Friday, December 16, 2011

December 12th - Final letter from the Provo, MTC!!!

Yay! I cannot wait to call you from the airport and spend a few minutes talking about everything that has been going on at home. I really just want to call you just to TALK to you about you and the family. Normally, it is a supervised call that concerns medical problems or travel plans. ]-p This will be great. Not just that, but I get to call on Christmas, too. This moment in time is so opportune to leave the MTC because no missionary in the MTC gets to call their families on Christmas. There is just too many missionaries to accommodate calls home for all. To tell you the truth, because of the massive amount of missionaries, we are restricted a lot by rules. For example, we cannot play music in the residence halls or sing in the showers. Imagine how much noise that would make if all the women on my floor sang in the shower. Even worse, what would happen if a really HORRIBLE singer sang in our showers. I would cover my ears or shriek in pain. Just kidding. Maybe it is a blessing in disguise because it spares me from hearing a really fat opera singer singing "Figaro, Figaro, figuero!" and making my face cringe at the sound of it. Actually, there are a lot of really good, talented people here at the MTC. Every devotional or fireside, we have someone new doing a musical number. Yesterday, I heard a female singer sing, "For Me, Alone." It is the most beautiful song I have ever heard. You HAVE to buy it and train Megan how to sing it. Maybe you can record her singing it and send me an attachment.
Today is my second to last day before leaving the MTC. Hna. Read and I took our fifty minute gym time, planned everything that needed to be done, and was able to do everything that I needed to do or buy. Then, I even had time to pack one suitcase. My companion has really been stressing effective planning, and it really worked. She was grateful that we got so much done in such little time. Sometimes I am a space cadet and don't use our time effectively, so I feel it gets on her nerves. However, I have gotten much better and she is very proud of me. Thank you, Mom, so much for teaching me the value of making lists before the mission.
I am very excited to be leaving tomorrow, especially because it won't be at 4:00 A.M., but rather at 4:30 P.M. But that means I fly all night until I arrive in Guayaquil at noon on Wednesday. My mission president stressed that I cannot arrive at night time in Guayaquil. It is not safe. That is why he is picking me up from the airport. His name is President Montalti. From what President Wilkins told me, President Montalti does not speak any English. That means I will be having all of my personal interviews with him in Spanish, and every phone call will have to be in Spanish as well. I will be fluent in no time! I also bought a tape recorder at the Bookstore so I can tape native speakers speak while there. I will use things like this when I teach teenagers the Spanish alphabet and dialect of Ecuador. I am so excited. Don't be surprised if I send home a bunch of Ecuadorian memorabilia or flags. I will use that stuff to decorate my classrooms. I want to be the best teacher ever! I am SO grateful to go to a Spanish-speaking country. Plus, I got a little experience teaching this intermediate class the last two or more weeks. It has been a real blessing to use my knowledge to teach the people here. The Spirit has quickened my understanding and loosened my tongue. I feel much more confident in my Spanish-speaking ability thanks to the gift of tongues.
Not much has taken place here since I last wrote you last Thursday. Last night for the devotional, the BYU Men's Chorus sang all their choral repertoire for us, including a few additional songs that they reserve to sing only at the MTC. I saw Kap Sanders and Andrew Moore! However, I couldn't catch them afterward to say hi. Unexpectedly, I saw my old friend Josh Pluim. He was in my ward freshman year at Wyview and my senior year at Roman Gardens. What is even funnier is that my roommate, Hermana Raines knew him too!
Additionally, I got shot two more times last Thursday with immunizations, more specifically the last Hep A and Hep B shots. I am all up to code now! For my Hep A shot, I was two days shy of never having to take another Hep A shot again. The two different Hep A shots in the series have to be taken six months apart. I highly doubt a doctor would require me to get another booster just because I was two days shy, but I had to get it at that time because I couldn't receive the immunizations any other day.
Please know that I pray for our family at every prayer, especially for Nathan, Stephanie, and the nephews. How is Landon progressing in school? Do you think he will be able to get baptized when he turns eight next March? I wish I could be there if he chooses to do that.
Give my best to everyone in the family and at EFC International! Take care.
Love you,
Hna. Forbush, your M&M

The Final Arrangements!!!

