We have two nephews and a niece on missions now, and I try to write to them once a month or so. We also have family friends who have sons on missions, and I try to write to them.
I write to missionaries mostly because almost no one beside my family wrote to me when I was a missionary. As I was leaving on my mission, my folks moved out of the ward of my youth because of an overseas assignment for my father’s work. They lived in Nigeria, away from any unit of the church, so in my home ward I was literally out of sight and out of mind.
I received letters regularly from my mother, somewhat less regularly from my siblings and from my girlfriend (who is now my wife). I received one letter from a member of my home ward. (He was a family friend and also had been called as elders quorum president.)
When I served as bishop I wrote a letter to missionaries serving from our ward once a month. They all got the same letter, but it came regularly.
I have no idea how these letters are received. For all I know these missionaries I write glance at the letters and toss them aside. They almost never respond (I tell them not to – they have more important people to write than me), though most write at least one or two letters back during their missions. And I typically get plenty of news from their missions through their parents who often share selected letters on their own blogs or emails or family letters.
I have one young friend who is serving in Brazil – coming home very soon. His father and I are good friends, though I haven’t spent any time with this missionary since he was about four. It has been awesome to read his letters (forwarded by his dad) and see how his mission has affected him. He expressed to his dad that he was surprised that someone who did not know him would write to him.
My letters aren’t great epistles. I write briefly about my own mission experiences, usually trying to match roughly the recipient’s mission timeline. I share my testimony, and maybe a thought about something I’d recently read in the scriptures or heard in church.
I send almost all my letters using dearelder.com. Super easy for me. A brother-in-law recommended it to me when I asked the easiest way to write to his son and I've been hooked ever since. I have also emailed missionaries directly, though I hear they often prefer to get paper letters and save their screen time for more important letters than mine.
What’s your experience? Do you write to missionaries? Did you receive random letters on your mission? How did you respond?