Holy cow! It's been so long! But it really hasn't! The week past by so fast! It went soooo slow until Sunday hit, and now it seems like a crazy mad dash til monday. Even now I'm stressed as heck, hoping I can write everything that I want to...
Alright, my companions name is Elder Solomon, he is from Taylor Arizona, he wrestled in high school and played the trombone in marching band for awhile. He is terrific, his laugh is one that makes you laugh too and we've had a lot of good times, but I'll get to that.
Now let's start at the beginning. I got dropped off and followed instructions, but nothing felt real. My host and I didn't really have anything in common, but once I told him I did 5 and a half front flips into a foam pit he lost his mind and kept saying "really? really????" It was pretty nice. But I'm on the fourth floor, and from the outside of my building I can see the place where we would drop off packages to send to our friends in the MTC, so if I'm around and you pull up and park, I could end up seeing you ;). I had a ton of luggage, and going up all those stairs suck. Its a good workout though. Anyways, he took me to class and that's when I met Elder Solomon, but I wasn't in a terribly excited mood. My teachers are Brother Norris (looks like Wilson Hulme a bit, I will have to get a picture of him), and Sister Mitchell. Sometimes coming in to help is Brother Alder and Nate, and Flinders. And Sister Evans came yesterday, but I'll mention her later, she caused my worst lesson! Not directly though... anyways! When I got to class I was not very spiritually ready to be there, and was bored for most of it. I took some notes, but it was weird, they then sent us to a fireside and all they did was make jokes about being dear johned. Yikes, they prepared us. But I already told you about the first two days. the third day I woke up, and that day it hit me! God has given me all I have, and I already knew that, but the reality hit me. I was frustrated that I couldn't write except on P-days (sorry about that, and Rebekah, your letter will arrive in five days hahahaha.... yeah....) And I learned that my p-days in Oregon will be on mondays. I leave the MTC monday morning at 4:30 :( wah, that's way too early, even for a missionary! But anyways, once I realized that God was the cause for all my happiness, being at the MTC became much easier and much more fun. I realized that EVERYTHING I had, and ALL my relationships with the people I know was because of him, so I definitely was humbled and I definitely am not bitter.
The food is just like the canon center, and the Orange juice has changed, nobody has gotten sick, so Kenny and Dad, you lied ;). Lets see, my classroom building is very new! Very very nice compared to the stinky foreign language ones we had to wake up at 5:30 to go clean on monday. Ewww, when I was a library aide in junior high, my least favorite thing was cleaning computers, well guess what I got assigned to do? Yup, clean computer labs! It was terrible, but i was glad to being serving, and I got told to speed up. It was actually fun, and that one day felt like three.
A typical day is, you wake up at 6:30 (I wake up at six to shower mostly), and then you get to the classroom for personal study by seven, do that for an hour, then go to breakfast, then after that you go back to the classroom for either more personal study OR actual class time. Sister Mitchell teaches in the Morning for 3 hours, and Brother Norris in the Afternoon for three hours. Waking up the first day was easy as pie because I had no idea where I was, or who anybody was. I also had a nightmare that I was driving in the car with Mr. Jones from OHS talking about chess when suddenly an earthquake came and killed us (we fell down a cliff).... odd.... I tried to assure them that there was a life after this, but towards the end of the dream, even I doubted it as I feel to my death. When I awoke my hands were asleep.... yikes. But life got better as my testimony got stronger. It's weird. It's NEVER BEEN STRONGER! It's really cheesy and cliche, but I know exactly what the spirit feels like and what it doesn't, I know when it's there and when it's not, probably because the MTC is consecrated ground. Let's see... I'm just trying to get everything down here on paper, but there is so much, so this is not necessarily in chronological order.
We got to pick a progressing investigator to teach, with our teachers posing as them, Sister Mitchell is a woman named Michelle, and Norris was a guy named Andy, and Alder is a guy named Greg, they told us about each of them and told us to pick who we felt inspired to teach. Solomon and I picked Michelle, thinking she would be easiest. Nope. Not at all. It has been a roller coaster. I'm glad that I played all those games with Melissa and Mikayla when I was younger where we used our imaginations to summon and create worlds, when we played Zelda or Stargate on the tramp, because it prepared me for this, it has allowed me to immerse myself in the activity where Michelle is Michelle, I don't see her as Sister Mitchell anymore, and I feel like I'm actually in the field. I can attribute some of this ability to video games as well believe it or not. Anyways, we also got assigned a TRC investigator, where at a certain time (we only got to teach him twice) we go and teach him. But first with Michelle. We taught Michelle every morning when the first class would start, the first hour is dedicated to teaching our P.I. (progressing investigator). But because the 3 sisters in our district also wanted to teach Michelle, we get 15-20 minutes and sometimes 10 to teach her instead of 20-30. So it's harder. Oh, before i carry on, let me describe the district!
