ERM’s and How to Help

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Since today would be my halfway LDS mission mark, I thought I
would do an extra blog post this week.
Coming home 15 months early from my mission was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. But the hardest part  was interacting with everyone when I got back.
People were usually confused, awkward, and even judgmental at times. So here’s my top tips on how to treat an ERM or Early Return Missionary:
1. Don’t ask why they are back
A lot of people are not comfortable sharing why they are back. It could be a serious physical or mental health condition, a worthiness issue, or family troubles. So please be courteous and don’t ask. If they are comfortable with you knowing they will usually tell you without having to be asked.
Be careful what questions and how many you ask, you don’t want them to feel like they are being interrogated.
2. Let them talk to you about their mission
Just because they came home early, doesn’t mean they didn’t have good experiences. I admit that most of my mission was really difficult, but I still had a lot of fun and spiritual moments that I love talking about. You would let a Return Missionary tell you about their favorite memories, so let your Early Return Missionary do the same.
3. Invite them to do stuffLet them adjust back to their normal life at their own pace. Mission life is very different, so if they aren’t super into the latest movie or the music they used to, just give them time.
That being said, invite them to hang out. One of the most difficult things for me coming home was sitting at home doing nothing. Your mind starts to wander on what you would be doing in the mission field, what you’re missing, and if you made the right decision coming home. So keep them busy! Bonus points if you offer to go to church, the temple, or read scriptures with them. They just came from an environment were it was church 24/7, so doing church related things may be their comfort zone. Feeling the Spirit will also help them to feel a sense of peace and comfort.
4. Value their accomplishments
Again, yes they came home early but they still did something huge! They moved away from home, learned new things(sometimes even a language), served others, taught lessons, and did their best. Don’t down play their accomplishments just because they come home early.
Value the time and effort they put into their mission.
5. MOST IMPORTANTLY! Just love and support them
Don’t judge them, they are going through a very difficult time. A lot of missionaries will get the option to go back out into the field, if they want to and get everything sorted out. Don’t tell them what they should do in this instance. It is their life and a very difficult decision. Additionally, you may not understand all the factors involved in their decision.
Early Return Missionaries are very worried about what everyone will think about them. I remember being very scared and uncomfortable going back to my home ward. They all expected me to be out in the field and I felt like everyone saw me as a failure.
Remember that this is a very hard time for them,

the last thing they need is your judgement. Love and support goes a long way in their personal healing process.

Hope this helps the next time you run into an Early Returned Missionary.Much love and support,
Maria Jo Stephens

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