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Okay, first of all, I'm well-aware that there are at least a billion different blogs posts out here on this exact subject-- but this is the one and only post from me so just grin and bear it! Alright? When I was preparing to serve as a sister missionary in the Korea Seoul South Mission, I remember sitting on my bed one night feeling like my head was going to explode and I had a bedroom to match it. I had clothes and random nonsense strewn across my bedroom floor like nobody's business, I was stressed out of my mind, and even though I thought I knew what I was doing, when it actually came down to it and I found myself in the middle of Asia-- I realized I had no idea what I was doing when I was packing. 

So that's why I'm writing this blog post. Disclaimer: everyone is different and everyone will have different ideas and opinions, but I am writing this purely from my own experience. (Which means that I may or may not be biased towards Korea-going missionaries and/or foreign missionaries.) I do have to say, however, that I was blessed (and cursed) with the opportunity to pack for Korea twice. Nine months into my mission I fell very ill and was forced to return home for a duration of three months. Immediately after those three months had passed, however, I repacked my bags and headed straight back out to Korea to finish my mission. Hence, I packed twice. Hence, I like to think I'm pretty good at it now. 

SO, if you've found yourself weeks away from heading off on this grand new adventure but you're currently sitting there asking yourself, "What on earth am I supposed to pack?" then this post is for you. 

I think the best advice I can give is this: before anything, try to get in touch with sisters from the mission you're going to be serving in (whether it be through fellow ward members, friends, or even your future mission president's wife). Get a couple of email addresses and then be brave enough to ask these kinds of questions: 
  • How available/expensive are feminine products there? Should I bring them with me?
  • What other hygeine products should I bring with me?
  • What types of things are hard to get in our mission?
  • What is the best kind of coat to buy for this area? (I'm personally a fan on the knee-length marshmallow coats. But mostly because Korea was extremely cold in the winter time.)
  • What are the things/tools you have now that you find most useful in our mission area?
  • Any suggestions for clothing/other things I should bring?
These are questions that are specific to the area you'll be serving in and they're good questions to have answered as you're packing up your bags and getting ready to go. I know that I had to pack a year and a half's worth of feminine products, toothpaste, and deodorant when I headed out on my mission and I was certainly grateful that I knew to pack those things before hand. If you can get in contact with some ladies who are either currently serving in your mission or who have served in your mission it will be so helpful to you in this process!

Next topic of discussion: CLOTHES. I can't even begin to tell you how worthless I thought ALL of my clothes were when I actually got to Korea. I had this wrong idea of what missionary clothes needed to be when I was mission shopping and I wish that someone would have informed me differently. When shopping for mission clothes these are the guidelines you should follow:
  • Comfort comes first! As a sister missionary you'll be in your clothes ALL day-- from seven in the morning until about nine-thirty at night. If your clothes are even slightly uncomfortable, I promise you that you will not wear them. That goes for shoes as well. When it comes down to it, you'll want a couple of sturdy, comfortable, plain-ish shoes. If not, they wear out fast. And having uncomfortable shoes can cause more problems down the road. Just wait, a couple of months into your mission and you won't even care what's on your feet (as long as they're comfy!) So be practical and conservative with your shoes and you'll be thanking yourself later.
  • Thrift stores and the DI are the places to go when you're looking for mission clothes. If you spend a small fortune on clothes for the mish you'll only end up being really sad. Mission clothes wear out so fast and you end up leaving at least half of them behind along the way. It's unfortunate to spend a great deal of money just to wear it out or lose it. Thrift stores are great, affordable, and you won't be sad when your skirt gets ripped when you have to climb a fence or when you sit in bubblegum. (Plus, most of the skirts are grandma skirts... which means they'll actually be long enough!) DO, however, take along a couple of nicer pieces of clothing for special events such as baptisms, trainings, and mission conferences.
  • Again-- ask other sister missionaries what they wore on their mission to get more of an idea of what you want to wear. And always remember to just always be yourself. You're not trying to hide yourself as a missionary, you're trying to let your inner self shine! So keep your own sense of style, but just up to a missionary standard.
Get a fresh set of scriptures for your mission. It's not necessary, but it's really neat to walk away from your mission with a special set of scriptures marked and worn out by the days, memories, and miracles of your mission. I cherish my mission scriptures! Another hint: get a set of mini scriptures from Deseret Book or from the lds online store. They make the perfect traveling scriptures and you don't have to worry about trying to carry around your nice, big, and heavy set of scriptures when you go on exchanges or to trainings. 

