Crafting Your Own Mission


This afternoon I did some home teaching. One of the people we visited was a retired single (divorced) sister who lives alone. She is fairly new in our ward, having moved in maybe half a year ago or so. I’ll call her Sister Jones.

Sister Jones was a career high school teacher in Idaho. When she retired she swung straight into a mission in SLC. (I forget exactly what she did there, but I think it was some sort of office work and was such that she was not required to have a companion.) When her 18 months were up, she and her sister attended BYU Education Week, and then she moved across country here to the Chicago area. (This was because all her children and grandchildren happen to live in this area; none are any longer engaged in the Church.)

Sister Jones said something today that made quite an impression on me. She had loved her mission. She wanted and needed to spend time with her family, so re-upping for another formal mission was simply not in the cards. But she has quite intentionally arranged her life now to mimic as much as she can the mission experience. She basically has crafted her own mission.

Her apartment is very nice, but it’s also rather spartan by my pop culture standards (no live tv or internet). The grandkids sometimes complain about this, but they’ve adjusted and do games or work puzzles or things like that when they visit. (Last month her little grandson was visiting while we were there, and we actually played a couple of rounds of Crazy Eights with him.)

She teaches GD and is always exhaustively prepared, so she certainly spends a lot of time on that assignment. She also is managing the ward temple prep class. Soon they will get their feet wet by doing baptisms for the dead, and at the end of the course they will get their endowments and she will go with them to support them.

On Tuesdays she leaves the apartment by 9:00 to make a 10:00 endowment session at the temple as a patron, and then she does a shift as a worker there, which goes from noon to around six. (And I’ve seen her at the temple at other times as well.)

When she came here she looked around for other service opportunities to which she could devote her time, and she paired with an adult literacy non-profit.  So she walks from her apartment to the nearby library a couple of times a week to help adults learn to read one on one (her current pupil is an adult Japanese woman).

As she was explaining this last endeavor to us, the statement she had made earlier in the visit about arranging her affairs so as to mimic a mission came into focus for me. She loved being a missionary, but given her desire to spend extensive time with her family doing a formal mission was a non-starter. But she had done a little self-medication; she basically crafted her own little mission that worked for her schedule and available time. She seems very happy with her life of family and teaching and service.

And as I thought about it, I decided that I was deeply impressed by how she had basically called herself on a mission that worked for her.




  1. I want to be this woman when I’m an empty-nester (but hopefully with my husband still alongside me). This is awesome.

  2. Very nice

  3. I heard it said recently that our use of the word “calling” in the church is unusual; in other settings one’s calling is something they feel inspired or especially motivated to do rather than a temporary assignment given by a leader. It seems this sister has found her calling. I hope I am as successful at finding mine.

  4. I love this! It wouldn’ t be for me (or at least not in the foreseeable future), but I admire her dedication and passion. And I love that she figured it out for herself rather than waiting for someone else to tell he what she should do.

  5. My husband and I plan to do this when we retire someday. I’m so excited to start “crafting my own mission.”

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point about the distinctive way we use “calling.”

  7. Jason K. says:

    Good for her! I imagine that this kind of focus will make for a healthy retirement, too.

  8. I’ve been thinking about this blog post in relationship to the work I have done as a stay-at-home mother to create structure and a sense of purpose during hours (then days, weeks, and years) that can drift by without a defined meaning. I have always been happiest when I “call” myself to work: in my church calling, in ministering to friends or neighbors, in volunteering at my children’s school. Especially when my children were young and nothing I did was permanent (laundry, feeding, cleaning) having some sense of a completed contribution to the world made that life bearable. I’ve moved past that phase of mothering but choosing “anxiously engaged” as this sister did was a lifesaver once I discovered it.

  9. We have a couple that just moved into our far-flung branch in rural Pennsylvania that are basically doing this, though I’m not sure they’re calling it that. They retired and moved cross-country from California to a place they’d never before seen, just to have a different experience and to serve. And we are putting them to work!

  10. vic dietzz says:

    I have recently become aware of the need for volunteers in the national park system. Assisting tourists or caring for wildlife or habitats one could “call” themselves on a service mission from one month to several months. Moving from one park to another adds “transfers” to the experience and variety to the work. I think this would be a fine bucket list item in addition to another church mission.

%d bloggers like this: