My mom was asked to speak in church this Sunday about what it means to us as family members to have my brother serving a mission. Here's what Darrin and I came up with:
Our thoughts on what it means to us to have Jacob serving a mission:
Initial response with minimal thought: It's great!
However, if you're looking for an answer with more substance...It is first and foremost a great blessing to Brother for choosing to faithfully follow the commandments and serve an honorable mission. The blessings he receives, and will continue to receive, by putting his thoughts and his concerns behind those of the people he serves will teach him humility and give him the ability to see many ways the Lord deeply blesses and enriches his life. Having a missionary in the family has also blessed us and helped us to be more missionary-minded, service-oriented, and more Christlike in our daily routines. We are definitely more consistent with both morning and evening prayers as we feel it completely necessary to pray for Brother individually (and the other missionaries serving in the field). I will be the first to admit there were definitely times pre-Brother's-mission I neglected to pray for the missionaries. Now, it is a staple. I simply can't NOT do it. We are also personally grateful for the reminder he has been of the importance of the scriptures in our lives. We need the daily spiritual bread they give. The lessons Brother learns and teaches from those sacred volumes will bless his life, the lives of the people he works with, and the lives of his future family forever.
When Darrin and I were first dating/married, I found it interesting whenever we would go out to eat, grocery shopping, get gas, etc. and encountered missionaries, he ALWAYS offered to pay for their meal/transaction. My usual first thoughts were, "HELLO!! We are a young, poor, married couple and can easily use that money somewhere else!" But with Brother out serving a mission, my heart has completely softened. Now when we make that small sacrifice to pay for the Elders'/Sisters' meal/groceries/gas, I get pretty choked up (I tend to be an emotional wreck when it comes to anything related to my family or the gospel--so combine the two and there's bound to be waterworks). I always think, "I really hope someone in the San Jose area thinks to be as kind and generous to Brother as Darrin is to the Elders and Sisters serving here."
Having Brother on a mission has also allowed us to see a different facet of his personality. His letters show a higher level of compassion and maturity as he responds to all the successes and challenges we are currently facing. His comments and suggestions are definitely made out of genuine love and concern...with a little bit of dry humor and sarcasm because it just wouldn't be Brother without it! Brother has been my hero since he was about fifteen and with that little, black tag, he has far-exceeded his previous ranking. He claimed at his missionary farewell that he's led a pretty easy and charmed life. I had to laugh a bit when he said it because it simply wasn't true. He has faced MOUNDS of adversity physically, was teased profusely by peers, and a myriad of other things in his young life. However, Brother simply chose to focus on the positive and completely forget the negative. We are grateful to see the way he, and his choices, have blessed the lives of our family. Just like that hero-worship I had for him through his teen-aged years, I (along with Darrin and I'm sure my other awesome siblings) still look to him as an example of one who focuses on the good things in life. By serving a mission, Brother is reminding us all of the need to follow the commandments and be faithful in all that we do. When we do that, those stumbling blocks life inherently throws in our path seem pretty insignificant.