Also, start getting familiar with Preach My Gospel now. You can never get too familiar with it! It's the book that will teach you everything you need to know about being a missionary. It's like missionary scripture-- every time you read it you learn something different. I'd also suggest getting a miniature PMG (again, just because mini books are so much nicer when you have to carry them around in your purse all day). My mission actually provided a PMG that had BOTH Korean and English in it, which was an awesome tool for language study! So see if your mission offers something similar, because I'd definitely recommend it.

(Sidenote: don't panic if you forget something when you go into the MTC. The MTC Bookstore has basically anything you'd ever need. Including the best collection of cards I've ever seen. Make sure to make a pit-stop at their little card section during extra time that you may have. You won't regret it!) 

Don't forget to bring along a little piece of home. For example, I packed along my pillow pet and a favorite blanket. I tucked them away within some of those vacuum-zip bags so they didn't take up too much space. And boy was I glad I had them! Sometimes it's just nice to have little things like that to hold on to when you're so far from home.

(Also, use a LOT of those vacuum zip bags. They work wonders for your suitcase. And since we're on the topic of suit-case organizing: my favorite was having everything organized into smaller baggies within bigger bags. You can never be too organized when it comes to packing for a mission. The more organized you are when you pack, the easier it is to unpack! Especially if things are already stored in little make-up bags and so forth.)

I'd also suggest carrying a book along with you with all the addresses of friends and family members that you'd like to send letters to occasionally along the way. The book also serves well to write down the addresses and phone numbers of people you want to stay in contact with that you meet as a missionary (such as members and investigators). 

Bring along a photo album as well! You never realize how much pictures mean to you until it's all you've got to remember your family! Plus, they turn out to be super valuable teaching tools in street contacting and in lessons. The people you teach with love seeing your family photos and will be able to connect with you a lot easier.

If you're going abroad, bring all your favorite medicines. (i.e. ibuprofen, sleeping medicine, cold medicine, etc.) People in different countries use different kinds of meds... but also medicine just seems to be so over-priced when you're a poor missionary! (But I'm including tampons in the medicine category because Asia sure didn't believe in them... )

Make sure you take the time to get your patriarchal blessing shrunk and laminated at the printing center at the MTC. It fits perfectly into a journal, scriptures, etc. And it's SO good to have with you on days where you're feeling a little overwhelmed. 

Bring NOT only a normal, every-day journal, but also a study journal. You'll want somewhere to record all the things you're learning and spiritual moments you'll have. And definitely take that journal with you to the devotionals and firesides. (And for the record, make a valiant effort to stay up-to-date with your normal journal as well. Flipping through the pages of my old mission journals is one of my favorite activities now that I'm home.)

Another fun thing to do is take yet another journal (we called them memory books) that functions kind of like a yearbook. You give it to people you love and they fill it with words, pictures, and memories (duh). It's one of my favorite things I have from my mission. 

Bring either a hard drive or several little flash drives with you to put all your photos on (to back it all up just in case something happens to your camera or memory card) and to store all the fun photos you get from other missionaries as well. It's suuuuper nice to have, just saying. 

FOUR-wheeled suitcases will save your life! One of my suitcases (the first time around) only had two wheels and every time I had to move I wanted to kill myself. Life is so much easier when you purchase four-wheeled suitcases. I promise! 

Bring a little photo frame along with a bunch of mini pictures of quotes that you can find and print off from Pinterest. It's a brilliant desk decoration that is super easy to mix up often.

