I can't believe this time has already come and that we have already been at the MTC for about nine and a half weeks! The time really does fly by. I loved seeing the pictures at Lagoon, it looked like everyone had so much fun. I can't wait to come home and go with you all! Jemma looked like she had a great time! I also couldn't believe that she stayed up untiltalking! I told my companion and she said,"she's going to be a handful when she becomes a teenager." I told her she already is. But I guess it shouldn't suprise me too much, she did that when we had sleepovers before I left. It was really hard to get her to stop talking. Anyway I'm so glad you are all doing well, and Nicole thank you so much for the advice! That is one thing they focus on a lot here at the MTC, especially at In-field orientation which I will talk about later. They teach us a lot about member involvment and having members present at our lessons and helping our investigators feel welcome with the ward. It sounds like we will be spending a lot of time with the ward mission leaders, bishops and other members of the ward to help our investigators. But I'm glad you were able to have the unique experience, even though it wasn't all that fun at least it was a great learning experience.
This week was so crazy! We had very few days that were normal. Right after I had written you last week Sister Grigg and I went back to our classroom and found a slip of paper on our desks telling us we had been selected to demonstrate "how to begin teaching" (from Preach my Gospel) during the new missionary experiences. I don't remember if I told you much about it when I entered the MTC, but basically the new missionaries get split into a few large groups and rotate around to three investigators and try to teach them and introduce them to the gospel as a group. When they first start two missionaries who have been at the MTC a while go in and begin the conversation with the investigator. We get to know them and try to turn the conversation to the point where we would begin teaching about the gospel and turn it over to the new missionaries. So we were picked to be one set of missionaries who got to do that. Later that night we talked to our teacher about it and he told us that he didn't know who had directly recommended us, but that we were recommended. Apparently they ask our teachers which companionship they would trust to do this activity. When we went to our meeting about it there were probably about twenty to thirty missionaries total that were chosen out of the missionaries staying on both campuses. The teacher we were talking to, Brother Townsend, told us that between him and the teacher over the Chinese districts he said that out of our district he would trust us the most. He said he would trust us to teach his family because he knew we would teach them what they needed, but we would also teach them with love and make them feel comfortable. It was really touching and nice to hear that from a teacher because we don't get much as far as feedback pertaining to what we are doing well. So anyway we had that opportunity and we practiced a lot with different teachers to prepare and I feel like our "how to begin teaching" has improved so much and that I have learned so much. I was really grateful for the opportunity to learn, even though when we actually had the demonstration we didn't talk much at all. One investigator brought the gospel up on his own and the other started asking us why our friends ( the new missionaries) had their bibles on the floor. To that my companion just said what is really important is what we believe in Christ, not the actual book. That's pretty much it, I don't know why we were so nervous about it, but it did help us improve and grow a lot.
Aroundnight we also found out that the leadership for our zone (or our district) were asked to host a zone of new missionaries coming in because they had no older generation districts in their zone, so they had no leadership. So night my companion and I and the two zone leaders from our district gave an orientation and campus tour to the new Italian and Romanian missionaries that came in this week. One of the sisters actually ended up being someone I went to school with. I didn't know her well because she was a year older than I was but we both recognized each other. I also had the opportunity to bear my testimony to them in Chinese which was a little strange. The other missionaries from my district knew what I was saying, but I had about thirty other people just staring at me with strange expressions on their faces. It was a little comical. They seemed impressed though, even when really it was a super basic testimony.
During the daywe had In-field orientation which I mentioned earlier. It was basically a nine hour class where were were introduced to different aspects of the mission field such as tracting, talking to people, working with members, planning etc. It was really good and didn't feel as long as it was because they had us moving around and doing different activities a lot. My district was talking to one another and we all agreed it was a little strange to see missionaries we have hosted (picked up on the first day) in In-field with us.
We also had Elder Oaks come talk to us for our last Sunday Devotional which was perfect! We were lucky enough to have been at the MTC long enough at at the right interval to hear two apostles. I know its really sad, but I can't remember what he talked about and I don't have my notebook with me. It was really good though!
Other than that I guess I will let you know a little about how the next few days will go. We packed earlier today. I bought a duffel bag at the book store with all the money accumulated on my MTC card so that I will have a convenient bag for our two day orientation in the mission home this week. Apparently we won't have access to our main luggage, so the bag is really nice. All of our Chinese books added about 22 pounds to our luggage. I have so many sets of scriptures its rediculous. We also bought an English and Chinese Book of Mormon to hopefully give to people while we are at the airports. We meet at the frond desk at sixmorning and take either a bus or frontrunner to the airport to catch our flight to the LAX airport at . We get to California around and have a layover until four. From there we have a 15 hour flight to the Taibei airport where our mission president will meet us. Then we will have a three hour bus ride to the mission home where we will be for two days for orientation until we meet our trainers. And from there its off to work! Its really crazy, but I can't focus on the future too much yet. I just keep focusing on the next place I need to be a leave it at that or else I get super nervous. I bought a calling card today and it has 460 minutes on it I think. But every time I make a call it takes 130 of them. I can only use it in the US, so I will probably be calling during one of those times. If you get this in time and have time to get an MTC delivery to me let me know what time would be best and which phone would be best. But keep your eyes and ears out for a call from me . I guess Jemma has preschool? So maybe I will call when we are waiting for our international flight out of California. So around one to three? I don't know. I hope I can get a hold of you because I would love to talk to you for a little bit at least. And of course I will write you as soon as I can when I get to Taiwan! Most of my district is in the same mission so all eight of us are traveling together, and I feel completely comfortable traveling with these Elders. They are great and I'm so grateful I have my companion to travel with as well.
Well I know this message is so long, but I wanted to send you an excerpt from my journal this week. I had some extra time to write and had time to think what I have learned and how I have really been feeling at the MTC...(this was yesterday)
"We had our regular leadership meetings this morning but President Seamons ws with us.He is in the MTC branch presidency and I can definitely see why. Every time he talked I could feel the Spirit and his own love so strongly. He told us to be flexible, but that we never have to be flexible about the truthfulness of this gospel. He said,"understand what the Lord can do with you if you turn your heart to Him," and also that our missions will ruin our lives for good. We will never be the same people, we already aren't the same as when we entered the MTC.
I know I am not the same person. I have often thought that if I were to go back home now I would not feel the same. Even after only two months I know I am so much closer to my Father and my Savior. We spend every hour of every day focused on this gospel and I love it. I loved the gospel before and felt that it defined who I was, and it still does, just so much more. I know now more than ever the importance of this gospel and that I want my life to be spent always helping to further this work. Right now I am Christ's representative, I wear a tag every day that bears His name, but I don't need the tag to show my devotion to my God. I don't need physical proof because I know it, and I feel it in my heart. I don't even need a missionary callling to live every moment for Him, to work hand in hand with my Savior to help His children find salvation, but I am grateful every day that I have such an opportunity."
I know this gospel is true and I can't wait to get out there and start preaching His word. I know I am about to start the most discouraging and trying part of my life so far in just a few short days, but I hope and pray every day to have the strength to keep moving forward. I love you all so much and hope I get to hear your voices!
These are us finishing packing and our room!
So these were done a little while ago, but I finally got my card to work. The toe nail one is for Jemma to show that I still have the polish she put on my toes and it makes me happy every time!