I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In our faith, young adults are asked to serve 2-year proselyting and service missions anywhere in the world. Like many other young men of our faith, my husband served from the age of 19-21 in the Spokane, Washington area. As long as we’ve been together, he’s told me stories from this period of his life that I knew I wanted recorded for our kids and posterity. Some of these stories are funny, some are inspirational, some show the incredible amount of maturing he did while serving, haha. Because it took place over a 2-year time period and happened many years ago, it was kind of a large undertaking but I was up for the challenge. Even if you aren’t LDS or have a mission story to tell, a lot of the organization and procedure I used here is universal and can be applied to many other types of memory-keeping projects.
This was a hugely intense project that I had a very specific OCD vision for, ha. For the most part, it turned out just like I had envisioned. I was on bed rest for a large part of my pregnancy last year so I had a lot of time to dedicate to it, but I realize not everyone can or wants to undertake such a detailed project, so I have a separate post coming about how to start your own mission album and ways to keep it much more simple. There are lots of options and ways you can do this, but this is just the way I did it.
First things first, a look inside! Click here to watch a quick flip-through of the album.
Now- some background- this was not as straightforward a project as it could have been. Somehow a lot of my husband’s digital pictures went missing, some I randomly found as physical copies later that I had to scan, and the date on his digital camera was wrong the entire 2 years haha! Also I only had emails from about the middle half of his mission. So I ended up reading his mission journals (he wrote about a page every day) and piecing a lot of stuff together myself and I got his input to fill in some of the blanks.
At first the OCD side of me was stressed that I didn’t have 100% of his emails written home, but then when I saw HOW MANY there were once printed out, I decided no one will probably want to read all of those anyway, and picking a handful of journaling stories from the time periods I don’t have emails from is perfectly fine. In the end it was a LOT. If I had known how huge it would have been, I don’t know that I would have printed every email.
Planning the Project Life Mission Album
I knew I wanted it to be a combination of Digital pages, printed emails as-is, written letters, and other memorabilia he had saved.
I opted to use Digital Project Life because his emails weren’t terribly informative or spiritual, and I wanted to type out lots of stories more in detail that weren’t inlcuded in his emails. I didn’t love the idea of doing lots of typing in the app, plus I love the creative freedom of Photoshop, so digital it was. (I do have some work-arounds for those of you who want to use the app and aren’t thrilled about doing lots of typing either. Stay tuned for my next post and video with that and other tips on how to start your own mission album!)
This was a huge undertaking so I knew batching was going to be my friend to expedite the whole process.
Since 80% of pictures were landscape, I decided to use the same template A and structure for every spread, 1 two page spread per companionship, using inserts as needed for extra stories and pictures. I knew this would help expedite work flow because I could batch faster and easier using the same template and structure for every layout.
Gathering Everything in One Place
- The first thing I did was get all basic info in one place- Mission name, Mission President name, areas served in & companion names with corresponding dates.
- I rounded up all his pictures on the computer & sorted into folders by area chronologically by companionship.
- I rounded up all the physical memorabilia and started to think about what I wanted to include and what wouldn’t make the cut. Things he saved that I used in the album include: letters, his mission call, his priesthood lineage, mission newsletter, baptismal programs, letters from mission president, maps of areas, handouts from zone conference, notes from scripture study, certificate of mission completion, etc.
Batching the Project Life Mission Pages
- I laid out several spreads at once using the the exact same structure on every page 1 of every spread- title card in top left, companion picture top right, companion info card 3rd middle.
- Once I had a bunch of layouts ready to go, I filled in the rest of the photos to the corresponding layout. The second pages in the spread all looked different depending on how many pictures I had so I just tried not to overthink those.
- Then I went through each layout one by one and added journaling. Some of the stories I told in my own words because I’d heard them so many times. Sometimes I quoted his journals. Sometimes I got his input for some stories and other memorable details he could tell me.
- I used 6×12 inserts for extra stories/pictures that didn’t fit into the 2-page spread.
- For areas/companions where I didn’t have tons of stories or pictures, I did only one page instead of a 2-page spread and filled in the extra empty page with coordinating 12×12 scrapbook paper.
- After all the journaling and pictures were in, I added filler cards where needed.
Finishing the Project Life Mission Album
The obvious final step was printing all the digital pages and emails and inserting everything chronologically with other memorabilia. This should have been the end of the project, but during this step when I was going through his handwritten letters to put in the album, I came across random printed pictures inside the envelopes that I did not have digital copies of. Since I had already finished the digital pages, I put these pictures into physical pocket pages (after scanning them of course) and filled in the other pockets with small memorabilia and filler cards.
It ended up being a good thing that I was forced to include some physical pocket pages because there were a lot of empty pockets to fill front and back, and now it gives my husband the opportunity to record his testimony, favorite scriptures, things he wants our kids to know about growing their testimonies, in his own handwriting on some journaling cards (work in progress).
Some pictures in the letters were sent to him from his family, showing him what was going on at home, so those are fun to include in the pocket pages, and he can journal a little more about those in his handwriting.
Sometimes I slipped the extra pictures into blank spaces on emails if I didn’t want to do a whole pocket page for one or two pictures. Sometimes they made sense in context of the email, sometimes they were random. I had to let go of perfection with all of these random photos I found and just put them in because they were cute and they didn’t always need explaining.
In the end, I probably didn’t need to make it this over the top. BUT it was a labor of love and I don’t regret any of it. I learned a lot while doing it, and it’s so worth it to look over all of these pictures and stories and know that our kids will be able to learn from my husband’s example and testimony one day.