Hi Parents!
I will be receiving my travel plans tomorrow, 12/9, at 11:45 A.M. from the district president. We will be calling you soon thereafter to confirm everything is alright to go. Please stand by your cell phones for that call.
Thank you and love you both,

Dec. 8th - A Turning Point...........

Bueno, I promised you the good stuff and so here it is. My companion Hma. Read and I went to the TRC (Training Resource Center) on Saturday morning during class and taught a BYU student named Rinna Adorable. This girl was the most beautiful Spanish looking girl that I ever met, but she spoke Spanish like me--a gringa. We went in not knowing what we were going to say, but somehow got on the topic of serving other people. I had shared with her one of my favorite scripture mastery's that I had learned in Seminary, Mosiah 2:17 about "when you are in the service of your fellow being, ye are only in the service of your God." She started telling us about where she was in her life. She had completed three years at BYU as a Psychology major and a Spanish minor, but she had not dated any men exclusively for a couple years. (Sounds like a kindred spirit for me, huh, Mom?) Lately, in the back of her mind she had the question about whether she should serve a mission or not. Both Hma. Read and I told her about our experiences at BYU, because we are both BYU students, and how we came to choose to serve a mission. About halfway sharing my story in Spanish, Rinna started to cry the most sincere tears I ever saw. Apparently, the Spirit must have hit her to the very soul because she suddenly said in mid-sentence, "I can't do this anymore. I mean I cannot speak in Spanish." For the remainder of the lesson, we spoke in English. (I guess it doesn't matter what language we speak in to teach a lesson, because the Lord's Gospel is universal). She told us that she had finally received an answer to her prayer that she should serve a mission, and when she said it, the Holy Ghost overcame me so profoundly and bore witness to me that my companion and I were there for a reason. That reason was to share our stories with her and give her the final encouragement or final witness that she should serve a mission. That just made me think that my knee injury was not just for my benefit, but for this beautiful young women, this child of God, who was searching for an answer. I know that we were supposed to be there because it is usually through people that the Lord blesses our lives. By the end of the meeting, all three of us were crying. As we exited, I can bet we were a strange sight to behold--three women exiting the room with full, streaming tears because the Spirit was so overwhelming. I do not know what Rinna Adorable will end up choosing because she still has her agency, but I do know that this work that I am anxiously engaged in is true and it blesses lives.
The rest will have to be left for letters. I love you both very much. Hopefully, you have felt the Spirit of my message because this was a turning point during my stay here at the MTC. This meeting with Rinna reaffirmed to me how important my work is as a sister missionary. Please pray for our family. I know they need our prayers. :-)
Hma. Forbush

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dec. 3rd, 2011 - Yay!! I'm Leaving For Ecuador!!

Hello Parents!
I am writing a quick letter to you both because I need you to send a few things to me or my mission home in Ecuador to prepare for my departure date on 12/14.
First, Mom can you please send me that camera I requested that takes videos with sound? I do not have a model number for you, but you can get some that are fairly inexpensive that take really good pictures. If you can't get that make and model, please try to get something else that works just as well. I am leaving in less than a week and a half. Please get it bought as soon as possible and sent to me. Thank you.
Second, can you please buy two or three sets of sheets and pillowcases and send them to my mission office in Ecuador. I need to have them sent as soon as possible because it takes a few weeks to get down there. They should be a flat sheet, fitted sheet, two pillow cases for each set of sheets, and if you can include two comforters, that would be great. Please get that sent this week if you can. Thank you.
Third, Dad, can you please send that MP3 player this week with the speakers. Remember, we cannot listen to music with headphones, so the MP3 has to fit into something with speakers. I am sorry to sound pushy, but I have confirmed with my District Presidency that I am leaving the week of December 14. So I would like to take care of these things as soon as possible. Thank you.
Lastly, Mom, Dad, can one of you arrange to log into my gmail account and forward all my open emails that were sent before or after I left for my mission to my MyLDS Mail account? Please can you do this by my next P-day next Thursday? I want to answer anyone who emailed me after I left. I am not allowed access onto my gmail account. Only my MyLDS account. Things are a little strict here. Thank you.
Those are the most pertinent things that I can think of to get sent to me right away. I just wanted to confirm to let you know I am at this point planning on leaving for the field on 14 December. My doctor here at the MTC told my District Presidency to go ahead and buy the plane tickets. Yay! Isn't it exciting?
Love you,
Hma. Forbush
P.S. I haven't heard from you guys for a week-and-a-half, besides Mom. Is everything alright? I am getting worried. Love you! Please fast tomorrow for my knee

