My reasons for wanting my sons to serve missions are probably not the same as the boys' reasons for wanting to go. Some of these reasons are quite practical. Who wouldn't want their 18 or 19 year old son to learn how to put aside his selfish desires and truly serve others? My boys, during years that are usually hallmarked by partying, experimentation and complete self absorption, will be helping people instead. Missionaries don't just teach people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They spend hundreds of hours serving as well. My nephew, Jake Stewart, is serving in the Calgary, Canada mission and after the devastating floods this past year, he regularly digs homes and apartments out of the mud for the people that suffered such terrible loss of property and personal belongings. In his email home just this week, he mentioned how he and his companion would be helping frame someone's basement this week.
Other practical reasons are the work ethic they establish, the growth they experience from true independence, the ability to overcome difficulty, learning to form relationships with people from vastly different backgrounds and life experiences, and realizing the incredible satisfaction of accomplishing something extraordinary.
My other reasons are deeply personal and spiritually based. I love the growth in their reliance on the Savior because they know they can't succeed without His help. I love hearing how prayer has played a vital part in the success of their day. I love knowing that they are willing to sacrifice to show the Lord that they are grateful for all the blessings they have received at His hand. I love that their love for the Savior motivates them to share that love with others. I love the joy they feel when someone they are teaching chooses to act on their newfound faith in Jesus Christ. I love the humble, confident, kind, loving men they become. The most important reason is found in the following verses in John 21:15-17:
15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
If we love the Savior, then we must obey His command to feed His sheep.
So, this is why I support my son's choice to serve a 2 year mission. Even though it is the hardest thing I have ever experienced as a mother, I wouldn't wish him to stay home and miss this incredibly sacred opportunity. My heart is going to break, just like last time when we said farewell to Ryan. When we drive away from the Missionary Training Center (MTC) I will still have the feeling of his arms around me from that last hug. This is the sacrifice I'm willing to make for the endless blessings that await, not only Sean, but our entire family as he serves the Lord.