The best a missionary can do is try not to think about it. That’s hard, because full-time elders and sisters spend so much time in their own heads, without TV or social media to fill the void.

Just keep working. Keep knocking doors. Keep learning the language. Keep searching for seekers of truth. Don’t count the days. Serve like it will never end.

But the two-year or 18-month assignment does end. And missionaries who give it their all to the last day suddenly find themselves on a home-bound airplane with only a vague recollection of who they were before they left.

Being home is strange for the first few weeks. During idle time, there’s this antsy feeling that developed from two years of planning everything and working constantly. Family and friends unwittingly talk way too much about school, work and dating while the returned missionary apprehensively readjusts priorities. 

It’s gradually wonderful, too. Reunions with loved ones, though overwhelming at first, are joyful. Day-to-day life is mostly normal again, but with clearer focus and a closer connection to Jesus Christ.

And in a corner of the world, a place that’s unexciting to everyone else, there are beloved memories and two years of friends, bonded in a deep way that’s a product of all the planning, walking, sweating, hoping and praying.

When a missionary serves faithfully, those things come home too.