Create an 18 month calendar that is covered in pictures of the people you love and your favorite memories. It's the most wonderful thing to hang over your desk. Plus, it can kind of become a journal in and of itself. I always wrote a couple fun things on each day to help me remember little details of each day. 

Bring good music! Seriously-- it makes all the difference to have good music playing at nights when you're getting ready for bed, in the mornings when you wake up... or just whenever. Make sure to double-check on what kind of music is allowed on your mission and what ways you're allowed to have it. (ie ipods, cds, etc.)

Make a book/collection of 30min work out plans for the mornings. You've only got half an hour to work out and time in the morning seems to slip away super fast. You don't want to waste any of it sitting around trying to decide what you should do!

Bring lots of hand sanitizer. I can't tell you how many times that came in handy for me. Also, tide to go pens. They are magic. Both were essentials in my missionary side-bag and they saved the day more times than I can even count.

Don't throw away your letters. Take a little box or something with you where you can keep all of your letters organized and safe. 

If you're curious about what mission life is like, get in contact with the sister missionaries who are serving in your area or home ward. When you're actually a missionary you will see JUST how important it is to have members with you at lessons. Plus, it's a good way to prepare for your own mission. 

Don't pack your suitcases so full that you won't have room for stuff you buy. I promise, it's way less stressful for you when you have room in your suitcases on the way there because you'll definitely need every last bit of space in your suitcases for the plane ride home!

Um. If you're going to a foreign country, bring the kind of bleach that won't turn your garments grey when you try to use it. (Oxy clean is a good one!) They change to not-so-white colors pretty fast so it's good to have a way of making them white again! (And if you don't care if your garments are grey.... ignore this suggestion.)

Sticky notes, stickers, and coloring pages are always a good idea for church, especially if you have young investigators or less-actives. You can actually print off religious coloring pages from lds.org. And sticky notes are the best just for day-to-day missionary work. They come in handy probably forty times a day. I kept mine on the back page of my planner. 

If you're learning a language, don't be afraid to mess up. I learned the most from just TRYING to speak. Korean is SO hard to learn, but I didn't really start learning until I let go of the fear of messing up in front of other people. Just open your mouth and speak!

Make up fun games and competitions with your companion/ other missionaries when you're out and about proselyting. It's not always an easy task, but we're sharing a message of happiness so it's important to BE HAPPY when other people see you wearing the Savior's name upon your heart. 

I could sit here and spit out hints and tips about missionary work all day long... long story short, you'll be fine. Somehow, as a missionary, everything always seems to work out. I'm not really sure how, (magic? the priesthood? the spirit?) but it does. So even though it's scary and it's hard, just remember that the Lord provides a way for His children to do the things He asks us to do! So put on your biggest smile, say a little prayer, and get out and get to work. Being a missionary truly is such an honor and it's important to really enjoy all the little things as a missionary because we're only missionaries for a very short period of time.

If you're reading this and your head is full of lots of random questions, feel free to share some of them below and I (or maybe someone else) will do my best to answer them or help you find out where to find the answers for yourself. 

Good luck and be exciting. I envy you as you start this new and exciting phase of your life. If I were given another chance to put on my name tag and get back on a plane to Korea again, I'd do it in a heartbeat. So make the most of the time you've been given!

From one (former) sister missionary to another, I wish you all the best. 

xoxo,

Sister Bagley

4 comments

  1. This needs to be put in a pamphlet and published!

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  2. Great advice! Do you have a Facebook? I was called to serve in Korea Seoul South Mission. I report on January 2017. I was having a hard time about shoes.

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    Replies
    1. Hi! Yes, I have a Facebook. Just look up "CaLea Gunther" and you will find me! I would love, love, love to help in any way I can.

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    2. Sister Gunther, I added and messaged you on Facebook. My name is Sarah Eve Perlawan. I am from the Philippines. I hope to learn as much tips as I can. Since I also came from the tropics packing for winter gears also poses some challenges for me.

      I do go to thrift stores to get my things. It's been amazing so far. I just have a few more questions. I hope to talk to you soon.

      Thanks!

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