(This post is from Mom)
In an effort to update family and friends I (Mom) decided to write this post. Sometimes missions are just plain hard! Since the one year mark, Elder Medina has had some struggles, as most missionaries do. I want to post his weekly letters, but some of the recent ones have just been sad, depressing or just too personal to share. I realize that many people read this blog, including future missionaries and their families. I also realize that I would not be doing any favors if I made the mission experience seem like roses and daisy's all the time. Looking back on it now, I wish that I was more informed and prepared as a mother, to help my missionary deal with some of the trials that he has had. I in no way am saying that he shouldn't be serving, I am just saying that I wish I could have prepared him more for some of the rough patches that have come along. Hopefully this can be used as a tool to help you prepare, or prepare your loved ones who are planning to serve, or who might be serving and struggling. I believe that in sharing, no matter how hard it can be, we have the ability to teach and help others who may be in the same boat. Here are some of the areas that have been a struggle for Elder Medina, keep in mind that each persons trials are different from the next person and are unique to their situation and Heavenly Father's plan for them. And lastly, I wanted to document some of these trials, so that when he reads this, he can look back on them and see the many blessings that came out of them.
*Finances (this has been one of our trials) My husband and I were not adequately prepared for the cost of a foreign mission. It is hard enough to pay the monthly cost to keep a missionary out, but when they are serving in an area that is very poor and they seldom get fed, it can be draining on the whole family. If I could do it again, I would have stock piled a lot more money to help in this area. I am a firm believer in letting him live off of his monthly budget without bailing him out all the time. I also don't send a lot of packages, because it becomes too costly. Starting out, I didn't want to coddle him or make him too dependent on us by sending too many packages. I am learning now how much he still really needs to feel loved and thought of. I am trying to send more packages and letters when I can. I feel terrible guilt when I know he is hungry or in need of items that he can't find in El Salvador and we can't help him out, or when he goes to zone conferences and other missionaries pick up their packages and letters and he goes home empty handed.
*Illness- Elder Medina came down with a parasite soon after being at the Mexico MTC. He thought he was just sick, because he was trying to adjust to the food. After being in El Salvador for a short time he was taken to a medical clinic and tested positive for the parasite. This caused some tension with his trainer and him, because his trainer thought he was just being lazy and wanted to hide out in the bathroom. Turns out, he just couldn't get out of the bathroom ;) This continues to flare up and give him problems despite taking the prescribed medicine.
*Age- The day Elder Medina turned 18, which was a Friday, he was ordained an Elder, went to the Temple the next day, had his farewell the following day and left the next week. He was very young when he left. We told him that just because the ages had changed, he did not have to go when he turned 18. He insisted that he wanted to go and looking back on it now, he has expressed that he should have waited. He says, he was in no way mature enough to understand just how hard a foreign mission would be. I'm grateful that he has matured enough to realize that.
*Companions- In his most recent email (yesterday) he talked about all of the companions he has had so far. He listed each of them by name and talked about the trials and good times that they have had. Up until this point, all of his companions have been native (from Hispanic countries) He felt that some of his companions were very disappointed in him for being part Hispanic, and not knowing the language well or the customs. One in particular angrily pointed that out to him on a regular basis. Elder Medina is also a very happy, energetic guy. He has been excited about life since he was a little boy. He is excited about the gospel and sharing it! He truly has a gift to see the positive in the worst of situations. If you do not have a similar personality, I'm sure that could irritate you. Essentially in his email yesterday, he felt that he had only made a deep rooted connection and life long friendship with one of his companions since being out. He felt that all of the rest hated him :( He said that he has not been perfect and has tried hard to ask for forgiveness, humble himself and love each of them. He also said that he has been working on complimenting them instead of pointing out what they have done wrong, but still feels like the majority of them still don't care for him. This has been very hard for a guy who was friends with and loved by almost everyone in his High School. He is wondering what is wrong with him, which as you can imagine, breaks a mother's heart.
Ultimately our family knows that all trials are given by our Father in Heaven for our own good, even when we can't see it at the time. Our family has been blessed by Elder Medina and his service. As hard as it is, and as sobering as some of the pictures are that he sends home, I can truly say that I know he is where he is supposed to be, and I know he will look back on this experience someday with peace and happiness. He already has had so many great experiences and happy memories that have been made. We have faith and know that although it may be hard for him to see it right now, when the Lord is ready, he will show him why some of these trials were placed before him. We are experiencing and seeing with our own eyes, a young boy, turning into a man. The Lord loves him and he loves all of us. This gospel is true!