December 1st, 2011 - Getting Anxious To Move On!!

Mom! Dad!
Happy Belated Thanksgiving! I know I wrote you on Thanksgiving, but I don't know if I had wished you this greeting. It was a very hectic day, but it was worth it to hear from Elder Russell M. Nelson. Just think? If I had not stayed in the MTC to recuperate, I would not have been able to hear from two great apostles and receive that apostolic blessing.
How is everything at home? Mom, I did receive that letter from Nathan, Megan, Dad, Stephanie, and you. (There is a delay in me receiving DearElder mail because my mailbox has changed. It is now #276). It was one of the best DearElders I have ever received. I can really see a change in them, especially Nathan. He has definitely changed his life around. The Lord is really preparing his heart to come back to the Church. I wrote him a letter last Thursday. Did he receive it? I wrote you a letter, Mom, on Saturday. I am trying to write everyone at least once in the MTC while still sending letters to all the new elders and sisters that I meet here in the MTC. I am really making wonderful and lasting friendships. It makes me remember the promise in my patriarchal blessing which says there will always be people there by my side when I need help. What a promise from God! It definitely came true when I needed the help of my friends to recover from the my ACL and now my meniscus surgery. With each new district, I am gaining loving brothers and sisters in the gospel. We are truly family here.
The knee is doing great. I have been in physical therapy for two weeks, three times a week. The therapist already has me doing resistance training exercises. Hallelujah! I was getting really bored with basic ice and electric stimulation with the occasional hamstring curl. Now I am doing more rigorous exercises like leg presses and resistance bands. I talked with President Wilkins last Sunday and expressed my profound desire to go straight to Ecuador after my four week recuperation period. Originally, the plan was to spend one transfer here in a local Utah mission. I thought, heck no! Get me to Ecuador. So I talked with him and he compromised. He said if I can walk six miles a day for three or four consecutive days, and get the okay from my orthopedic surgeon and my physican here at the MTC, he would let me go straight to Ecuador. Well, the Brethren have to pray about it and approve it too. However, it is looking pretty optimistic. However, I have started walking on the treadmill at physical therapy. Yesterday, I got to two miles and my knee swelled up like a pumpkin. I have tried to take it easy today during P-day. Anyway, if I get the go ahead from everyone, I can leave the MTC by 12/14, exactly one month after I was supposed to originally go to the mission. Who says exact obedience doesn't bring miracles! Please fast and pray for me! This Sunday is fast Sunday and my whole district is doing a group fast, as well as the first counselor in our Branch Presidency, President Hopkin's, wife, Sister Hopkins. I have seen fasting work miracles, and I need a miracle to go. I am so ready to leave the MTC, mentally and spiritually anyway.
What can I tell you about this week? I have truly enjoyed teaching this Intermediate group of elders and sister. I am learning as much as they. Yesterday, as we taught our teacher who was pretending to be a progressive investigator, Kevin, another teacher sat in on the lesson as a "member." Afterwards, he gave my companion, Hermana Read, and I feedback. He suggested to me that I stop trying to speak so fast like a native and work on my pronunciation. I speak very well and can formulate good sentences. The only thing I didn't do well was enunciate my vowels. That is good feedback. I am starting to work more on my own grammar and the tiny details of the langage that I didn't know before. That will help me a lot.
I am sorry that I don't have much time to write this week. Mom, you should receive a letter in the mail this week. Dad, I will try to write this week. The weeks are going by so fast while the days seem to go by slow. Before you know it, I will be home from my mission in the blink of an eye. I don't want this mission to end.
I will close with bearing my testimony because I feel impressed to do so. I know this Gospel is true. I know that it is the same Church that existed during Christ's ministry on Earth. When the apostles were killed by the Jews and various governments that rejected Christianity, the authority to establish Christ's church was lost. However, this authority to establish Christ's Church back on the Earth was restored or brought back to the Earth through Joseph Smith the Prophet. Because he restored the truth once more on the Gospel, we have a living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and twelve living apostles who lead and guide this Church in the latter-days. Joseph Smith also translated a set of scriptures written by prophets who lived on the ancient American continent. Today we call it the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I know this book is true. I have read it all the way through, cover to cover, and have prayed about it for myself. Through modern revelation, the Holy Ghost told me this Book is true. I challenge each and every one of you to share this testimony with everyone you know. More specifically, pray about someone that you can share this Gospel with and give that name to the missionaries as a referral. You can trust them that they will help this person find more happiness and joy in their lives than ever before.
I love you all. Please take care of the family for me. And write me this week with updates about the family. When I attended the temple this morning, as I sat in the celestial room, I asked God to give me some news about the family. I got an uncomfortable feeling. Did Stephanie's surgery go okay? She had some complications with her toe and ovaries. I pray they did. How did your trip to Chicago go, Mom and Nate? And the plan with Doc Brown?
Love you,
P.S. Got any new teaching advice that you learned from a TEAM or LIFE CD that I can apply to my teaching of the lessons?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