Elder Ballard and Bennett: Elder Ballard is from Arizona as well, total southern accent, and great man, fell asleep with his head on his hand, and his face slid down until it fell and smashed against the desk, funniest thing of my life. He also awoke in the night and threw himself against the wall screaming "What the" this is because there was a really loud snore, and he thought somebody had climbed in bed with him. Hilarious guy! His nick-name is Piglet, but we aren't supposed to have nicknames, so we don't call him that. Elder Bennett looks just like David Hewlett from Stargate Atlantis, so his nick name is Rodney Mckay (like you mikey), so we call him Elder Rodney. He is quite the guy and actually served his mission for three months in a trial run before coming to the MTC, so he is experienced. He acts and talks like Rodney Mckay too, I will attach a picture and you can decide for yourself, actually I'll insert it:
Yup, thats him! totally Rodney Mckay, with more hair! Alright, here is my companion, Elder Solomon and I:
Ok, enough funny business, uploading pictures takes too long, I may attach more if I have more time, there are some I NEED to show you though. Anyways!
Then there's Elder Freshour and Lewis. They are great. They are Baloo and Baghera, Lewis is Baloo, so his nickname is Elder Balewis haha.... So funny! Elder Freshour is from West Virginia, and Lewis is from St. George. Both are coming to Portland, and so is Ballard, But Bennett is going to Rodchester NY :( we tease him a lot, it's because he's so great. And between us, Elder Solomon and I have died laughing many a time when we think of him tripping, just because in the face of pain he says he's the terminator, so we try to imagine his face. It's not very funny, but for some reason... oh well, you would just have to be here to understand.
Then we have the sisters in the district, Sister Jensen, Sister Romney (yes, related to Mitt, second cousin or something like that), and Sister Schreiver (spelling?). They are fun to be around but very sassy! Good Ghandi!
Let's see.... Oh yeah! Back to Michelle, she is 65, lives on a farm with her husband, has 3 kids that are grown up and gone, and she is spiritual but not religious. She was raised Christian but something caused her to fall away. Sounds easy enough, just hit on the importance of families and their eternal nature. WRONG! Our first lesson went horribly. We planned a whole tree of things, and based on her responses we would take the lesson one way or another, but we didn't get very far, because she wasn't anything like what we thought. It screwed us up. Depending on her answers, I would teach the plan of salvation, and Elder solomon the restoration (we didn't know which would be better), but basically we were all over the place and didn't ask her or get to know her at all, so it was embarrassingly bad.... BUT we had a comeback the next day. We got to know her better, found out that she didn't ever want to pray because she felt God hadn't answered her prayers in the past, and didn't want anything to do with her, and even to this day, regardless of what we tell her she ain't budging, but we have decided a better approach. For the Second lesson, we decided to teach her the restoration, but referencing the nature of God with prayer as an underlying theme. And guess what Dad? I had been trying to figure out how the missionaries used the Parable of the Paper cross when you were 16, and I figured out a way, and it was amazing. I almost cried at the end. After the inital conversation and cementing our ideas of her need, I taught that parable to her, then we transitioned into the atonement and the apostasy, and then into the restoration where Elder Solomon bore powerful witness of the First Vision. It fixed up our first lesson, and we even introduced the Book of Mormon, where it came from, and it's use. I used to other visual examples/ object lessons, I used a mirror in representation of the gospel, and the apostasy shattered the mirror, and everybody tried to put it back together again, but by the time you grab various pieces of it (baptism, faith, and other principles) and you glue what you have back together, the image is still distorted, and the Lord knew the Mirror needed to be restored, so he gave us a brand new mirror with the same image as the other one, the same mirror, but completely restored. We also used the example with a pen and the two fists to describe prophets. Ask Kenny if you don't know what that is. But anyways, I'm getting close to times up! The only thing was we still didn't get to know her! And since then we had two bad lessons, and one killer one but we did a service project for her and got to know her, and now we know her need and how to help her with it without telling the "smoker to stop smoking" kind of lecture. It'll bee good, but we won't be able to get her to commit to baptism, but she did agree to come to church, and she has read the Book of Mormon. We are making progress, but we only have one more lesson. I don't care if she doesn't commit to baptism. We just want her to have a relationship with God. So we need to teach her to gain a desire to want one with him, so she'll want to pray. Easier said than done, and it's actually very complicated.... but that's ok... we'll figure it out.
