Dearest friends and family,
Well I've survived another month here--oh wait, it's only been two weeks. It feels like I've been here for soooo long! After the first four days it felt like I had been here for three weeks...ha. People keep telling me it will start to go by faster, so "a ver" (we'll see)!
It still makes me laugh how many dopplegangers I see here at the MTC. It might just be me going crazy, but almost every one of my friends has a look-alike here. Even my Branch President reminds me of Grampsir! It's half-way a sweet, tender mercy because I feel a better bond with people, but at the same time it's just bizarre haha. I'm pretty sure it's all in my head.
Mum and Lacey, as far as my log in info for my Facebook account and blog, I wrote it all down on a green sticky note that was attached to my laptop before I left. Remember when I sat you down the day before I left and went over it with you? So hopefully that sticky note didn't get whisked away. If so, send me a letter so I know to write it down and send that info again.
Speaking of letters, I haven't heard from anyone in about a week--which, according to my previous logic, feels like a really long time. I'd love to hear from you! Thanks Mum, Dad, and Trina for the Dear Elders! Getting mail really is one of the highlights of our day that lifts our spirits and keeps us going! This week has been pretty difficult for most of us. The "honeymoon" phase wore off and we've all been struggling to stay as cheery as we should be. We're not even in the field yet and we've realized how hard missionary work is. I've already seen one Elder go home, so don't think that we're just having fun messing around up here...
Mum, you've mentioned a couple times that you think it would feel like being up at BYU again. I regret to inform you it's not haha. The MTC buildings are so tall and so close that I can't even see the Y on the mountain let alone any BYU anything. I feel like I'm in a completely different place. The MTC is it's own weird community in a protected bubble.
This week I met a few really fun people! Most specifically, I bumped into a missionary from Finland. I of course told him that my grandmother served there and loved it, as well as that one of my favorite missionaries of all time from Finland served in my home ward. As it turns out, Elder Niemenen is friends with Elder Sokkenen's younger brother!!! Small world! It's kind of funny how similar they all look too haha. I also have talked to several people who are preparing to serve in Japan. I love talking to these missionaries (especially the sisters) because I get to brag about Brittany and feel some sort of strange connection and adoration for the missionaries that will be serving the same people that Brittany is serving. I definitely have a deeper understanding of how Brittany felt when she would describe her admiration for her Japanese teacher, her frustration with the language, and her trial of learning to be patient with a companion. I hope she's doing well!
I have a few requests for things that I would really appreciate if you (Mum) could send me. Dad mentioned that he had an international power converter set, and I'd really like to not have to buy one here or in Chile for tons of money. They are expensive! I'd also really like a family photo. I have some wallet sized individuals of Lacey and Tyler, but could you please send me a small family photo? Thanks!
I've been reading the book that Trina--I mean the Boices--gave me before I left entitled "Especially for Mormon Missionaries." I have really enjoyed and found great comfort in many of the poems and stories. At one point, however, I became very confused while reading; the story no longer made any sense. I discovered that the book is missing pages 97-112 haha. It's not that they have been torn out or anything, it's just a misprint. No biggie though, it just made me laugh! Speaking of laughs, I'm especially grateful for the men in my district that make me laugh every day. They have done so much for me in helping me enjoy being here and not get overwhelmed by the immense amount of energy, determination, and perseverance required to be a successful missionary.
I'm also extremely grateful for my teacher, Brother Derek Adams. Besides being a great teacher, making us laugh, and sharing with us his extremely powerful testimony and incredible conversion story, he has helped us in so many ways. He has an incredible gift of the Spirit to be able to say the exact thing you need to hear. He has a gift to be able to answer the question in your heart rather the question in your mind (read in Moses when Adam asks God how the Atonement works). Brother Adams has taught me sooooo much more about missionary work ASIDE from the actual lessons and teaching aspect. He just gets it. He understands why we're here. He understands what we are capable of. He understands our concerns and worries. He understands us. I wish he could follow me around on my mission so that in times of doubt or frustration I can turn to him for advice and comfort. I guess that's much like how our relationship with the Savior and His Atonement should be like, no? ;)
Well I'm super lucky to have been able to write a really lengthy letter this time. Please write me as often as you get the chance, and I'll write back as often as I'm allowed. Have a great week! Remember to read your scriptures daily. Our branch president's counselor told us about his understanding of why returned missionaries sometimes go inactive--they stop reading the scriptures and therefore stop feeling the power, comfort, and knowledge found within the pages of the Book of Mormon. The Lord loves you, and He wants you to be happy. Why not let Him help us do so?
Elder Long :)