What’s Going On…
This week has been a blend of confusion. I can’t keep track of the time, the days of the week, or where I am! Things get confusing when I’m so busy.
The new district (39B) has four Elders, three Sisters, and another Sister who was fast tracked. All of them are going to Taiwan speaking Mandarin. I haven’t memorized their Chinese names yet, so I’ll save them for later. The Elders are great, they study hard and are always on task. They live in the room next to mine, and are very polite and fun to be around. On of the Sisters is from Sidney, Australia. She grew up with Cantonese, and can understand most of the Mandarin in her class. The other Sisters have taken Chinese classes in high school and college. All four Elders have no experience, but they are eager to learn.
As far as study habits, I wake up at 6:00 a.m. with my tongban (companion). We study until 6:30, and resume through breakfast at 6:40. I will sometimes bring some vocabulary to gym for an hour, a vocabulary book to breakfast, study wenfa (grammar) in my study time, study while eating lunch, study in class, study after class, and study before going to sleep. Studying is so essential to learning and retaining what we learn in class. It sometimes is overwhelming with the amount of work we do, but it feels great to accomplish what we do here.
This week’s “spiritual lesson” for me was listening to the Spirit. The newest Elder in my district (Elder Ostler) shared an interestingly humorous alarming eye-opening story with us this week. He began the story by saying, “whatever the Spirit tells you to do, do it. If the Spirit tells you to punch your investigator, do it”. We all (the district members) couldn’t take the story seriously until he told us what happened to his friend. One of his friends was serving in Russia and teaching a progressing investigator. While he and his companion were teaching the investigator to pray, he had an impression to punch the investigator in the face. He at first thought, “No! I’m not going to do that!”. He became uneasy, but ignored the prompting. While the investigator was praying, the prompting came again. He once again ignored the prompting. As soon as the investigator finished the prayer, his companion punched the investigator in the face. POW! *sound effect* The investigator fell backward into a bookshelf, and the bookshelf fell forward. Behind the bookshelf was a secret door. Inside the secret door was a man tied up. The investigator the missionaries had been teaching was a member of the Russian mafia, and the man had been there for days. This is a modern story of Nephi, following the Spirit even though we don’t understand why we must act. Hopefully I don’t encounter the “Malaysian Mafia”, but I learned that obeying the Spirit immediately and precisely is important.
Another story was shared by Sun Laoshi (Sister Anderson) about her mission. She served in Taiwan, and had just planned out her day with her companion. Although they had spent much time planning their day, they didn’t feel right about what they should do. They had decided to grab lunch at a local restaurant, and Sun Laoshi de tongban (Sister Anderson’s companion) decided to check the recent converts list on her phone. As Sun Laoshi was watching, she had an impression to call one of the recent converts. She did so without hesitation, and was guided by the Spirit as she conversed with the convert. The first she said was, “Uhhhh, what’s wrong”. There was a long silence on the phone. She then said, “Did you pray for us to call you?”. The convert replied, “yes, can you come see me?”. Sun Laoshi later found out that the convert was arguing with her parents because she wanted to serve a mission, but her parents were against the church. She prayed that the missionaries would call her. One minute later, Sun Laoshi had called her. I love this story because it shows that our ways are not the Lord’s ways. We can plan our day, but we can counsel with the Lord to know what He wants us to do.
In one of our teaching appointments, we were given five minutes to teach. Out of the 30-40 teaching appointments we have had, which ranged from 30-50 minutes, this was our best lesson yet. We were teaching Zhong Jieme, who works at a restaurant with her boyfriend. We learned to invite the Spirit, then leave quickly. This contrast between a strong Spirit of peace and comfort, then the normal feeling without the Holy Ghost, helps the investigator feel the power and authority that God gives missionaries. It also creates the desire for the investigator to seek the Spirit. We were able to identify a need, teach according to that need, and challenge the investigator to pray in those five minutes. The Spirit was very strong in that time, and we felt that we had done our job in that discussion. I have learned to love teaching and helping others, even though I still don’t know what I’m saying.
