Saturday, July 26, 2014

More Learning and Teaching......and Photos!

Dear Family and Friends,
     I have been in the MTC for 17 days now.  It seems like such a long time ago when I first got here.  Only four more days and I will be halfway done with the MTC.  It is discouraging to see the English speaking elders get here and then leave 10 days later, but I know that I am going to need every second I can get to grow and learn the language.  A lot has happened with our investigator since we last talked.  My companion and I started studying all the different question forms because we realized that we were spending most of our lesson time answering a question that she asked right at the beginning.  This really paid off because our lessons went to a whole other level.  We finally answered all of her questions about the Holy Ghost and Priesthood Authority. Then we actually committed her to be baptized.  We just decided that we were going to ask her and then she said, "Oo, gusto ako. Ngayon?"  Which is, "Yes I want to.  Can we do it now?"  We were blown away by her response and had to respectfully decline and tell her that we would give her a date.  
     Our next few lessons consisted of us trying to explain tithing, the word of wisdom, and even the law of chastity.  We thought it would be a little awkward, and it was.  She even asked us what our mga karanasang (experiences) were with the law of chastity.  You could say that there was more than a few moments of silent thinking during that lesson.  But it all turned out great in the end.  Joane had to go back to the Philippines, and now we have two new investigators.  Their names are Ace and Ernesto.  We start teaching them on Monday.  
     Now, every Tuesday, we go to something called TRC.  You go to the main building, and they assign you a room.  You go to that room and there are one or two people inside who speak Tagalog.  You just sit down, get to know them, and talk about whatever they need to hear about the gospel for about twenty minutes.  Then you go to another room and do the same thing.  It is really nice because you realize that you are teaching real people, and they have real stories.  Everyone's needs are different, and all you are there to do is to help them draw closer to Christ.  
     I don't have much more time, but I just wanted to say how grateful I am for the MTC and the way that the program is designed to help you focus on what is the most important, which is Jesus Christ.  Every day, our teachers tell us,  "All you do is invite, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost take care of the rest."
     Thanks for all of your support and all of your prayers.  I am finally getting accustomed to the MTC lifestyle and the MTC food.  There is a joke here that everyone says that you feel the spirit all the time, but it is actually just the food.  I have learned that you really do feel the Spirit all of the time, as long as you try your hardest and follow the rules exactly.  Shout out to all of the cousins and all of my amazing family and friends!

-Elder English
With his companion, Elder Erickson

The Filipinos

 "Kweba ng pato" 
(I believe this is a room for studying and coordinating referred to in last week's letter.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

First Week in the MTC

Family and Friends,
     I survived my first week in the MTC!  It felt like a year.  Now I have two investigators and the days are flying by.  We committed Joane to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.  We tried to teach her about the Plan of Salvation yesterday, but we spent the whole time trying to answer her questions about the pre-mortal world in Taglish (english and tagalog).  
     I actually just realized that we were put into a brand new building.  The building we are in had been closed for a year while they were remodeling and is actually a model for what they plan to do with all of the buildings in the MTC.  Our district is the only one using the bathroom on our floor.  It is really nice.  The language classes are getting more intense.  Now we are getting into clauses and verb conjugations.  In Tagalog, the verb alone says what tense the sentence is in, what the sentence is focusing on, and how many objects are in the sentence just by adding a few letters onto the beginning or end of it.  It has kind of made me realize how weird English is. Whenever we start to complain in class, our teachers say, "It could be worse. You could be learning English." Everyone has also taken to calling me Elder Tagalog instead of Elder English.  It really doesn't make much sense but they all get a good laugh out of it.
     We also have a space in our residence with a bunch of chairs and tables where we can go study or plan with our district.  All of the workers call it the "ponder zone".  We started calling it the "bat cave" but we mixed up the words for duck and bat.  Instead of changing the name, we just call it the "kuwebe ng pato"(duck cave).  I finally found out where the rice is in the cafeteria!  The Samoans and Polys all sit in the corner by the rice container and basically control who can get rice.  Me and the three other Filipinos in my district are able to get rice, but most people just get a stare down when they go to get rice.  I think it is mostly a joke for them, but they basically have a monopoly on the rice cooker.  
     Anyway, everything else is going well.  It is mandatory in our zone that we go to the choir practices and sing in the choir at the devotionals.  This has actually been one of my favorite experiences at the MTC so far.  I actually sang and followed the bass line in "Faith of our Fathers."  The devotionals are at the Marriott Center and they are amazing.  It is amazing to see all the missionaries in the MTC spread out across the parking lot as we walk over to the devotional.  Our district has grown really close and it seems like we've known each other for years.  I have been looking for all of my friends who are speaking Spanish, but someone told me that there is a whole separate campus just for Spanish-speaking elders.  So the MTC is even bigger than I thought it was.  
     I am loving the language, even though it is amazingly confusing.  Our teachers have to make us stand up for about half of the lesson or else we start falling asleep.  They have also started incorporating more of a gospel structure to our language lessons and relating everything back to our missionary purpose.  Our teachers are amazing and one of them just got engaged.  Whenever we ask him questions about it he just says "hindi mahalaga" (not important).  He is probably right, but we just want to hear things about the outside world.  The MTC really is like living on another planet.  
     I was also really excited to hear that Germany won the world cup.  You guys are probably sick of hearing it but I'll say it again, I have been calling it for four years now.  I have been getting all my soccer jerseys in packages and I love wearing them whenever I can.  By the way mom, no, I did not bring my Real jersey but I would love to have it.  Just wanted to say hey to all the cousins and friends.  Thank you for your prayers and your support.  I'm doing my best!
                                                                                     -Elder English   

