Blog aims to raise awareness for sick RMs
Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 23:10
Many people know missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were either sent home early because of health issues or had health issues during their mission. While they may be supportive, it is still difficult for them because having someone who understands makes a big difference.
Enter Purple Heart RMs.
Purple Heart RMs is an organization that strives to help open community discussion about missionary health issues and help build a community to support them, as well emphasizing better testing and more communication to wards about the missionaries who have experienced health problems.
Why name the organization “Purple Heart” RMs?
“When a soldier gets hurt in combat, he is honored with a Purple Heart and respected, both in military and in the community,” said Drew Botcherby, one of the founders of the blog. “We thought this type of attitude needs to be taken with missionaries who become sick or injured on their missions. They are also giving their all for the sake of others, and it’s a shame that when some have medical issues they aren’t given anywhere near the same level of respect.”
“Whether in song or scripture, the LDS church uses the term ‘God’s Army’ to describe its missionaries,” said Ryan Freeman, another founder of the blog. “We thought the idea of a Purple Heart fit in this context. Many people are injured on their missions and we want their treatment to reflect the type of treatment that is given to our great military.”
The main purpose of the blog is to share stories and give support to others who have shared their personal experiences. Freeman and Botcherby both mentioned the site is for any situation — people who were sent home early, those who were able to stay to complete their mission but had health issues or those who were not able to go because of health issues.
Freeman and Botcherby’s own experiences gave them the idea to start this.
“I didn’t receive the medical treatment for my back that I needed on my mission,” Botcherby said. “It took nearly a year for my mission leaders to let me get an X-ray, and by then the problem was much worse. I kind of thought I was just an unlucky one, but I started to hear similar stories when I came home. If I hadn’t gone through what I did I don’t think I would have even noticed. I had no idea they were so common.”
“I returned home early from my mission,” Freeman said. “It was devastating. I had support, but I didn’t have many people to relate to. One of the goals of this project is to help normalize the experience of coming home from a mission early.”
The blog didn’t start out as a blog, however, when it started out in February of this year.
“I made some flyers asking for stories from missionaries who had health issues on their missions and passed them out at an event in downtown Provo,” Botcherby said. “We didn’t have a site or anything at this point, the organization didn’t exist outside of my own mind yet. I got some responses and was able to contact some passionate people to help get started. When I ran into Ryan in my singles ward things really started moving and we were able to pull everything together.”
The organization isn’t just for those people who had health issues with their missions. It is for everyone. They want to raise awareness about the situations some people are in during their mission. Besides just reading the stories on the blog, readers can also share the site through means of social media in hopes of reaching more people who could use the support the site allows and help raise awareness of.
Botcherby and Freeman hope to expand their reach as time goes on.
“Everyone knows someone who had a difficult mission because of illness, who was injured on their mission, or came home early,” Botcherby said. “All they have to do is share the project with them.”
“This idea resonates with a lot of people,” Freeman said. “A lot of members of the LDS church are aware of this issue. This project is an outlet for more discussion. We plan to use blogs, print and poster to let people know about this and other resources.”
The website for the group is purpleheartrms.com.