This week, we are hosting the new missionaries again! We were also informed that we will receive a fourth district to our Mandarin Branch! The newest district (3rd) is happy they won’t be the newest missionaries, but they still haven’t hit the day where they can understand Mandarin. I’m excited to be able to help more people! Sacrament meeting will be better with more missionaries. Speaking of which, I helped administer the Sacrament this week! The Sacrament prayer takes about two minutes to read, I’m pretty sure I messed up on the tones somewhat. But President Teng said it was ok, so I’m pretty happy!
Anyway, still having a good time here! We have some Christmas lights set up around campus, so it’s starting to get really cold. We had some snow, but frying our brains with Mandarin Study heats us up really fast!\
This Sunday, I was called to be the new District Leader. We have just received a new Elder today, who will be companions with Elder Stevens. I haven’t met him yet, so that will be news for next week. I have many new responsibilities as a DL. I think it’s interesting how missionary leadership positions are. They are often known as being a missionary to missionaries. I am to “convert” the members of my district in the ways of unity and love. As I was talking to the other DL, he had said “when you worry about other people, you don’t have time to worry about yourself”. I think this opportunity to serve will allow me to relive some stress, but at the same time, it will be much more work. I need to conduct meetings, go to meetings, get mail, organize volunteering opportunities, and look out for all members of the district.
I’m not sure if I mentioned this last week, but the MTC is a huge petri-dish. I’ve had a light cold for about 4 days now, and the other missionaries have had colds for 2 or 3 weeks. If anyone in the district or zone gets sick, everyone gets sick. Hopefully this is the only time I’m sick before I leave for Singapore.
We were able to hear from two General Authorities this week. Elder Condy (I think that’s how to spell it) addressed us at a devotional. He spoke on our purpose and actions as missionaries. When we are called to be missionaries, we are expected to devote all things unto God. We devote our time, talents, energy, and knowledge. When we waste time, we are wasting God’s time. It was a very inspiring message, and I think it can be applied in many ways.
Sooooooo… I finally was able to obtain a Mandarin Hymn book. We have been checking the MTC bookstore twice a day for the past three weeks. They apparently only stock the time every couple of months. The MTC has a weird “code” of valuable items. It is unwritten, but cardboard boxes, packing peanuts, tape, card readers, “good food”, and water are the most valued items. The water fountains here taste weird, and so does the food. I’m sure I’ll value those things even more in the mission field.
One missionary in my district was able to get an update from a missionary that just left for Singapore. It looks like my chances of going to east Malaysia are high. That means lots of mosquitoes, grass huts, parasites, and possibly machetes. I hope at one point I will have an opportunity to serve in the cities. But I’m sure grass huts and dirt roads will be quite a fun adventure too!
This next Wednesday, we will receive a new Mandarin district in our zone. It also happens to be our SYLO day. SYLO is Speak Your Language Only. As a district, we made it a goal to speak only Mandarin on Wednesday. I think the new missionaries will be very confused. We will also get to have a bit of fun with that. I also received my Mandarin missionary nametags! We were all very excited to get these.
Nothing much has changed, today (Monday) is my first real day as a DL, so I’m still figuring out responsibilities. Anyway, until next time!
Everything has been the same, but everything is different. My companion was sent home due to health issues. I was disappointed to have him leave, we were getting along so well. However, he might be able to return to the MTC in 6 weeks if his conditions clear up. I hope I see him again, we were great friends and companions. So this week, I was assigned to a tri-panionship with Elder Jones and Elder Stevens. We have a room to ourselves, and we love to learn funny phrases in Chinese.