Onto Nick! He was in the marines then in the army, he has seen a lot of suffering, and doesn't believe in organized religion, but he does all sorts of research into other religions, so a friend of his in the army got us a referral (he is our TRC investigator, well, was... anyways), he teaches hand to hand combat and only believes that prayer has internal use. We only had two opportunities to teach him, and I regret that, but it was hard to actually TEACH HIM. You can tell him stuff, but all it does is tell him about Mormons' beliefs, and not help him grow. So our only tool was getting him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. So both Elder Solomon (what a beast) and I bore powerful testimonies about what we had taught but told him the only way he could know for sure was to not take our word for it, but to go to the Lord, so our parting words got him to want to go to church and read the book of mormon to pray about it... actually I'm not sure if we got him to commit to want to pray about it. But we left letters in the cover of the book where we challenged him to and bore witness again. He seemed to appreciate the gift very much. OH! And we don't know if he was a real investigator or not, nowadays it's more than likely, so we may have changed a man's life! It's what the spirit can do! With Michelle though, it's hard to relate to her, because I've never had a prayer go unanswered, and I've never felt abandoned by God, but that's because I've always prayed for things the way the book of Mormon says to, even if the answer is: "Yes, No, or not yet" there is always an answer, even if I only see it in hindsight, but she never had, and had been sincere. but yesterday Sister Evans was teaching her to demonstrate a concept for the class (teaching Michelle) and she said she could relate to not having prayers answered by God. WHAAAAAAT?!?!?!?!? That smashed me! Neither I or Elder Solomon could relate to Michelle on that! Because the prophets promise an answer if you do what Moroni 10:3-5 says! So My testimony flipped out based on what this trainer said (RM who works for the MTC), and the idea that God would abandon you crept into my mind. It wouldn't leave, so when we went to teach Michelle, the Spirit was NOT there. One of my worst experiences in my life. Nothing went according to plan, and our progressing investigator took a step back instead of forward. The spirit couldn't help us and our lesson plan fell apart, and it wasn't there to unify us. I could cry if I wanted to. We had a long talk with Sister Mitchell afterwards though, and we talked through our discouragement and realized a huge lesson from this! I had made a list nearly a page long of things we had done wrong, and she told us to find at least three that went right (very hard). But anyways. God DOES answer our prayers when we ask! Knock and ye WILL RECEIVE! Don't you DARE question that. He is your father, the only way you won't get an answer is if it's selfish, or you are too blind to see it! Or you won't accept what he gives you. He is no respecter of persons and loves us all the same. Anyways, we are going to kill next lesson. The spirit is by us again, and now I know exactly what it feels like to have it with me. Exactly. We will not fail again, and I'm glad we failed here, and not in the field. Anyways, I have other emails to respond to. This hour has gone by quickly! Send me questions with what you want to know. I will elaborate more when I read through the letters again. Thank you so much for Everything! I have loved the drinks so much, and the candy I will never finish, so my friends will love it too ;). It is a great idea to send stuff for Elder Solomon. He would love that, and he doesn't know I said that. There are six of us in a room, so if you want to send something for them all, go for it, but I don't think it's that big of a deal. I have by far received the most mail. Sister Romney is close though. Getting mail is the greatest thing and makes me feel at home. Sorry I didn't elaborate on the MTC a lot, I will next time more fully describe the MTC itself, but now I'm running out of time! So I love you all, and will write you again!
Ps, I forgot my temple clothes.... they are in a bag in the closet, I think the temple provides the to missionaries for free, but Idk about the temple in Oregon... soooo.... and the drinks are gone as soon as you send them. I still have some lemonade but the gatorade is gone. It was a great idea! Anyways, thanks for all the letters, and tell Sister Christiansen (two houses down from us) that she is wonderful and I love the quote book!! Uhm..... I think that's all for now.
Oh last thing, I won a game of speed in gym! Elder Solomon has the same tricks as me though, so he won the next game.
Anyways, next time I write you will be in Oregon. So see ya later!
pps, I will get to the things I haven't yet, never fear! My mouth is large, but in a lesson I have coined the phrase: "Shut the heck up and let the heavens speak" hahaha, anyways, bye now!