Sunday, August 12, 2012

The R in RM

What does the “R” in “RM” stand for? I’ve heard many variations on what RM does mean or should mean. One professor I had said that instead of “returned missionary” it should mean “released missionary,” explaining that after a missionary goes home they should not return to their old ways. A mission, when done right, should be a great growing experience for a young man. However, there are many missionaries who go home and find themselves among their same friends and end up sinking back into old habits and immaturities. In this way, my professor meant that an RM should retain the lessons and growth he/she learned in the mission field in his/her life. While, I agree with that, I also heard another great explanation of what RM should mean.

Last month (July) I had the opportunity and the great blessing to go visit Toronto and to go to church in both wards in which I had served in Brampton, Ontario: Creditview and Heart Lake. I got to share this great experience and amazing road trip with my best friend, Garrett, after finally reuniting with him after two years. While we were at the Heart Lake ward, we had the opportunity to talk to a man named Felix. I’d never met Felix while I served in Heart Lake (he had been less-active at the time) but I had heard about him from Casey, my future roommate who had been in my MTC district and had served in Heart Lake about a year after I left.

Garrett and I spoke to Felix for a while. He is a man of such great faith and insight. He mentioned to me and Garrett his thoughts on being a returned missionary (though I can’t remember if he served a mission or not). Though having only been back in the church for a relatively short time, Felix had taken to being a member missionary and that’s where his idea of what it means to be an RM comes from. He mentioned to me and Garrett that being a returned missionary is far different from being a retired missionary. Though having “returned” from serving full-time, an RM (returned missionary) by definition is still a missionary.

I really like Felix’s definition of an RM. Just because I have returned from my mission (twice now), I am still a missionary, a returned missionary. As cliché as it sounds, it is so true that missionary work does not end when the name tag comes off. In fact, when I was getting ready to come home from Calgary, my friend Eric wrote to me and said that now, having returned home, is when the real missionary work begins, which is what my mission trained me for.

As if the point Felix made wasn’t clear enough, I started noticing by the end of my vacation how many missionaries I seemed to run into. The first night I was in Grand Rapids with Garrett’s family, we had dinner with the companionship of elders in their ward. While in Brampton, we saw four different companionships of elders (the Credtview elders, the Heart Lake elders, the Spanish elders, and the Brampton ward elders). After visiting Brampton, we went to visit Palmyra (we got to see my family and some old friends and Garrett LOVED the church history sites), so of course we saw a good number of sister missionaries at the visitors centers and historical sites. However, while in Palmyra, we also managed to run into a companionship of elders while we were at the dollar store getting batteries. After getting back from our road trip, during my last full day in Grand Rapids, we had a visit from the sister missionaries in their ward. As if I hadn’t had enough run-ins with missionaries during my trip, I guess I still wasn’t quite getting the message that Heavenly Father was trying to get me to learn.

It wasn’t until I was at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport that the lesson finally hit home. While waiting for my connecting flight in Dallas, I ran into a group of missionaries returning to Utah from Italy. I took the opportunity to chat with several of them (there were at least six of them, elders and sisters, in total). I called Garrett from the airport and told him about running into the missionaries at the airport and he pointed out to me the lesson, that maybe it was a hint from Heavenly Father that I wasn’t done with missionary work.

Arriving in Salt Lake City, waiting for my ride, I got to witness those missionaries, returning from Italy, reunite with their families. After nearly two years away from Toronto, it was therapeutic to go back and visit and see that it wasn’t a waste of my time, even though it was only three months. I even felt like a missionary again while I was there and so did Garrett (I even had to remind Garrett at one point that I wasn’t his companion, when I had to run back to the Sunday School room in Heart Lake to retrieve my scriptures and I found Garrett following me). After such an amazing vacation, I cannot imagine a better ending to it than seeing those missionaries reunite with their families again. To those elders and sisters (if somehow they happen to chance upon this) remember that you’re not done:

You’re a returned missionary, not a retired missionary.

(I guess you could basically say Garrett was my last companion in Toronto :D)