A shipment of Singapore/Taiwan missionaries are leaving today. I am sad to see them go, but I look forward to seeing them in the field. I became close with Elder Brown (Zone Leader, not my first companion), and found is only a week older than I am. He is also Chinese, and plans to attend Asian ward at BYU when he returns from his mission. Elder Brown is so great, he gave my companionship some great pass-me-downs this past week. We attained 100 plastic army men, a rubber band ball, a homemade “guitar”, food, and a recipe book. At the end of last week, we had a box of candy, silly-string, nerf guns, and 40 boxes of cereal. The traditions at the MTC are so great, it makes the environment so friendly after a hard day of work. Anyway, I hear it’s likely that I will see the missionaries that are leaving today, there are about 25 Mandarin-speaking missionaries in the Singapore Mission. When we return, we plan to have an Mandarin-speaking missionary reunion. Sister Huff from my district is also leaving with the missionaries today, she was put on the fast track program because she knew enough Chinese.These Elders and Sisters are so great, they all have great talents, work ethic, and testimonies.
At the devotional yesterday (Sunday), Elder Brown (Zone Leader) played the violin with two other missionaries playing piano and singing. They played the song that was performed at my mission farewell (Savior, Redeemer of My Soul). It was so beautiful to hear my favorite song again, I am so grateful for the power of music. We sing five songs at devotionals, before each meeting, before class, walking around campus, and everywhere we go. Music lightens the stress significantly and brings a powerful spirit.
Next Wednesday (November 12th or something, we loose track of time here), we will receive the next shipment of Mandarin speaking missionaries. We will receive another shipment two weeks after that, then we will be leaving on approximately the 15th of December. Right now, our zone is about 15 missionaries. Stress increases when there are fewer missionaries. On Sundays, we are required to write talks, share testimonies, and give prayers in Mandarin. When there are fewer of us, the chances of us being picked are higher. So it looks like I might be giving a talk by reading a script next week. Speaking of the language, before I left on my mission, I heard that there is usually one day in the MTC where everything makes sense. I had that day on Tuesday. I could understand everything my Laoshi (teacher) was saying, and I could respond to her questions. This place is full of miracles.
Talking about miracles, one missionary in my district was challenged to drink 16 glasses of apple juice at dinner. He was able to drink 15 glasses (about a gallon), and got really sick. We gave him a Priesthood blessing, and he soon recovered. He did spend some time in the bathroom (a lot of time), but he was able to attend his meetings that day. Perhaps the greatest miracle of all is that 7 missionaries with diverse character traits can function together and work hard from 6:00 a.m. to 10:30 at night. We love to serve the Lord, and we love serving each other. I can’t wait until we serve out in the field together.
Some random points this week: I had a uni-brow for Halloween, everyone here is sick and coughing everywhere, I don’t know the days of the week anymore, I’m getting fat from eating too much food, but everything here is great.
Love you all,
MTC life is interesting here. Since my first week (since Wednesday), I have had Ge Laoshi as my Mandarin teacher. On the third day, we started teaching “investigators” in our language to practice conversations and plan lessons. We were mainly teaching an investigator named Amber. She would speak very softly and quickly, so we were always on our toes to keep up with the conversation, and very quick to give looks of confusion. At the beginning of this week, we had a change in teacher schedules. “Amber” is now our teacher. Her name is Sun Laoshi, she has been back from her mission in Taiwan for about 4 months. It was apparently a secret that our “investigators” would be our teachers, but the older missionaries do not keep secrets.
Sometime this week, we were informed of the dangers of our mission. The most dangerous threat was Malaria, carried by mosquitoes. So basically, we need to soak all our cloths in some liquid, put on mosquito repellent, sleep with mosquito nets, take Malaria pills, and run away from mosquitoes. My district has quite a sense of humor, so we were laughing at the side effects of the Malaria medication pills than the effects of Malaria. The Malaria medication we have is supposed to be taken every day, and side effects can include esophagus ulcers, strange and vivid dreams, and hallucinations. I think most of us are more scared to take the medication than catch Malaria. Guess I’ll find out how that is in 7 weeks. There are also rumors that we will live in grass huts. This makes me very grateful for the facilities here in the MTC.
I realized my love for music this week. Although not everyone in my district sings, we all attended choir practice. We are practicing for devotionals on Tuesdays, and we learned to loosen ourselves up by singing. It is likely Elders Harmon and Stevens and I will sing in Sacrament meeting next week. There is quite a learning curve when we sing, some words will be Chinese and some English will escape our mouths. I feel very relaxed when I have an opportunity to sing, I have never loved singing hymns more in my life.
