Our Story

How did Mission Tees get started?  Alright, story time.

It all began during my service as a full-time missionary in the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  A little over a year into my mission, I was called by President Merkley(the mission president at the time) to serve as a Zone Leader in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  I had been serving in Berryville, Arkansas for 3 months and upon news of being transferred soon, I was saying good-bye to the people I knew and grew to love there.  The Ward Mission Leader Brother Engel knew that I was an artist and told me about his relative in Conway, Arkansas who could make custom t-shirts and had been doing it for youth conferences and the Little Rock mission for quite some time.  So I wrote down his contact information in my daily planner just in case I decided to use it later on.  Well, when I got to Fort Smith, it came in handy.

President Merkley was our new mission president, so a lot of changes happened throughout the mission.  We attended a big meeting with all the zone and district leaders, assistants to the President and President and Sister Merkley.  President Merkley explained to us his thoughts about what he had been learning about the mission and his vision of what needed to happen next. He spoke about how each area of the mission is different and so when we get to an area he wanted us to focus on what the needs of that area are, then see to it that we make achievable goals to meet those needs.  Some areas needed more attention on helping recent converts of the church to remain active and faithful in church. Some areas needed more attention on helping members of the church to become active participants in working with the missionaries to help teach, baptize and support people as they came into the church. Some areas needed special attention on helping less-active members come back to church and enjoy the full blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Some areas have a combination each.  The meeting was very insightful and we felt incredibly motivated to act on our new Mission President's vision for our mission!  Immediately I started thinking about what we as leaders could do to help other missionaries grasp the same vision. 

When Elder Conrad and I got back to our apartment in Fort Smith, we began brainstorming about what we could to for the missionaries in our zone, to help them catch the vision.  Suddenly I remembered about the guy in Conway who was able to make custom shirts and had done it for this sort of thing before.  When I told Elder Conrad he got excited too!  We finally decided that making Oklahoma Tulsa Mission t-shirts would be a very fun way of unifying our zone in this vision.  In about a half an hour I drew out the "OTM" symbol in the diamond shape, in my sketchbook. We wanted to have the symbol clearly identify our mission, and then have the name of the mission just below the symbol. We also wanted a short-but-sweet theme to put on the back of the shirt to help us remember the vision.  We ultimately came up with:  

                                                                                                                                                               SEE A NEED
                               FILL A NEED
                                    FORT SMITH AR ZONE

Once we had our plan, we contacted the guy-Robby Burton-about making the shirts and he was happy to help us!  That night we called the district leaders and told them our plan of making these shirts in a light blue color with white design and lettering.  Soon we had all the shirt sizes for each missionary in the zone and had the order made, about 22 shirts if I remember right.  Then, we got calls from the missionaries saying the liked the shirts a lot and wanted more "OTM" shirts as they were called, but this time with their names on the back.  So we did order of black OTM shirts with each missionary's last name on the back.  Honestly they were quite fun to wear each Monday(Preparation Day)-the day to get laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, hair cuts done and so on, to district and zone activities, and wore them to bed.  We made them for the assistants to the President, and gave them as Christmas gifts to President and Sister Merkley.  Some missionaries ordered the shirts to give as Christmas presents to their family's back home.  It became a fairly constant thing.  When I got transferred near the end of my mission, more missionaries would see the shirts and want them.  It really became a fun way to feel more unified truly like brothers and really good friends.  Not to mention to show a little mission pride!

Just before returning home from my mission, I gave the contact information to the last missionary I served with and that was that, or so I thought.  I went home June 4, 2010 with 4 OTM shirts and they became the only shirts that fit me when I got home, so I wore them a lot, basically every day.  About a month after getting home, I got a call from Elder Conrad who was still on his mission.  Needless to say I was a bit shocked, and wondered what on earth this could be about.  I was even more shocked to know he simply wanted to know how he could get more OTM shirts for his zone he was now serving as a Zone Leader for.  I scrambled to find the planner that had the contact information on it, and luckily found it for him.  After talking to him, I sort of sat in amazement thinking, "Wow, I am surprised at how big an influence these shirts have had in the mission...even after I come home..."  It excited me, but that's about it. 

A little while later I started working for a company called Cornaby's-my mom's visiting teacher Janet Stalks ran it and she needed some help there getting fruit ready to be made into jam.  It was quite fun working there, and became friends with everyone there rather quickly.  My friend Ted Gerber showed me the ropes and we were always having fun-maybe too much fun at times-and joking around.  Another lady from my mom's home ward worked there too.  One day I wore an OTM shirt to work, one of my coworkers asked about it and I told them the story about the shirt.  Quickly it became the topic of discussion for the next few hours.  They loved the idea and kept telling me, "Why stop with your mission, you need to make them for every mission!" Quite honestly I was pretty surprised at how serious and excited they were about it.  For me, the idea had kind of floated around in my head but it somehow always went to the back of my mind.  Now it came to the front of my mind and started realizing what could happen.  There was no doubt they were a big hit during the mission, who's to say they couldn't take off in other missions too?

After work one day, Ted, his mom(who also worked at Cornaby's) and I picked up a Yudu silkscreening machine-a more of do it yourself at home machine to put designs on t-shirts.  Sarah, who was my girlfriend at the time, her brother came home from serving his mission in the Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission, and we used the Yudu to make him a UDM shirt with the name of the mission below just like the OTM shirts.  Not the greatest of quality, but they were a gift for him and he liked it a lot.  Then I made another UDM and OTM shirt for Sarah to wear.  Later on, Sarah's roommate Darcie had me make one for her friend serving in the Micronesia Guam Mission.

Early in 2011 some fellow OTM buddies saw some pictures of Sarah and I both wearing our OTM shirts and commented, asking where to get the rad shirts.  About this time was when I finally became more serious about it.  Through Facebook I contacted as many fellow OTM RM's and collected a pretty large size order of OTM shirts for those that wanted them even after the mission.  The order got to about 56 shirts, I was just hoping for somewhere between 25 and 36.  This was before I made this site with the mission designs, although I had already made the Mission Tees logo and a few of the designs.  With the decent size order of OTM shirt, I got more excited thinking it could actually become something.  After Sarah and I got married June 4, 2011(exactly a year after returning home from my mission!:) she had some friends go on missions, so I made shirts for their missions, made one for a friend while working at a new pizza place called Riggatti's inside Ream's in Springville, Utah.  Sometime during living in Springville I decided to go ahead and simply make a blog to put the designs on and order shirts, so here it is.

 The more and more I talk about the Mission Tees story, the more people think it is a great idea and usually know someone, whether their son, daughter, boyfriend, girlfriend, relative or friend on a mission and would love to give them a shirt as a birthday or Christmas gift along with the other things they want to send them in a care package.  Believe me, missionaries LOVE to get mail.  After a long hard day in the field, it's pretty nice to find a package for you!!  I have come to realize they can become a precious gift for those just go their mission call that they can get and bring with them and wear during their whole mission, for those who are already serving in the field and get one as a birthday or Christmas or just a nice gift, and for those who have already served, to remember their missions by and show some mission pride.  They can also take on more meaning and become more personal and sentimental by putting a mission theme or vision, or name of the missionary on the back of the shirt.