Hola mi familia!!!
How are you all? I'm typing furiously in hopes of getting to tell you all about this crazy week so please forgive any weird grammar or spelling. Just remember I do know how to talk. Although right now I seem to be in a weird state of not really being able to speak either Spanish or English. My companion and I just mess it all up!
First of all thank you SOOOOO much for all the letters! I never understood how wonderful they are but now they are what save me! The first day we got mail (Friday I think) my whole district was jealous of me because I had so many. Thank you! I love dearelder. Even if you can only type up a paragraph or two please send it! There is nothing better than getting letters. I also LOVED the package! My blankets are so warm and fuzzy and remind me of home. And the pictures are wonderful! I couldn't wait to show you all off to the hermanas. And the SD card, and the brownies and everything! You are so great! Aunt Nancy and Sharon also sent me some cookies from dearelder. They were wonderful and they made my day! Thank you! My district thanks you too haha I shared them and the elders were so happy. I also got a letter from Bryon, Tad Garland, Aunt Kathy and some anonymous letter which was kind of strange. THANK YOU SO MUCH THOUGH! I love you!
As I told you, the first day was crazy. It's gotten better and better each day though. Spanish is really difficult. I don't think I really understood how they teach it to you in the MTC. Most of the time, I am just studying on my own. We have class for 3 hours a day but not all of that is Spanish lessons. The rest of the day we are in charge of our own learning and study. On Friday we taught our first investigator in Spanish. It was terrifying! I couldn't understand a lot of it but luckily Hermana Gardner could. I just tried to testify as much as I could using the phrases I had memorized. That day I got pretty discouraged with the language. I felt like everyone else was understanding and I wasn't. I have never really felt like I just didn't get it in school but on Friday I totally understood how it might be for someone who really just doesn't understand the concepts. It was pretty discouraging and I was working pretty hard not to cry or give up. That night I prayed fervently for faith because I knew if I had enough faith God would bless me. The next day during personal study I found lots of wonderful scriptures from 1 Nephi all about faith and that day things went so much better! Hermana Gardner and I taught a lesson for over 50 minutes! We didn't even realize so much time had gone by until we walked back into the classroom and looked at the clock. It definitely wasn't a perfect lesson, and technically the lessons should be shorter than that, but I couldn't believe I had (sort of) held up a conversation in Spanish for so long. The Lord definitely answered my prayers. That experience has given me confidence that learning the language is hard, it won't come right away, and it will take a lot of work, but I can do it.
Our lessons with Gregorio (our investigator) are very challenging and very fun. We have really been working on following the Spirit and focusing on his needs not on an outlined plan. It really helps when we trust God and our focus is on loving the investigator. Hermana Gardner and I always sing a hymn to bring the Spirit which totally works and then we just talk. Lately I haven't even really had notes. Just a few points or words I might forget. It's terrifying, but I am trying to rely on the Spirit, not myself (duh, why would I ever want to rely on someone who can't speak Spanish when I have the Spirit of God on my side right?) and that seems to work better. Tomorrow we are teaching him about the atonement and how it can help his family and how baptism is the first step to helping him live with them forever. He really loves his family and I think knowing that he can live with them forever will really help him. We also really want him to commit to baptism because he's so ready. I know, weird, I'm talking like this about a fake investigator, oh well :).
My district has 10 people in it. I've already told you about Hermana Gardner.
She is great and is so patient to help me with my Spanish. She is kind of like Starr, my roommate from college. Hermana Redford and Hermana Alley are the other two sisters in our district. We all get along so well. Hermana Redford is 21 and from Denver Colorado. Hermana Ally is 19 and from Holliday Utah. We love rooming with each other and hanging out together all day. The elders are Elder Ringwood from Brighton High School area, Elder Brown from Arizona, Elder Cline from Brighton area as well (he and Elder Ringwood went to school together), Elder Pederson from Springville, Elder Danielson Jensen (elder DJ for short) from Australia and Elder Kelly from Arizona. They are all 19 except for Elder Kelly, who is 20 and Elder DJ who is 18. Elder DJ and Elder Pederson just graduated High School. They are great. There is definitely a difference between the Hermanas and the Elders in our study habits and focus but they all have wonderful testimonies and they keep us laughing. Elder Pederson and Elder Cline are particularly hilarious.
Our zone is great too. I love all the sisters we have gotten to know. The other night we had a girl’s night and talked all about our lives and boys etc. It was a lot of fun. We have two sister training leaders (Hermana Johnson from Logan and Hermana Guzy from Brighton area). They are hilarious and so sweet. They leave next week though so we'll have new ones soon. They have been very helpful in answering our questions and letting us in on all the tips and tricks of the MTC.
This week has been a little different with the Mission President Training going on down here. We haven't eaten in the cafeteria since Thursday afternoon. I really enjoyed the food in the cafeteria (just to clarify for Aunt Kathy, the first night I just didn't choose something good because I didn't really understand how it all worked). I do love the chocolate milk. We have been eating in the gym this week though so we haven't been able to use the gym to work out and we all have to eat the same thing. For the first few days they didn't have enough food and since we eat at the end of the schedule sometimes we got leftovers or didn't get part of the meal. They've improved it though and it's all been pretty good. I haven't been able to make quiet has healthy choices because we just have to eat what we're given. I love meal times though. It feels like all we do here is study and eat haha!