Saturday, July 12, 2014

First letter from the MTC (Missionary Training Center - Provo, UT)

Family and Friends,

        I finally have some free time to check my email while I'm waiting for my laundry.  These last few days have been the most stressful of my life.  But they have also been the most rewarding.  After I was rushed through the doors, they gave me my name badge, ID card, and a huge yellow bag of books for learning Tagalog. Then you walk into a classroom where they speak nothing but Tagalog.  We went through an orientation with all 680 new missionaries that had gotten there that day.  It really is amazing how many people work at the MTC.  
        I learned on Thursday that I would be teaching my first investigator on Friday after only six or seven hours with the new language.  I completely thought that she would be an actor who could speak English and would help us along if we got stuck.  It was the most nerve-racking experience of my life.  I realized when I walked in that Joane was not an actor and didn't speak a word of English.  She had been in the US for about a week.  We had her read some scriptures and asked her how her family was doing.  We think that her mom and grandma are inactive and she takes care of her younger siblings on her own.  I honestly had no idea what she was saying 99 percent of the time.  She kept asking a question about a tanong (question) and diyos (god).  I had a prompting to ask her to write it down, then i pointed at it and said bukas (tomorrow) and she got the biggest smile on her face. I later learned that she was 18 and it was a little weird teaching someone my own age.  We spent half an hour translating her question and I was so worried that we had completely failed.  Then I figured out what the question said.  It said, " If I have a question, can I ask God?"  I got the biggest smile on my face and my teacher started shouting opo! and mabuti!  Which mean yes! and good!  We teach her every day for the next two weeks and I am so excited to tell her about prayer, the Holy Ghost, and show her how to pray.
        My companion's name is Elder Erickson and I think I actually got put with the one person in the MTC who is quieter than me.  I have slowly gotten to know him and we have gotten a lot closer after our first discussion together.  He struggles with the language, but he prays a lot and I know the Spirit will help him with the "koloob ng mga wika" (the gift of tongues).  That is currently my favorite thing to pray for in Tagalog.  We did learn how to pray in Tagalog and it is so much fun to pray in another language.  I have discovered how tiring it is to feel the Spirit this much.  I now realize that working on the tree farm is much easier than working with the Spirit all day long in a different language.  But it is much more rewarding.  I heard one quote that I have been trying to take to heart.  It says "Little growth occurs in a comfort zone, and there is little comfort in a growth zone."  I have definitely been out of my comfort zone all week, but I have grown so much.  High school seems like nothing now.  I feel like my head is going to explode after every language lesson, but I am more happy than I have ever been in my life.  There are three other hapas in my district and one full Filipino.  His name is Elder De Dios and he really is a male version of one of my aunties.  Which is not a bad thing at all. It actually makes me feel a little at home.  I would love to get some world cup updates and it would be awesome if you could send me a few of my soccer jerseys.  Thanks for everything! Hello to all the cousins and all of my friends.  Thank you for all of your support and prayers.  It really does help a lot to know that the whole church is praying for us.  I have to go change my laundry now. You will hear from me again next week!

                                                                                      - Elder English