24 November 2011-- Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!

Hi Mom! Hi Dad!
Happy Thanksgiving! You get two emails from me this week. My preparation day is each Thursday, but I was able to write to you both on Tuesday because my companion needed to write home before she left for her mission on Wednesday. What a blessing I get to write to you twice. How are things back home?
I am so grateful for a lot of things this year. The opportunity to go on a mission, to be a student at BYU, to have you both as my parents who love and take care of me with loving siblings interested in the Church again, for friends in the Church who share my faith and friends outside of the Church who help me realize how blessed I am to have this Gospel and Jesus Christ in my life, and for the health and spirit that my Heavenly Father has permitted me to have. There is so many more blessings I could count, but they are innumerable.
Thanksgiving at the MTC is a little different for all of the missionaries. Instead of our normal schedule that we follow each Thursday, which is my preparation day, we have the privilege to hear from a General Authority from 10:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. for a special devotional. We already got to hear from Elder D. Todd Christofferson on Tuesday night for the weekly devotional, but now we are blessed to hear from another one today. This is the first week that I have heard from a General Authority and I get to hear from two! "Count your many blessings, see what the Lord hath done!" This evening, they have scheduled the movie 17 Miracles to play for all of the missionaries to watch. Yes, missionaries get to watch movies. Actually, each Sunday evening before we retire to our residence at 9:30, we get to watch church movies such as Legacy, Mountain of the Lord, or Elder Holland talks. He is an especial favorite because he gives such good talks pertaining to missionary work. Apparently he visits here often to give firesides and devotionals. Hopefully, I am here to hear him talk.
I was very grateful to receive your DearElder letters on Tuesday. I cannot believe that Stephanie, Nathan, and Megan all created DearElder accounts to write to me. I really enjoyed hearing from them. I will try my best to write back to them today, but because of the Thanksgiving festivities, I have been robbed of most of the free time on my P-day today. It may be brief, but I will write them and have them sent in the mail tomorrow. Mail isn't sent out on the holiday. But oh, did it bring joy to my heart to hear from them, and to hear that they all went to the Single's Branch, including Mike! It made me realize the blessings that can come to my family while I serve a mission. Oh, my heart is singing with felicity right now!
So are you going to participate in Black Friday? Dad, this would be the perfect opportunity to buy speakers for my MP3 player. ;-) To answer some of your questions, Dad, I am using my signature card a lot at the MTC Bookstore. It is a blessing that I got that at the ID center before coming here. Thank you. Also, I will need about $75 to get $200 for the airport when I leave for Ecuador. There is an ATM here next to the Bookstore, so I can withdraw money from that. As for what I would like for Christmas, skirts and shirts. Mom, please send me bright colored cardigans that have a three-quarter sleeve length and button up with frilly button-up shirts to go underneath the cardigans, if you would like. That is all I would really need. Please keep in mind that they should be cotton or appropriate for Ecuador weather. I have been going through my clothes and giving a few old things away in preparation to go down to Ecuador. I have plenty of shoes though. Thank you. Love you both!
I think I wrote a lot on Tuesday, so I am going to keep this email pretty short. Mom, I received your package of "surprises" and I was surprised to find those letters from Sue S., Reid, and Joyce. Please tell them thank you. I will be writing thank you notes home to them today, but it was such a joy to hear from them, wishing me luck that my knee will get better soon. You both are too good to me.
I hope you have a great holiday weekend. Enjoy Megan's healthy Thanksgiving dinner. That does sound interesting. You will have to let me know how that goes. And Dad, please tell Kelly's family that I say hi and Happy Holidays. Give the children and nephews all kisses and hugs for me. Maybe place a lifesize cardboard cutout of me to sit at the table with you guys. ;-) This is a great holiday to remember what we are grateful for and to spend with the family.
Love you,
Hermana Melanie Forbush