My basic schedule goes something like this: 6:30 (or 6:00 when we have gym in the morning) wake up. Some days we have assigned gym time and play volleyball outside in the sand or in the gym (I am terrible but it is still fun.) If we don't get to use those facilities we run around the MTC (we're not allowed to run around the temple David :( ) and do lunges, ab work outs, etc. We were pretty sore the other day. On Friday we made a rule that if we say guys (in the MTC we have to call each other Elders and Sisters, not guys-it's a big deal) we had to do 5 stair laps. Within the 30 minutes of our workout we had to do 15! We found a pretty small staircase haha. Anyway, then we are usually in class by about 7:30 were we have personal study until breakfast at 8:30 or so. Then we come back in and study while we all take turns teaching our investigator Gregorio for 30 minutes. We teach him every day and tomorrow we will be getting two new investigators.
Then we have lunch and after that we have 3 hours of class with our teacher Hermano Lunt. He is AWESOME! I want to be just like him someday. He pretty much just talks in Spanish, except to occasionally clarify when we all give him blank stares (which, to be honest, is pretty much all the time in my case). He served in El Salvador and has been home for about 3 years I think. He gives us Spanish lessons as well as lessons about the foundations of teaching (I think they're pretty new if you haven't heard of them). He is super spiritual and always has awesome insights. It's also nice to have him in there to control our Elders who don't tend to study unless a teacher is there.
Then after that we have TALL (language study on the computer) dinner and then we come back for a few hours of language study on our own and planning. That's a rough outline although each day is a little different. We keep the same schedule for the rest of the MTC though.
On Fridays we get to play volleyball outside after dinner for our gym time. It's wonderful because it's warm and sunny, and we don't have to study after dinner haha! It totally made my week last week. And as you know now Wednesday is my P-day. We have to clean the English study building at 6:00 (which FYI is WAAAY nicer than ours haha, although I guess they're just getting us used to what we will be living and working in in the field) and then we studied and went to the temple. Unfortunately it is closing for cleaning so today was our first and last time to go, but at least we got to go once! We went with most of our zone and ate breakfast there beforehand which was delicious. I got a giant waffle with strawberries and blueberries YUM! Then we have to do laundry, study some more and after dinner we go back to our regular class schedule.
Wasn't the broadcast on Sunday awesome! I LOVED it! We were speculating all week about what the announcement would be and we talked about technology and member missionary work. I love how the church isn't afraid to embrace change and use it for good. I think it will really help to open a lot of doors. I loved all the videos (especially the ones with the cute kids-you know me). I don't want to sound like a preachy missionary already but I'm so excited to see member missionary work because I really think it can help! Maybe some people just need to know that they are needed in the church. I don't know. I will be so happy to hear about your own missionary efforts. We constantly stress here that our purpose is to help others come unto Christ and receive the blessings of the atonement and his gospel. So why shouldn't we share it with everyone! It's SO important.
BTW Some elders who sat behind us told me I was so old I was about to turn into dust when they heard my age haha! Story of my life haha!
Our Sunday was very different than what it normally is because of the broadcast. We had one big Relief Society (that's normal) which was totally cool. Everyone says it's the best part of Sunday. Normally we would have Sacrament meeting just with our Branch (aka our zone) but last Sunday we had two big Sacrament meetings with half of the MTC in each one. It was very different. We didn't do a lot else because we had to be at the broadcast by two. Afterward we had a little meeting with our district about the broadcast, which we will do after ever devotional.
My whole district loves that I've been a kindergarten teacher and I talk about my sweet kids all the time. I hope I get pictures from them soon that I can show off because they are so cute! They have also figured out what a nerd I am. They asked if I am a straight A student because I study so hard and I like the book work so much haha. I'm trying not to be a mom too much and get after the elders though haha. I totally understand why they have some of the rules now; you wouldn't imagine what the elders can come up with to do. But they make it fun and they really do have awesome testimonies.
For our Tuesday night devotional we went to the Marriott Center and heard from Janice Kapp Perry. It was pretty cool. Her husband was HILARIOUS! He talked about his mission for just a minute and then she got up and talked to us about our missions and a lot about her music. We got to sing some of her songs all together and it was so powerful. She has written some new words to "As Sisters In Zion" that you should look up. They are awesome and we sang them in a medley with Armies of Helaman and it was SO powerful! It is such an awesome time to be a missionary. And to see us all singing primary songs together was awesome. It was such an incredible moment to hear 4000 missionaries singing about how we've been taught and now we are going out to teach others the truth.
During her talk, Sister Perry told us about her husband's first line to her. She was warming up for a clarinet midterm at BYU and he said, "Those lips look like they were made for something better!" Then right in the middle of her talk he walked up, bent her over and gave this long not-so-Disney kiss haha. It was hilarious and the whole auditorium exploded in cheers. She also sang her "family song" that she wrote that was super cute. It was wonderful. I think I'm going to like Tuesday nights because of the devotional and because the next day is P-day and I get to write you. I have been looking forward to this for a week now! I love you all so much and I miss you like crazy but I am so happy to be here. It goes by sooo slowly but on the other hand I can't believe I only have 5 more weeks left.
I'll try to answer your questions and send it in a letter because I'm about up on my computer time.
PS I totally say all my prayers in Spanish although I pray for the same things every day haha.
PPS I saw Tisha Santana and Brad Forsyth. J