Sunday, August 5, 2012

Week 2 in the MTC

Hello all!
First off, thanks so much to those who have written me either via Dear Elder or a handwritten letter! Aside from all the spiritual feasting, getting mail is one of the highlights of our day! We are allowed to read our mail each night, but we only get to reply on Preparation Day--Friday. So write me as often as you can/want, but be patient with me as I only respond once a week! haha. Mum and Dad, I'm glad you finally made it to Hawaii! I'm sorry it was such a struggle to get there. I'm glad you were able to lounge aroud and unwind though, you both really needed that.
I've absolutely loved it here at the MTC so far. I have learned soooo much in only one week! I told you a bit about our athiest investigator Adan: He has been pretty difficult to work with, but we have seen some crazy miracles with him. I used to kind of snicker at Brittany for acting like the fake investigators we teach were real, but it is so real when you're teaching them. Plus, his "character" was his own real story. It turns out Brother Adams will be our new teacher starting next week! haha so we'll get to hear all kinds of feedback from him. Among the many specifics I learned about teaching and missionary work because of Adan, I think the most important things I learned are as follows: 1) I definitely can't do this without the Lord's help. 2) I don't know enough about the Gospel to be able to fully indoctrinate anyone. It is only through the power of the Holy Ghost that anyone will be converted and learn for themselves that this is Christ's church restored to the earth. I also had a little realization while teaching Adan the Word of Wisdom. He was trying to justify drinking coffee as long as it was decafinated, and I realized something that each of us can apply to our own lives: the Gospel is simple. Heavenly Father has given us commandments and asked us to follow them. It's black and white. We are the ones that create grey areas and try to justify something because it isn't necessarily completely a sin. So I challenge myself and anyone else reading this: rather than trying to justify an action or activity, ask yourself, "Will this help me become more Christ-like and grow closer to my Heavenly Father?"
To answer a few questions:
1) My companion is a very obedient and hardworking Elder, which makes things soooo much easier. We have many mutual interests, so we get along pretty well. However, we have very differing opinions of how to teach, so I've been learning a lot about patience. It's amazing the difference you can feel if you ask in prayer for help to love someone.
2) My district is made up of eight 19 year-old boys like myself. Four of us are headed to Concepcion, one to Santiago, and three to Guatemala (including my companion). I absolutely love this group of young men. We all work hard, get along great, and make each other laugh. Considering we study for over 10 hours per day in the same classroom, we get pretty loopy sometimes. These Elders are great examples for me and I reeeaallly hope I get to be companions with them again in Chile.
3)The cafeteria food isn't as bad as everyone always makes it seem. I actually think it's pretty delicious--but definitely not as good as Mum's cooking. And I don't mean that for brownie points, I'm sincere ;)
4) On Tuesday we heard from a member of the 70 Elder Vaughn Featherstone, and it was great. He's suuuuper old haha. I don't know what other General Authorities we'll get to hear from, but I'm looking forward to it! Last Sunday we had our evening fireside and got to listen to Sister Jenny Oaks Baker (Elder Oaks' daughter). She's a world renowned violinist, and she was phenomenal!!! I truly believe music is one of the most powerful ways to bring the Spirit.
5) I'm still not sleeping very well, so it makes our 16 hour days pretty tiring. And it probably doesn't help that my companion talks in his sleep, but oh well. The work is worth it!
6) They gave us about 10 lbs of another 5 books for Spanish study as soon as we arrived. Woo hoo...haha
I've been so amazed (and grateful) for my level of comprehension in Spanish already. By about the 2nd day here I could already understand just about everything my teacher says (he never speaks English to us because we are the intermediate class). So I can understand everything well, I just have trouble speaking because my vocabulary is not yet large enough to teach the Gospel effectively. But it's a work in progress. I study hard every day to learn more phrases and words pertaining to the Gospel. I love it! :) During personal study we have been asked to read only in English to increase our own knowledge and testimony, but during companionship study and language study I read and speak only in Spanish with my companion. He's doing all right with the language. I don't think he really understands as much as he tries to pretend he does, but that's ok. We're here to learn! I have suuuuch a deeper respect for missionaries learning Asian and Russian languages, though! Holy cow that stuff is crazy! Good thing Brittany is brilliant!!!
The Spirit here is so amazing. It's almost tangible. I love being surrounded by so many wonderful people. I shouldn't say this, but it made me chuckle today: I can't tell if the new sister missionaries that got here on Wednesday are just all really cute, or if my missionary goggles are already taking effect hahaha. But don't worry, I'm focusing on the language and the doctrine, not the girls!!!  :P
I want to just finish with a poem that Elder Holland read (in a video we watched)
"Come to the edge," he said.
No, we'll fall
"Come to the edge," he said.
No, we'll fall.
"Come to the edge."
So we came to the edge.
And he pushed us.
And we flew.
"We do not fly, because we do not go the edge where takeoff is possible" --Elder Holland.
Have a wonderful week! Much love!!!

Elder Long :)

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