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!