Students consider the importance of mission trips, developing of their religious growth

Dressing up in the traditional Korean Hanbok, Brenna Snow walks around Busan, South Korea to further her knowledge of Korean culture. Photo by Karina Snow

Standing in the empty room of her sister away at college, Kendyl Meeks thinks about what life will be like not being able to see her sister for another three years if she decides to take up a mission. Meeks, along with other students a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, have to consider the effect the mission trip would have on their surroundings as they think about the future and important decisions.

In order to go on a mission, students submit a required application that specifies any languages they may know currently, the names of family members who have served a mission and their activity within the church. When completed, only then will they be considered, by a committee from their church, to go on a mission. While having to decide by the age of 18, students involved in the church have to ask themselves whether they want to go on a mission trip to share the teachings of Christ. They will have to decide whether or not they will take opportunity to learn more about themselves, their religion, and the way of another state, country or culture.

“My older sister just got called to serve [in] Hungary, Romania [on a] mission speaking Hungarian,” Meeks said.

Those who decide to serve on a mission don’t get to choose their stationed location, allowing them to experience different lifestyles with a new cultural perspective, learn new languages, and try new foods.

“I just had a cousin come back [home]. He was gone for two years, he was originally called to Argentina because it was COVID-19 he went to Texas instead,” Meeks said. “There’s a lot of growth and change in you as a person; you become more mature.”

Mission trips are taken for the reason and collective goal of spreading the gospel and she says it’s a way for them to spread the joy of Christ’s life within themselves to others along with scriptures from the Book of Mormon. While away on trips, missonaries get to know a completely new environment filled with new people (culturally and socially) to further their understanding of how “everyone is a child of Christ” and growing as a person.

“I believe that there’s a God who loves me, and he’s there for me. And I’m not getting punished when bad things happen,” Mrs. Karina Snow said. “It’s just something I need to learn and grow through. And leaning on him to do that is what we’re taught.”

While mission trips are part of the journey, students also have to consider expenses while they are serving. From covering the spendings of food, shelter, and clothes, budgeting is a major step in the process to adapting to their new environment.

“So while you’re on your mission, you don’t have a job. You’re not allowed to have a job because your job is kind of like sharing the gospel and spreading it amongst people,” Meeks said.

Each month away is normally “around $500 a month” for flights, housing, food, clothes and other expenses with the usual year and a half to two years stay for both young men and women. An average cost of $6,000 to $12,000 depending on each person stay.

Each person has the same goal when serving a mission, to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world, furthering their journey and learning new things from a a different cultural perspective. Specifically, they all have a mission to teach others from the Book of Mormon. Missionaries have different tasks spanning from a day, week and there overall time spent at their location that includes door to door knocking called investigators of the church.

“They’ll like to come to church and do weekly check-ins with them,” Meeks said. “So they’ll go to their house to share a message, like stud[ing] the Scriptures with that, like the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and just that’s like, kind of a way of sharing, and they do a lot of Zoom interviews as well.”

Missionaries spread the word of Christ through these forms of teaching and are there to be reached out to. Yet while many people who have worked as missionaries said they found the experience fulfilling, their families back home often say they miss them.

“I think it’s a little unusual because I’m more excited [than] sad for them. My son went to Peru,” Snow said. “And so he learned Spanish and I was financially supporting them. But also, it’s just exciting to see all the new cultures that he got to experience and his experiences there.”

Snow has watched her three children go on trips after their father, Mr. Mark Snow, went when he was younger. She said she has been there for them every step of the way – supporting them financially and mentally every way she can.

“I think it’s just more exciting than anything, you know, to see them grow in different ways that we can’t grow when we stay home. Obviously, I miss them. But I talk to my daughter every Sunday night at 5 p.m. – we do a video call and lots of times it’s hours long,” Snow said.

Many missionaries don’t carry phones or electronics on them, having a short amount of time throughout the week allowed on devices with one day a week for themselves and their families back home if they choose. Trying to keep them involved in her life, Snow tells her children about events that are happening in her life.

“I just keep them involved in our life and tell them what’s going on so that they don’t feel alone,” Snow said.

Rather than learning a new language, their daughter, Brenna Snow, teaches and practices while in Korea.

Putting in a request for Korea for her mission, Brenna wanted to learn more about the culture she found enjoyable. Although when she set out to spread the gospel, while also learning more about Korean culture, she found that more people wanted to practice their English speaking skills with her rather than her practicing Korean language.

“She’s been there since July,” Snow said. “And it’s not come along as far as she thought it would. So she’s like, ‘I’m not as good as I want to be because everyone wants to speak English with me.’”

Brenna’s experience has differed from her older brother Brett’s, who was fully immersed in Spanish in Peru.

Meeks and her sister Khalei Meeks have been close their entire lives being two years apart. Being away at college, Khalei had considered whether she should go on a mission in Hungary, Romania, leaving her sister unable to see her for close to three years if Kendyl decides to go on a mission too.

“It’s been like a big weight on my shoulders lately, because she’s gonna miss my graduation and, it’s just very emotional,” Meeks said. “And she’s just kind of my best friend. But I know, it’ll be for the best event and that she’ll do a great job wherever she’s okay.”