Finally Get To Write Again!! Written Nov. 22, 2011

Hi Mom! Hi Dad!
I am taking this opportunity to write to you both now on Tuesday rather than Thursday because Thursday is Thanksgiving. The MTC does something very special this Thursday to celebrate "El dia de accion de gracias" but I do not specifically know what. I will keep you posted. My new companion, Hermana Emily Ann Higinbotham, from Orem, UT, has her preparation day today because she leaves for San Jose, California tomorrow. I spent the last week with her district, District J in Branch 55, but all of them have left besides her. She leaves tomorrow morning at 5:00 A.M.
It is rather ironic how most of the missionaries leave between 3:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. each Monday through Wednesday mornings of their determined departure date. Then, there is enough time in the morning to prepare for the new missionaries to come in each Wednesday afternoon. Last week on Wednesday, I was able to be a host for the incoming sisters with District J, show them their rooms, where they would have their classes, and around the MTC campus. The one sister I was able to host that day before I had to leave for my physical therapy appointment was Sister Jardine from Canada. She had arrived at the MTC the Tuesday night before at a very late hour. The MTC hosted her for the night because she had traveled so far and didn't have anywhere to stay. This was the case for at least 100 elders and sisters traveling from around the world. Unfortuately, Sister Jardine's luggage (both suitcases) were lost after she rechecked them. (Remember what happened to me when I arrived in Spain. Same thing happened for her. Porbrecita!) I put on my most cheerful disposition to reassure her that the Lord takes care of ALL his missionaries. Plus, I told her of my experience in Spain so she could be reassured that this happens to many people, not just herself. I thought this would cheer her up, but her facial expressions and mannerisms did not leave much room for emotions so I couldn't tell. She had arrived at around 3:00 or 4:00 A.M. that morning, though, so she was very tired.
This week we are not welcoming any new missionaries because of the holiday, so last week when I was a host, 655 people entered. That is double or one-third more than the MTC normally welcomes in one week. Actually, Brother Heaton, the Administrative Director here at the MTC gave a fireside two Sundays ago (we have a fireside every Sunday evening at 7:00 P.M. and a devotional every Tuesday evening at the same time). He described to all the missionaries what the church estimated would be the amount of missionaries in the mission field starting next year versus what it will actually be. I hope that sentence makes sense. He described that the Church had studied the numbers of young men and young women in the Church at present and guesstimated 52,000 missionaries would be in the field by the beginning of next year. However, with the number of mission calls being issued, we shall find that 56,000 missionaries will actually be in the field starting next year. That is why building 4M on the MTC campus is being stripped and rerenovated right now to welcome the increased number. Isn't God's work going forth?
To update you on my knee, I went to my follow-up appointment with Dr. Scott Jackson this morning at 8:20 A.M. He said everything looks great and fixed. I have one more appointment with him on December 6 at 8:20 A.M. in his Provo clinic at the Utah Valley Clinic. He promised to give me clearance to leave on my mission at that doctor's appointment. YAY! I go to the Spinal, Orthopedic, and Surgical Physical Therapy clinic at 3303 North University Ave in Provo. They nickname the clinic SOS Physical Therapy. Isn't that funny?! It is definitely saving my soul because I am so ready to leave the MTC as soon as my knee is strong enough to withstand all the walking I will do in Ecuador.
