigan but could only afford her first semester's tuition, books and rent.

The second daughter was also a conscientious and good student in the business school at BYU. Her third sister helped her reapply for school and had learned at BYU Idaho to apply for scholarships even if she wasn't likely to get them. Since her sister had about a 3.65 average in her junior year she applied for a scholarship in her name and she was awarded it. Between Pell grants and her small scholarship she was able to pay all of her tuition and books which was a small miracle in itself. Daughters one and four had bad grades for one semester and weren't eligible for federal money or scholarships.

I felt bad this year because in order to pay the oldest daughter's marriage and tuition and the fourth daughter's tuition and outfit the third daughter's mission clothing and pay her first four hundred dollar payment by January 2009 each of my children only received one good gift and some candy in their stockings. The first daughter and the fourth daughter didn't get any gift since their tuition and books is their gift. The second daughter received a thirty dollar pair of boots from my wife when she went a couple weeks earlier to get ready for the mission. The other four children received gifts that cost around $100. When we passed out gifts the unselfish daughter didn't even have a gift to unwrap I gave her a box of chocolates I received from my work. I personally received the same thing I always receive which is a bottle of Pepsi Free and a bag of Fritos. My wife didn't get any present either.

I have to say this was not the first time that my children went without Christmas presents. The first year when both were on missions and the third and fourth daughters were in college our family decided that only the youngest daughter who was eight years old would get Christmas presents. Every year for the past decade our family has pulled together.

We have a family goal that all of the children will get a college education and serve a mission. My children have all worked hard. The second daughter actually worked three jobs every summer to pay for college or a mission. My oldest daughter's first year in college when the second daughter was a senior in high school I was making $58,000 as the director of a library in Utah. The second daughter had about $2800 saved up. She gave the first daughter $2000 for her second semester's tuition. The next year the second daughter had a dream of being a recording artist. She met a record producer and entered a contest where she was offered to do a demo record in Florida. The first daughter reciprocated and gave her the money. Even though it didn't work out since it was a chicken and the egg where she needed an agent before the record company would sign her and no agent would sign her without a record contract she at least gave it her best try. She learned on her mission that even her goals in school of being an entertainment lawyer were not what she wanted to do any more.

Whenever I think about the two girls serving a mission I remember something the second one told me that met Boyd K. Packer at a missionary devotional in the MTC. When she told him about her and her sister both being on a mission Elder Packer told her "Your parents will be blessed." I feel that my family is blessed in that they have learned what things our of the greatest worth. I am sure one day when my children met those they brought in to the church in the next life that they will have a great reunion which will make up for worldly things they missed out on since they will be in the celestial kingdom of God.

I think there are untold stories of people throughout the church. If you have a story to tell feel free to added it in the comment section.


S.Faux said...

Dr. B:

I strongly appreciate your families goals: going on a mission and getting a college degree. Those are worthy goals, and are solid foundations for success in life.

Also, I appreciate knowing that I am not the only academician who struggles to keep the needs of the family going. We have had to definitely set our priorities, and Christmas was dialed downward this year.

By the way, I don't know why my blog essays are automatically getting linked to the bottom of yours. If there is something I need to adjust in my settings, let me know.

Anonymous said...

I just randomly came across your blog and I am happy to hear about your third daughter. I served in Taipei as well. I've been home almost 3 years. She'll love it. Good luck.