Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Week 1

Hola! It's been just under six days that I've been here at the Mexico Missionary Training Center and it's one of the most amazing places I've ever been in my entire life!! I love everything about it here, the beautiful campus, the amazing native leaders, teachers and workers who devote everything to make sure we get the best experience possible for our short six week visit. The first couple days were extremely difficult for me but also soooooo rewarding. The full day here was full of wonderful meetings to teach us how everything works here at the Mexico MTC and I could already feel the spirit surrounding me constantly. That's probably my favorite thing about this place is how close to my Heavenly Father I feel all the time. Another thing I love is how incredibly faithful the Elders and Hermanas are here, and I've especially noticed how much power my District has even though they are all new missionaries like me. My companion's name is Elder Clark and he's a really cool guy, and he's from Sandy Utah. The second night we were studying together in our room and we starting talking about each others life and I was amazed at his perseverance through trials in his life. His family is for the most part inactive including his parents, so that really made it hard for him to stay strong in the Gospel. As he told me this story he get pretty emotional and I could feel the spirit super strongly because of his long endured testimony. I am so glad to have been chosen as his companion because I feel like we are very similar in a lot of ways and that helps us build each other up to new levels never before in reach.

        The biggest reason it's been hard for me here despite the wonderful conditions is how hard they push us to learn Spanish but most importantly, grow ourselves in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The second full day I've been here I had to prepare a full 45 minute lesson in Spanish which I was in no way expecting. The task seemed impossible considering how little to none I knew the Spanish language. At the time it felt like we failed because the lesson only turned out to last around 10 minutes and I hardly understood what the "investigator" was saying (at the time I thought he was a real investigator, but thank heavens he's actually just secretly going to be another one of our teachers). That night I felt discouraged, but I prayed a lot and felt comforted. I then realized that it had been less than 36 hours since I had arrived in Mexico, and I had mas o menos (more or less) taught my first lesson in Español. That is incredible now that I look back. The gift of tongues is real, but it requires an immense amount of faith, diligence and patience. Even after being comforted, I continued to feel discouraged at times because I felt like I was behind the rest of my District in learning Español. The reality is although this place has brought me the strongest spirit constantly I've ever had, Satan is still here constantly trying to tell discourage us and bring us down and it only makes sense. He knows how much of an impact we will make to the people we serve on our missions and so naturally he is doing everything he can to stop us. Some older Missionaries (by older I mean they've been here two to four weeks longer than us) came into our classroom and gave us comforting words explaining that they felt the exact same way we did only a small amount of weeks previously, but that it will get better. They also told us to "just make it to Sunday" which I didn't understand how Sunday could really help me learn Español when we didn't even have language that day. Boy was I blown away when Sunday came. 
        My first Sunday beat out all the other days spiritual experiences out of the water! Every single meeting was filled with amazing words of wisdom and many of them felt as though the y were directed exactly to me because they answered my pleading prayers in ways I never imagined. The two experiences I remember most are from Sacrament meeting and the Sunday devotional. By the way we were told the second day that we needed to prepare a talk for Sunday and the entire meeting was going to be in Español. How terrifying is that! Luckily it only needs to be around five minutes and only a few of us out of our zone would end up speaking, but still there are only about twenty five in our zone so those aren't the best odds of getting out without speaking. Luckily I wasn't called up because I didn't feel ready at all. The Hermanas and Elder who did speak seemed to do a really good job and I was able to understand a little bit of what they were saying. Then one of the counselors to our Mission Presidente, Presidente Call, and his wife spoke to us in English which was refreshing. They were both wonderful, but Presidente Call's talk really answered my prayers, gave me comfort, and changed my whole attitude on how to go about teaching the Gospel in Español. He are a few quotes from his talk. "Elders and Hermanas, you aren't called to change your language, you are called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Never think that if you can't speak Spanish, you can't preach the Gospel." "There are no real endings in this life. Only eternal beginnings." "Never think that your Spanish is a stumbling block to preaching the Gospel. It's the Spirit that counts." That meeting was amazing to me, it really grew my testimony of how Heavenly Father knows us individually and answers our prayers. Later we had a new missionary meeting on the commandments given by the other counselor to the Mission Presidente, Presidente Ruvulcava, and I really enjoyed his humor and how he kept bringing up how the goal is to get married in the temple after our missions so that we can start our own eternal families. He switched up a famous quote from John Henry by saying "Give me the temple, or give me death!" to explain how important it is. I thought that was funny, but also very true about how important going to the temple is in this life. That was just a side note but the absolute most amazing experience I have had so far