Today, I was able to attend the temple with my district. Preparation day is quite nice. We woke up at 5:00 this morning to do laundry, eat breakfast, run to the temple, and now we have almost 6 hours of “free time”. My district will probably lounge around studying or get some exercise. Concerning the exercise, the Mandarin speaking Branch is known for being very good at playing four-square. I had no idea that four-square could be so competitive.
If there are any grammar or spelling mistakes, I apologize. The Mandarin is really taking it’s toll. We are often so tired we can’t think of English words anymore. An implementation here at the MTC is SYL (speak your language). Essentially, we can’t say anything in English that we know in Mandarin. In about two weeks, all my conversations will be in Chinese. I’ll be able to write my emails in Mandarin soon. I can’t wait for the day I can be fluent in the language.
Things to be grateful for: fresh air, showers, sleep, non-mosquito infested environments, and laundry machines.
Hope you are all well, I love you all! 🙂
Life in the MTC is great! I am always busy doing something, the people here are great, and I’m never hungry! I love the MTC!
My companion is Elder Brown from Utah. He is almost the complete opposite of me. He loves football, hates math, and dislikes most of the things I like and likes most of the things I dislike. Despite our differences, we function quite well as a companionship. One similarity between us is our desire to serve, work hard, and learn fast. We spend almost all of our free time learning the language (Mandarin Chinese), and studying the lessons. On several days, we have spent five strait hours on TALL (Technology Assisted Language Learning) software. We have learned so much in the first week. We can already introduce ourselves, say where we are from and going, say a prayer, testimony, read lessons, teach discussions, and carry on a conversation. In my district, many of them have taken previous classes in Chinese. Most of them say we have learned more in this week than they had in two or three years. I still feel inadequate in the language, but I realize how much the Lord has helped me learn.
My district consists of Elder Stevens (Birmingham England) and Elder Jones (Singapore), Elder Avery (Singapore) and Elder Harmon (Singapore), Sister Payne (Taiwan) and Sister Crowell (Taiwan) and Sister Huff (Singapore, but was transferred to the fast track program because she knew Chinese already), and Elder Brown and I (Singapore). Elder Avery is my district leader, he is great at keeping everyone on task and informed of the schedule. We have taught three discussions in Chinese already, our investigator was Amber. We have taught her how to pray, the Atonement, and repentance. We will be teaching her five times a week now. We do our best to understand everything she says, but it turns out to be only encouragement to learn the language better.
So everyone here is getting sick, the cold is going around the residences. I had a different type of “sick”. My first day, I had some food poisoning before I reported to the MTC, but that only lasted a day. I also had some minor chest pain, and had the doctor check that out. Turns out my body was simply stressing out, and I need to slow down. I don’t feel overwhelmed, but I do try to do everything possible to learn. At a district devotional, we discussed that the Lord will help us to do anything if we do our best. He will not require us to do more than we can, so I guess I need to keep this in mind. I do work hard every second of the day, but perhaps I should learn to enjoy this time in the MTC.
Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I can’t upload any pictures right now. We do have some crazy pictures and stories like eating chili peppers and almost passing out, shooting Elders with rubber bands, and passing gas in other Elders’ rooms. I share a room with Elders Brown, Jones, and Stevens. We wake up early at six to read the Book of Mormon in Chinese, we say our prayers in Chinese, we use Chinese whenever possible, and we dream Chinese at night. We are quite immersed in the language, we hope we can learn it well enough to go out into the field.
So normally, I will be writing on Monday, but my P-day was mixed around this week. Today is Wednesday, which means I finally get to be the annoying Elder who says to the new missionaries “WELCOME TO THE MTC”! On my first day there, I was told that over one-hundred times. Once you have survived one week, you can annoy the new elders with that phrase.
I really learned to be humble this week, I was surprised how little I can do alone. I also learned of the strength Christ can give if we accept his will and do our best. I hope you all are doing well at home, I miss you all. Until next week…