Other than that, Mom, I received both pairs of shoes that you reordered. The Clarks fit perfectly. The Sketchers are a little small, but I am sure that if I wear them here, they will stretch out for sure. If I had the same pair in a size up, it would have been too big. The Sketchers are super comfy, probably the most comfortable shoes I own. Thank you for reordering them in a half size smaller. For the things that I need, I am going to try and find what I need in the MTC Bookstore or depend on the charity of others until I leave for Ecuador. I am using my raincoat with the inside liner to keep me warm and I add the gloves Mom sent me for extra warmth. The MTC Bookstore sells nude control top tights, so I am using a few pair of those. I want to thank you both for doing everything possible to keep me warm and clothed properly. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have your support.
I keep hearing stories of sisters and elders who joined the church as a young adult. Then, they served a mission when they reached 19 or 21 years of age. However, for some reason, their parents disowned them and friends dismissed them. While they were on their mission, they didn't receive any mail or packages from family or friends. Especially around the holidays. Maybe you can put together something for the missionaries here and send it. Don't put a mailbox number on it. Just address it to someone in need of a package. I know you can get creative. My heart just goes out to them for the sacrifice they give to the Church and the Lord. Dad, was your mission kind of like that? I admire you so much more now. Can I just express my love to you for serving your mission amongst all the opposition you must have faced from your family. I can promise you that it definitely made a difference in my life as well as our family's.
Now that I have seen two different districts leave the MTC, I consider myself an expert. I want to fill you in on a few things. The day that I leave the MTC, I am allowed to call you and Dad from a pay phone at the airport. All missionaries are allowed one phone call. President Evans, my branch president, gave me permission to call both of you.  I am allowed to call you on Christmas Day when I am in the field. I am allowed to set up a specific time with you then to talk to the whole family.
I think that is all I can think of right now. I love you all very much. How are my siblings doing?  Please write to me soon. I haven't heard from you yet this week.  I hope I have answered all your questions and requests in your letters.  I love you both very much.
Hermana Forbush

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Keeping My Mission Exciting!! Nov. 10th, 2011

This is written by Mom....................

Well, Melanie had surgery yesterday on her knee to repair the meniscus.  Apparently, she tore it quite bad so Dr. Jackson (who did her ACL surgery last year) felt the need to repair it as best he could.  He said everything went well and she should recover very quickly.  The unfortunate part is that she will not be able to leave out of the country on Nov. 15th as was planned.  She will stay at the MTC in Provo for another 4 or 5 weeks so that she can get physical therapy and gain the strength she will need to walk all those miles in Ecuador.

Since Melanie will continue with her Spanish classes and training here in Provo, instead of going to Peru, as was planned, she will be going straight to Ecuador from here.  She is remaining upbeat and positive as she goes through this.  She knows that the Lord will not give her anything that she cannot handle.

First Setback of the Mission - November 4th, 2011

Dad, you probably received a call from the MTC clinic this morning. They needed permission to get a MRI. I will be getting that tomorrow, Friday, at 2:15 PM. Then, I will take those results to Dr. Scott Jackson who did my ACL surgery on 11/8 at 7:50 A.M. This is an update. Just to let you know what happened, I was simply standing up in my classroom and leaning on a desk. My knee just popped, but it was a significant pop that it hurt pretty bad. My knee became inflamed. The inside of my knee was very tender (what Dr. Sampson at the MTC clinic said was my medial lateral ligament area, not my ACL), and my hamstring became stretched. We will see what the MRI says and the doctor tells me to do. I tried using crutches for two days, but it has become such a nuisance that I have given up using them. I did receive a blessing from the elders in my district though so the priesthood is on my side!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My First Letter from the MTC in Provo, Utah.