was during the Sunday devotional. It was a broadcast of Elder Holland giving a talk to the Provo MTC. I've always had a special spot in my heart for the words of Elder Holland because of the way talks about things bluntly, but lovingly and also because he's the only Apostle I've seen and heard from in person when he came to set apart our new stake presidente back in my home stake. He talked about how much of an impact his mission had on him and how it "shaped every significant thing in my (his) life that followed." He explained how back when he served his mission in Europe they had to memorize the lessons word for word and give the m in an exact order. Then he told us about how leaders of the church discovered that there was something wrong with the missionary system because of the sad truth that several missionaries were returning home only to fall away from the church. He said that those church leaders could not believe that missionaries were  not always living up to the exact things they had been teaching others for the last two years of their lives. That's what inspired the coming forth of the preach my gospel manual. I had never known when the preach my gospel was introduced, nor the reasoning and inspiration behind it. Elder Holland then told us a story that illustrates exactly why this change needed to come to pass. It was set back in 1928 in the Czech Republic where two missionaries were tracting (knocking on doors).. They came across a woman who took a peek at them through her cracked open door and slammed it immediately closed. They left the house but had the persistence to come once aga in a few days later and she proceeded to slam the door again, but one of the missionaries quickly asked her what they had ever done to her to receive such a reaction and she asked if they were ministers. They said yes so she tried to shut the door but on of the missionaries put a foot in the door and asked her why she feels this way about ministers of religion. She finally opened up and told the two young Elders that she had lost her child at the mere age of 3 which tore her apart. She then came to a minster at a local church to try to find some resolution to her tragic loss. The minister told her that because she didn't have her daughter baptized before she died, the girl is going to hell and so are you (to the petrified lady). The missionaries then asked her if she would like to know where her daughter is. Of course this poor woman did, so she let them in and they proceeded to read to her out of Moroni 8 which explains how Christ's Atonement covers little children who died before being able to be baptized. Wow what an amazing story. The point Elder Holland was making by telling this is to explain the way missionaries ought to be teaching, and that is according to people's needs, but most importantly, the missionaries need to be converted themselves before they can ever be expected to convert others. That is where preach my gospel comes in. It's purpose is to first bring about conversion and understanding in the missionaries hearts, then to bring that spirit to all the earth that all may partake in this wonderful gospel, and also to ensure that missionaries will continue to grow in the gospel throughout there life because really a mission doesn't end when you return home. There was so many more amazing words Elder Holland gave and I wish I could more effectively get across his inspired words, but I know that this man is inspired of God, and that the spirit was so strong while I listened to his words, that I could not contain my emotions as I bawled in that auditorium seat. I truly am so grateful for this opportunity I have been given to serve a mission. The experience I've had so far has changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. The message that I have overall received so far is that this doesn't end when I'm released as a missionary, and that is because I now have a yearning to grow in this gospel that I have promised myself and my Heavenly Father that I will never let anything get in the way of that. I am so grateful to have been blessed with the many inspired words given here at the Mexico MTC and am super excited to see just how far I can come. 
       P.S. (This is for you Mom, Love you!:) The food is amazing here, we have many dishes that I recognize and some that are new to me but they are always full of flavor, plus they have apples, milk and cereal so I'm set :D Also like I said the living conditions are amazing! This school was built and run by the church so none les can be expected. They have everything I'll ever need here. The people are super helpful and kind and there is an amazing environment. As far as I'm concerned the CCM is located at the heart of Mexico City because there are houses and building jam packed outside of our campus as far as thee I can see. Its been sunny almost the whole time with temperatures in the 70-80's during the day and 50-60's at night. It hasn't rained at all so far but was cloudy with a little lightning once. There is a lot of space to roam and explore here which is really fun and exciting. I'm loving spending time with my new companion and I must say, it is really nice to constantly have someone right within reach at all times with the faith and dedication he has. It really helps me work hard and never allows me to fall away because he's always there to pick me right back up again and encourage me to keep pushing. I'm not going to lie, these past few days have been really hard and tested my faith a lot, but I have grown in ways I cannot express because of that. Love you all!!! 
         BTW If anyone wants to send me a package to the mission office in Monterrey where I will be serving, the mail isn't very reliable, but I heard there is a website I think called missionarypackagemx.com or something like that used to send packages to missionaries and it is ran by someone who works here at the Mexico training center so it can be trusted. The package would arrive much quicker and in one piece, but I can't say as to how much it will cost. Thanks!!! 

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