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Emails from a missionary

| Wednesday, December 6, 2017

After high school, several of the students in my graduating class left our hometown to become Mormon missionaries. I didn’t think much of it at the time, as none of my close friends were planning to serve on missions immediately after high school.

Then, this summer, my friend Seth submitted his paperwork to serve a mission and received a call to Madagascar. When my other friends and I said goodbye in August, we knew that would be the last time we would see him until the two years of his mission were complete.

Rules regarding communication are strict for missionaries: They may only call home on Christmas and Mother’s Day. During the rest of the year, they are allowed to communicate with friends and family solely via email.

At first, using emails to keep in touch with my friend seemed strange to me. Though I always looked forward to hearing from Seth, I never knew how to respond. He sent out weekly updates to family and friends and didn’t always have time to reply to everyone individually. Not knowing if I would receive a reply, writing a lengthy email to him in response felt one-sided to me. I was used to the back and forth of texting and Snapchat, not the long monologues of occasional emails.

Yet, over time, I came to appreciate this form of communication. It allowed for storytelling in a way that texting did not. I found that when I did text friends from home, the conversations sometimes became stilted and stuck in the mundane realm of small talk. Through emails, however, I was able to relate stories about everything from classes, to my time in choir or working in the office at The Observer. When I heard from Seth, I enjoyed reading his anecdotes about learning Malagasy — the language of Madagascar — and his experiences at the Missionary Training Center. Writing emails also offered a nice change of pace from other forms of communication. Though it did not offer the instant gratification of texting, I grew to anticipate an email from Seth each week.

While I am grateful for other forms of communication, I have also enjoyed keeping in touch with my friend through email. I would not give up texting, Skype or phone calls; however, I have also appreciated the chance to relearn the art of letter writing. It has forced me to slow down, reflect upon my week and move beyond basic forms of small talk. Through this experience, I have come to realize that keeping in touch with friends is not just about how often you talk, but also about the quality of your conversations when you do.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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