This is my first email from the Provo MTC. I am only allowed thirty minutes to write an email, and I want to include as much as possible, so I hope you don't mind that I write one email to everyone. All is well. I have a wonderful companion named Hermana Xiomara Garrett from Kennewick, Washington. Do not let her name fool you. She is as white and English as me. Her father served in a mission in Honduras, and a common name of the people was Xiomara. He loved it so much that my companion's father named her that. She is also a Spanish Teaching major, although at BYU-Idaho, which means we are at about the same Spanish-speaking level. We compliment each other very well as we try to master the Spanish language. She knows words to fill me in when I do not know what to see, and I can fill her in when she needs it. There is so much to tell, that I am afraid I cannot put all of it in an email, but I will try my best. I have been assigned as the senior companion between the two of us. On Thursday evening, my zone met with our branch president, President Evans. After personally interviewing all of us, he assigned me. My companion kept telling me that she knew I would be chosen. I think the only reason why I was chosen was because the Lord wanted me to step up and start contributing more to the companionship. I certainly didn't want that much responsibility on my second day in the MTC. As senior companion, I am in charge of initiating everyone, companion prayer, companion study, and coordinating our daily and weekly planning sessions that we have each day at 9:00 P.M.
The rules at the MTC are very strict, but they are to teach us obedience. Dad, as you have always taught me, obedience is the first law of heaven upon which all things are predicated. That is dually enforced here. We must wake up at 6:30 A.M., be ready by 7:00 A.M., be punctual to all of our activities, be in our residence by 9:30, start quiet time at 10:15 P.M. and have our lights out by 10:30 P.M. During the day, we have three square meals, class instruction once or twice a day for a three hour block, conduct personal study time as well as companion study time. Our exercise consists of either early morning exercise classes (solely for the hermanas) that start at 6:00 A.M. and end by 6:30 A.M. and gym time. That is a little about my schedule.
I have had to memorize 2 Nephi 5:13 in both Spanish and English, a challenge from my mission president to know by Sunday. Addtionally, I have to memorize D&C 4 (the whole section) in Spanish and English before the end of my three weeks here. Not to mention, I have to memorize my purpose as a missionary on pg. 1 of Preach My Gospel which is called Predicad Mi Evangelio in Spanish. It will really aid me to keep focus to my purpose.
Aside from our routine, I feel the effects that the Spirit has on me. I have come to realize that what I thought I knew about the gospel is nothing. My knowledge of the gospel has increased 70 x 7 while being here only four days. As my companion and I study the lessons and prepare for our investigators, we are taught to always keep their needs in mind. We are here to teach people, not just lessons. The whole time we start and end with prayer to invite the Spirit and teach by the Spirit. I have definitely increased my use of prayer. I know that it is by the Spirit that we can bring others to Christ. That is why it is so important that I pray when I wake up, when I go to bed, when I read my scriptures, etc. Each time I feel the blessings of those prayers as the Spirit augments my ability to speak Spanish and rely my message to the investigator. Yesterday evening, we had our first lesson with our teacher who really acted like an investigator. He took every single investigator he ever taught and combined it into the character Pablo Chavez. We failed miserably in our attempt to teach him because we forgot to start our lesson with a prayer. As a result, we stumbled on our words. Today, we had a chance to redeem ourselves. I realized that what we had to offer him was knowledge that our church was different. We offer a chance for the person to enter in at the door of baptism and receive eternal life. Other languages only teach people to save their souls. As we teach the doctrine and foundations of this gospel, people recognize the truth by the Spirit touching their hearts.
I have grown so much in the Gospel and in my relationship with Heavenly Father. Thank you so much.

