July 6, 2011
Hello there! Well, it's been a pretty good week at the MTC, though it's been pretty intense to say the least. I arrived at about 1:30 on Wednesday and was shuttled around, getting my nametag, picture taken and a quick orientation given of the campus. I live on the top floor of a building at the southwest corner of campus on the top floor (which is slightly unfortunate, the AC there isn't the best and the water fountain is rarely cold) with my companion Elder Swartz and two other Elder's by the names of Elder Rounds and Elder Michellis (which, unlike living on the top floor, is very fortunate!). We have a really good and strong district and an especially good Branch and Branch Presidency.
When I came to the MTC I thought about half of the day would be spent working on the Russian language and the other half being taught how to Preach the Gospel. I was a bit confused then when I looked at my schedule to find that about 6 hours everyday was designated as merely "Class time", the first few hours of it being on that first day, We unpacked as a district and then headed off to class. There's 12 of us in the class (and the 12 of us comprise the district) and we found, to our shock, that our teacher Brother Dean spoke only Russian to us. I was a lucky to have a bit of Russian under my belt from the lessons I got before I came to the MTC, so it was a bit easier for for me talk to Brother Dean than it was for some others, but we all struggled.
As it turns out, those two classes I thought would be seperate (that of being taught Russian and being taught how to Preach the Gospel) were now combined. We are actually the first group of Missionaries to have this program here at the MTC and it's called the Pilot program. Classes are in full out Russian everday, so a lot of the learning is by working hard at assosiating the topic with what the teacher is saying and praying you pieced it together correctly. Thankfully the teacher is able to put up the Russian words on the board and define them in English, but that's really only for a few of the words that he says.
So, here we are, struggling to learn Russian and making fairly good progress at it when we find out from Brother Dean that the very next day (Thursday) we would begin teaching our first investigator, who's name is Ilia (I'll try to type out the Russian name to ya'll later once I can understand the Russian keyboard). Ilia (who is actually what we like to call a fake/real investigator) met the missionaries while going to an English class the missionaries were teaching and then got interested in the Gospel, and we are the missionaries to teach him.
It's quite humbling really, to work for 4 hours a day on a Russian lesson and then to go and try to teach someone and find that, in all reality, you can't really say too much and you can understand even less. Me and Elder Swartz, on the first day of teaching Ilia, tried incredibly hard to plan out exactly what we would say, asking him what his interests were, how many people were in his family, what he was taking at the University, and then in giving him a short lesson on families. We found, to our astonishment, that we didn't have nearly enough time to spout that all out, understand it all, figure out what to say next and cover everything in the 15 minutes we had with him. The day after was the same ordeal, though despite the fact that we tried to plan a bit less, things still felt like they bombed.
I'm always astounded at the promptings the Spirit can give when we are fervently praying and struggling to figure out what to do. My companion, for our third lesson, was still trying to pound out vocabulary and sentence structure to figure out exactly what to say and how to say it when I felt like I just needed to stop and be still for a bit. The half hour or so we had to plan the lesson for Ilia was spent by me sitting and meditating and then looking over Preach my Gosp[el and a few verses in the Bible and Book of Mormon in English to figure out what might be useful in our lesson.
The lesson on this third day was covering prayer and Joseph Smith's account of his prayer in the Sacred Grove. Although it wasn't planned to be as such, I principally taught the lesson today. I didn't know how to say much, but I was incredibly surprised as to how much I was able to explain and say in Russian to get across the point of our lesson. We taught how important prayer was (though we forgot to explain how we felt and knew when prayers were answered) and were able to explain the first vision (using a picture to explain that it wasn't merely angels that came to visit Jospeh Smith, but rather God and Jesus Christ). He received the message well and promised to pray about our message and to begin reading the Book of Mormon. Incredible! We were able to do and explain all of that, and not even a week of Russian under our belts.
The food here sure can get to you the first few days. Your system really has to adjust to the, uh...quality of the food and the exact, perhaps vague, components it's made of. It's made me appreciate Mom's cooking jsut that much more, and salad's have never been more appealing to me in my life. Thank goodness for the creamery chocolate milk though and a surprisingly delicious breakfast cereal called Blueberry Muffin tops (which has become a particular favorite of Elder Michellis).
It's such a blessing to be here. I haven't felt the Spirit this strongly and consistently since BYU-I and EFY those few years ago. What a great thing it is to have the Spirit as a third companion and to be blessed with comfort, love and inspiriation when at times it feels like your drained, stupid and tired.
I do have a couple of requests, if that's ok. Mom, I just wanted to make sure that you got the note out witht he Mission address and the remidner that you can use Dear Elder. It's always such a wonderful feeling to get mail, and I know that the letters I got from you and Sean have already warmed my heart, brought tears to my eyes and inspired me to do better. In addition, I've found that jeans are a useful thing to have here, along with flip flops. Mom, if you could ship me a piar of my jeans and my flip flops that say "DANCE!" on them and over-night ship them, I would be greatly obliged. Any snacks or treats that you so deem to send, either by mail of by dearelder.com would also be greatly appreciated, both in my heart and my stomach! :D
My time's just about up, so I should go now. Have they found Brother Cannon? I've prayed for him and his family everyday.
You are all in my hearts, and I can feel your prayers and love, truly I can. God be with you :)