Now that it’s the end of Missionary May at Savor Your Story, I wanted to compile all of the tips and tricks we sent your way this month on Instagram. Missionaries are pretty selfless people who want to spread goodness and light through service to others. Their experience is definitely something worth remembering, and I can think of no better way to preserve these memories than putting together a mission book.
Not all of the scrapbook layouts or images you see in this blog post are from mission books, but hopefully they help give an example of the various tips! Some of them were created using design collections from designers I collaborate with. I’ve linked each of those images to where you can download the featured kits. If you’re interested in learning more about how Savor Your Story can help you make a mission book, click here. Without further ado, here are your tips!
17 Tips for Creating a Mission Book
1. Bring in elements related to location
Mission experiences differ greatly depending on where you serve. Try bringing in elements that represent the place you lived. If you served your mission in Florida, use palm trees and crocodiles. If you served your mission in Peru, throw some llamas and mountains in there. This is a page of our move to Arizona, hence the cacti that I love so much!
2. Highlight Important Days
Let’s be honest, some days are bigger than others. Just as an art curator carefully places important pieces throughout a museum, it is important to do the same in your memory books with your most important days. My recommendation is to give special days preferential treatment in your memory book.
For missionaries, these special days could be sacred spiritual experiences that you journal about, baptisms, a trip to the temple, or a turning point conversation with someone impactful. Even though you tell yourself you will remember every detail of a big day for the rest of your life, you won’t. Take the time to narrate your story while it’s as fresh as it ever will be. Then give the appropriate space and emphasis to do that moment justice.
This is a page out of my son’s baby book. It was one of the happiest days of my life and I wanted him to know about it!
3. Focus on feelings
Hellen Keller said, “One’s life story cannot be told with complete veracity. A true autobiography would have to be written in states of mind, emotions, heartbeats, smiles and tears; not in months and years, or physical events. Life is marked off on the soul by feelings, not by dates.”
I absolutely love this quote. It’s so easy to get caught up in the never ending pressure to make a perfect, all inclusive record. Focus less on making sure you include every single little detail, and instead, focus on what you felt. How did you grow? What did you learn? What was your experience? What was your story?
Missionaries experience a lot in the day to day, and it’s not necessary to include every tiny detail. It’s not even necessary to include every email home or picture taken! When writing about your mission, try changing, “First we did this…then we did that…” to “First I felt… then I experienced…”. It will breathe life into your mission book.
4. Do a hardbound book with a dust jacket
There are so many ways to create a memory book, but there are really only three main decisions you need to make.
- Bound or Unbound?
- Hard or Soft Back?
- Dust Jacket or Image Wrap?
There aren’t right or wrong answers to these questions, but I do personally think there is a best combination depending on what kind of book you make and who your audience is. My recommendation, for a mission book specifically, is a hardbound book with a dust jacket.
Binding typically makes a book more space efficient and durable than an unbound book. Similarly, a hardback is more durable than a softback. Softbacks are generally more cost effective, but cheaper in quality. Lastly, I prefer a dust jacket/linen cover instead of an imagewrap for a mission book. I have nothing against imagewrap covers, and in fact I use them for a lot of my albums. However, the linen cover with a dust jacket gives a more formal and special feel that is perfect for this special event.
5. Use Social Media
Many important parts of our lives are documented on social media. Don’t shy away from using it! Did you announce to friends you were leaving on a mission on Facebook? Take a screenshot of the post. Did you invite friends to a farewell party on Instagram? Include the invite in your book!
This was the announcement we used to tell our friends that we were pregnant on Facebook! I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of love shown to us from so many different people in our lives.
6. Label pictures of important people
Including pictures of important people is pretty easy and natural to do. LABELING them isn’t always. Even if you remember everybody’s names (though even that is questionable), others will definitely not.
7. Scan in journal entries
I always recommend telling your story through journal entries in scrapbooks. But for missionaries, I recommend going a step further and scanning in hand-written journal entries on some pages. This adds an extra touch for this special time because most of the recording they were doing was either in letters or emails home, or in a journal.
8. Document the typical routine
The typical day-to-day is an important thing to document as a missionary, because it’s something that is often repeated over and over. Kind of like life in quarantine. What time did you wake up? What were your daily checklist items? What kind of a weekly cadence did you have? These are all things that help round out the story of your mission.
9. Include any talks or speeches given
I love including text written by the client in memory books I make. There is nothing like reading your own thoughts and feelings in a book. Make sure if you put multiple pages with lots of text back to back that you break up the text with pictures and a variety of layouts and colors!
10. Use maps and addresses
A map is a unique tool you can use in memory books to show where you lived. I will often take screenshots of Google Maps and include them in books I make because it helps me remember things that I can’t always explain.
I like to use more zoomed out maps (like the ones you see here) to show a larger area lived in or a longer journey. I also use more zoomed in maps to remember a specific neighborhood, residence, or place of interest. For the current missionaries’ safety I didn’t include those zoomed in examples, but I strongly recommend doing this! They are really great snapshots of what neighborhood you lived in at the time. Many landmarks will end up changing before you have the chance to go back, so taking a picture of the neighborhoods you lived in now is a great way to preserve how you lived then. Either way don’t shy away from using maps and addresses!
11. Include funny and serious moments
There is no shortage of memorable stories that happen on a mission. Make sure to include a variety of funny and serious moments! There are many interesting people you meet and things you experience!
12. Maintain a consistent theme
For any album covering a specific event or topic, I recommend sticking with one theme or type of design. It makes it easier to focus on the overall story that is being shared. Using different design concepts across different pages can be distracting, and also creates more work for you! This page is featuring a brand new series from Wilson Wilson that helps me keep a consistent theme for the baby book I’m making for my son.
13. Include letters and emails home
A missionary’s letters can become a sort of time stamp of their mission, listing miracles they have seen and highlights they have experienced. Don’t forget to include these. In this book, we used the emails the missionary sent home as an outline for the entire mission book. They were very helpful in placing pictures and events in the right time. To see the rest of her book’s pictures in our gallery, click here.
14. Be choosy which pictures make it
This is a good tip for pretty much any memory keepsake you make. Less is usually more! Choose the very best pictures to make it in. This allows more space for other meaningful things like quotes or write ups out of your journal. This takes work but it’s definitely worth the effort!
I made this spread as part of the May Creative Gallery for the Creative Team at Sahin Designs. There are always so many pictures at weddings! Did my best to sort through and pick the best ones! (Which was tough with this cute couple!)
15. Include meaningful quotes and scriptures
Missionaries have it rough! They are often rejected and are always helping other people instead of themselves. Quotes and scriptures are sometimes the only thing that gets them through the day. Including these in your mission book is a great capture of these “pick yourself up” moments.
16. Include quotes or thoughts in the language spoken
Missionaries will sometimes learn other languages and move to other places to serve their mission. Including quotes or thoughts in the language you spoke is a great way to incorporate the feeling of your time in the mission field. Not all things translate perfectly to English. Words often take on new meaning when said in a different language.
17. Be open about your fears and how you overcame them
I love to look back on my personal journals and see how much I’ve grown since a particularly tough time in my past. Showing this growth is only possible by being vulnerable and sharing some of the fears or trials you experienced. Don’t be afraid to include some of these personal feelings. It will help you recognize just how much you grew within your time being a missionary!
Hope you enjoyed these tips and tricks for making your own mission memory book. If you’d like to learn more about how Savor Your Story can help you make a book of your mission, click here.