I love you all.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ay Carumba! Disaster Strikes heading to Salt Lake City

Picture is 5:23 A.M. and you are tired beyond extreme. You have stayed up until 12:30 A.M. with your mother packing two large blue suitcases (that cannot exceed 50 lbs.) with everything you wardrobe possesses and that you will need to serve a mission for 18 months. You are stressed to the point that you have made yourself sick, and the only thing keeping you going is a single dosage of a nasal decongestant. It hurts just to speak, and you know that anything that comes out of that open hole you call a mouth will sound like a squeaky mouse, maybe venture closer to imitating Kronk's chipmunk language off of Emperor's New Groove. Squeak, squeak-ed-in, squeaker, squeak.

I had arranged with my parents to carry-on everything I would need for two days and all of my toiletries. Since the Church Mission Services arranged for me to take Frontier Airlines which charges for each luggage checked in, and my parents were taking Southwest, they could bring my suitcases without charge. Next thing I know, it is 5:23 A.M. with seven minutes before boarding my flight and the lady at the security check-in is forcing me to throw away close to $50 worth of toiletries, including a pretty expensive Mary Kay cleanser that was so beneficial to clearing acne from my stubborn face. I did have the option to go and check my bag into the ticket counter, but I was worried about missing my flight. My father's practical-minded advice kept ringing in my head like my own personal Pinocchio conscience, "Melanie, do not miss this plane. It is the only one that you can take that will get you out to Utah." (He was referring to the fact that he didn't want to have to buy a ticket for another flight when the Church paid for this plane ticket). "Alright, Dad, but the replaced toiletries are coming out of your money." Not really, but that was my thoughts that early in the morning. It was a small price to pay for the satisfaction and peace of mind I could give my parents that I am finally in Utah and one step closer to entering the MTC (Missionary Training Center).

For everyone reading this blog that does not understand the journey I am about to embark upon, or maybe even think I am crazy to go on a "mission trip" for eighteen months to a country so close to the drug cartels of Columbia or become kidnapped like that girl from Ecuador who made Dateline headlines, allow me to ease your troubled minds. I assure you that the Lord is looking over me and will keep me safe. In a passage of scriptures that we teach from called the Doctrine and Covenants, section 84, verse 88, it reads, "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." I know that the Lord will keep that promise to me because my stake president made that same promise to me as I was set apart as  a missionary. I am his representative as I serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The mission that has been set up down in the southern coastal part of Guayaquil, in the province of Guayas, is very secure and organized. I report to a mission president who assesses the needs of the mission and assigns men missionaries called "Elders" and women missionaries like me called "Sisters" to areas in companionships to meet those needs. You will always find myself with a person of the same gender day and night. She never leaves my side and I never leave her's. Well, maybe if I need to go to the restroom, that would hail me some privacy.

Talking with an alumni, Ellen Chamberlain, who served in the Ecuador Guayaquil South Mission, she mentioned that President Montalti, my mission president, has taken all the sisters out of the mountainous regions and placed them in the coastal areas to proselyte and serve because that is where the sister missionaries have the most effectiveness in baptizing. My mission while here is to be the first sister missionary to serve in the Galapagos Islands where the huge tortoises crawl like a snail and the tame seals who come up to you with pure curiosity about your species. Of course, that will probably not happen because it is very expensive to send missionaries out there; also, the Elders who have to be there would need to be present with Sister missionaries there as well. There is only a small branch there (you can read about it in the August or September Ensign).

Well, I am sitting in the Salt Lake aiport at 10:52 awaiting the arrival of my father at 4:00 P.M. It will be a long wait, but now I have set up a blog that will keep everyone updated on my mission. This will probably be the last one I write. My mother will be updating it each week with letters and emails that I send home. I will train her how to use one. Hopefully, you will get some great pictures as well. Thank you for reading. I will look forward to hearing from you. Outside of family, I can only receive letters via snail mail. However, it only costs 44 cents to send because the Church sends pouch mail to my mission office. That is where you send the mail to the Church headquarters, and they send the mail via a private courier down to Ecuador. I will post my addresses and instructions about how to send pouch mail later on so you have the information. Thanks again!