Exciting news for Boxes From Babylon! We've got a new website, payment processor, and lots of new options for boxes to buy!
In every mission there are stories. Funny events that are often repeated, but rarely is the source known. In my mission there was a few of these, but there is only one that I actually know the source of. It is the story of two elders who were less than technologically literate. About a year ago, while I was on my mission, there was a youtube video released about Apple wave technology. It supposedly allowed you to charge your iPhone in the microwave. Now we’ve all believed silly things before. I believed my father ran around in a pink tutu waving a wand when I first found out he ‘was The Tooth Fairy.’ Still, once we reach a certain age, we should probably verify information that potentially ruin things that are extremely expensive, as well as anything that claims things are microwaveable. These two elders didn’t.
My companion and I were mission secretaries at the time. In Sweden, the secretaries handle everything imaginable that isn’t expressly covered by another job description. This includes tech support, and dealing with phones in general. So one day we were in the office, working to prepare for a zone conference or some other big important meeting, when we received a call from a number we didn’t have listed. My companion answered the phone in Swedish, saying “Hi! This is the missionaries.” I looked over confused, we didn’t often receive calls to our phone from people who we couldn’t answer by name. Elder Smith reverted to english, and it became clear he was speaking with some missionaries. I thought it was odd that they had called on an unknown number, but it wasn’t unheard of so I went back to what I was doing. Elder Smith left the room, going into another part of the office to get some things during the conversation. He didn’t return quickly however. I heard, “Elder Knecht, come here!” I turned around in the office and saw Elder Smith sitting on the couch. He said, “I promised the missionaries I wouldn’t tell anyone, but I can’t keep that promise. So want to hear what happened?” With a teaser like that, how could I refuse?
“Sure.” I responded.
“Well, those were the Karlstad elders. They called because they broke their phone.” Now, this happens less frequently than before when we didn’t have iPhones, however it still happened. Generally there isn’t a great story either, though always the potential for one.
“How’d they do that?” I asked.
Elder Smith burst out laughing. Through his laughter I understood, “They were at the church and had forgotten their charger. (Their apartment was a long ways away). So instead of going back, Elder John mentioned that he had heard that iPhones can be charged in the microwave. Elder Thomas agreed, mentioning that he too had heard that. So instead of returning for the charger they decided to try it.”
I remember staring at Elder Smith incredulously.“Tell me they didn’t…”
“Yes!” Elder Smith responded, “They did! They microwaved their iPhone trying to charge it!”
I had no words. Only astonishment. Elder Smith had told them to go to the apple store and to see what could be done. The phone had managed to survive…mostly. They could receive calls and texts still, miraculously, however their touch screen was broken and they couldn’t see anything on it.
Elder Smith and myself expected them to be laughed out of the Apple store. However, the Apple store fixed it for free under warranty. So, in case you are curious, microwaving your iPhone is covered under warranty, just so long as you don’t drop it.
And iPhones definitely do not charge in the microwave.
Many times in life we have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. It was one of those that my son was given when he was called to serve a mission. As a convert I had already been the recipient of the great gift that the missionaries bring to people. I had received the hope and the joy from a set of young men who had spent their teen years preparing to help me find my future. When my son prepared to go I was excited and a little scared. Dropping him off was one of the most emotional day of his mission. I cried for a whole day both from gratitude and from emotion. Of course I was happy for the journey he would experience both spiritually and emotionally.
In the meantime our family would have a missionary in the field. The first 6 months we kept planning things that were we would do when he came back. We felt it was unfair to do things without him. After joining some missionary moms groups I realized that this was not healthy for my younger children. We had to learn to live our lives here. We wrote my son every single week. We waited with anticipation for his email on Monday morning and we tried so hard to catch him when he was online. It was like a weekly treasure hunt. I was very relieved that we could hear often and quickly about the experiences that our son was having. Our lives went on and we got really busy with school and activities and the things that life entails.
One day I reread a post on Facebook and realized that many moms sent boxes to their missionaries every month. My son had only gotten a box at Christmas and one for his birthday. Yikes, now I felt bad so I wrote him and asked what he might want. Some candy and socks is what he answered and that is what we sent. Next time he mentioned his companion and I realized that it was normal for his companion to get snail mail. I started a million letters which were never sent for a myriad of reasons and I purchased a few things here and there but there was often simply not enough time to get the Halloween things to him by Halloween. I sound like a loser but in reality I was a busy mom with good intentions and lots to juggle. My Elder had what he need. The Lord saw to that.
However, as he returned after his mission, a day to remember for sure, and he told us about what was not just important and spiritual on his mission but also fun. Mail and packages were really identified as something worthwhile. I recalled that during my missionary mom days there were several times that I read about missionaries whose companions never got mail and the mothers would rally to send them stuff. We realized that it was not impossible to make it better. He and his friends came up with the idea of a box subscription service with only the need to know the name and the mission. They spent time choosing what to include based on what missionaries really wanted and needed. It is very exciting to know that now when a missionary mom or a friend or a ward wants to they can just order a box and not worry about getting all the information just doing something for that missionary. It is a great day when you can easily send love in a box.
The MTC is a lovely place where the missionaries detox from the world and build their work ethic for their whole mission. There are hours of language study as well as gospel discussions and learning to work in companionships, which is, quite frankly, especially hard. Our experience with the MTC is focused on TRC, or “teaching recent converts.” Missionaries practice their language/gospel teaching skills to any and all members. Our experience is that they are a bit tired, very excited, and sometimes a little overwhelmed. This is the first opportunity they have to teach a regular person while they are still in the MTC. It is focused on stretching their ability to think of the spiritual needs of another. They prepare by praying while studying and then they focus on feeling the spirit while teaching us volunteers what we most need to hear. The very first time I went there I wondered how I could help them prepare for their individual missions. I focused on being encouraging and corrective. While it certainly was fun it was not terribly spiritual. When I returned the second time I was told by our fantastic trainer to focus on letting them teach with the spirit regardless of their language ability. This time I could really see how this focus on spirituality allowed them to grow in lingual confidence as well as spiritual confidence, which was of course much more powerful than anything I could have devised.
The most important thing in the MTC is different for every missionary, but there are some commonalities. Having an opportunity to tell others and themselves why they are serving their mission is a powerful motivator to get through the change they will need to complete in order to transform from a young man or woman into a fulltime servant of the Lord. Taking the time to write them letters of encouragement is important because mail is also a confidence builder for missionaries.
This is the time for them to cement the lessons they practiced while preparing for their mission. Those skills hopefully include finances, physical health, social skills, work and study habits, language skills, household skills, and grooming and cleanliness. If one of them is weaker in our missionary, it is a good idea to remind them of the way we grow skills and confidence in the gospel. We learn about what is needed to change, we pick what is the most important, we devise a plan, we pray to get confirmation of our plan and we pray from strength to change, then we try, try, and try again until we are good at it.