April 09, 2014

Week Two

This is so weird. It feels like I just arrived at the MTC yesterday. Everyone here says "the days are like weeks, and the weeks are like days" and it is SO TRUE. By the time I get home I'm so exhausted and it feels like 6:30 am was WAY more than just 15 hrs before. But then again, somehow I'm surprised that I've been here for two weeks.

I feel like I have so many thoughts and feelings and I don't have much time to sift through and figure out what's important and what's not. So I end up just writing everything and I don't really have time to edit. So I'll just let you all pick out whatever you want to read. Here goes!

It's funny, because when Alden and Jaron would write home from the MTC or from NJ or Argentina, I always thought that they would be all spiritual in their letters just because they felt like they had to. They always said little spiritual thoughts or things like "keep praying! Stay strong in the Gospel" and I just thought 'They're only saying that because they feel like we're expecting it because they are on missions.' But seriously, that's all I want to write about. I just want to tell people "Seriously! Go to church! Listen to what the missionaries have to say! Trust in God! Pray to Him sincerely and He will answer you! Have charity and be forgiving!" Anyways, so now I feel badly that I ever thought Alden and Jaron were just saying things for the heck of saying them because now I am the cliche missionary haha.

So this past week has been interesting. They tested me and another Hermana, and we were both approved to move up to the Intermediate Spanish Class. EXCEPT, this other Hermana didn't want to move up because it would mean switching companionships and harder lessons etc... But they moved her up anyways, and now she is trying to switch back to the Beginner class. Anyways, it's a super long story, but the point is that I have absolutely no idea whether I'm still supposed to be companions with Hermana Martindale, or if I will stay in the intermediate class and just be companions with this other Hermana, or if they will move me back to beginner... I used to be really frustrated since I had no idea what was going to happen, bu then I realized that the next eighteen months are just going to be one big "I have no idea what is going on or what is happening. But I'll trust that God will let me know what to do and where to go when the time comes." And that thought has really helped me become less anxious and stressed.

General Conference was fantastic! There were so many good talks, and I seriously felt so touched during so many of them. Elder Holland's talk about defending the faith with courage and courtesy was enlightening, Elder Bednar's talk about how our burdens can sometimes give us "spiritual traction" to move forward, President Uchtdorf's talk about having an attitude of gratitude... The list goes on a lot longer than this, but I left my notebook at home so you don't have to worry about me listing all of the talks I liked :)

The Elders in our zone left the MTC this Monday morning, and that was pretty sad. All of them are heading to Argentina (different missions, though). They really were super helpful to us new Hermanas, and we absolutely loved having so many worthy young men close by who could help by giving us Priesthood blessings of comfort or health or guidance. While here in the MTC I have just grown even more appreciative of the blessings of the Priesthood, and I am so grateful and glad that Dad and Alden and Jaron all live worthily to hold it.

Again, Tuesday devotional was fantastic. The acapella singing group Vocal Point came and performed. It is so amazing to see people use their talents for such uplifting purposes.

We have been practicing teaching a lot more recently, and that has been kind of hard. I have never really enjoyed talking to people that I don't know very well, and I always get nervous before public speaking or performing or anything like that. But this past week I have really just learned to stop focusing on myself and start focusing more and more on our investigators. The more I remember to love him/her and how much I want him/her to come unto Christ and increase their faith, the easier it is for me to feel calm and feel the Spirit clearing my mind and helping me remember and know the things to say.

Today after we came out of the temple (we did Initiatories as a district), an older woman walked up to us and she said "I just want to say thank you so much for everything you do. You all look lovely. You have it in your faces." etc etc. And then she gave us all hugs. It was seriously one of the sweetest things ever. It's funny because normally experiences like that would be awkward and weird in "normal" life, but something about wearing a nametag with the name "Jesus Christ" on it makes us more approachable and makes me more accepting of others. And yes! Everyone loved President Uchtdorf's talk. I loved how he talked about being grateful period. Not "grateful for..." but just having an attitude of gratitude. I also loved Elder Bednar's talk about spiritual traction, and how sometimes our loads are what allow us to move forward.

So we had a fun experience today. If you don't already know, I don't live on the Main MTC Campus. I live on West Campus (down by Wyview Apartments), where all the Spanish speaking missionaries live. So we don't go over to main campus that often. But we were there today to print off some of our emails. Anyway, as we were walking around Campus, we passed a pair of Elders and they saw that our name tags said "Hermana" instead of "Sister." They immediately asked if we spoke Spanish, and we said that we spoke a little bit. Apparently, they had just passed a missionary who had lost his companion, and he couldn't speak any English. So we followed the Elders and they brought us to this lost, spanish-speaking Elder. The other Hermanas I was with don't really speak much Spanish at all, so I stepped forward and asked the Elder what had happened. It was amazing to be able to carry on this conversation and figure out what had happened (His companion had to stay in the hospital overnight because something was wrong with his throat, but when the Elder had gone back the next morning his companion wasn't there). It made me realize a few things:
1) I am actually making progress with my Spanish, and I will eventually be able to speak it (The Elder was actually surprised when I told him that no, I am not a native speaker. He is from Puerto Rico and he said that he saw my Argentina pin on my bag and heard me speak Spanish and just assumed that I was from Argentina)
2) If I can feel so happy to be able to help an Elder find the Information Desk, helping others find Christ and come unto Him must be an incomparable joy, and it makes me so much more excited to get out into Argentina and Paraguay.
3) The MTC is one of the coolest places on earth. Seriously. Where else are there so many young people giving up 18-24 months of their lives, devoting them to God, learning some crazy foreign language, and at the same time are still concerned enough with each other to notice an Elder who was lost and then remember him when they found Spanish-speaking Hermanas.

Again, sorry this was so long. But I thought that too long is better because you don't have to read the whole thing. Too short always leaves you guessing as to what is actually going on.

 I'm going to be cliche and start ending my letters with a quotation or scripture I liked this week. This week is Ezekiel 36:26 "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." I love this because I know that I have never been a 'people person,' and it has always been hard for me to open up to others or to be patient and have charity. But I keep working and praying and having faith in the Lord that He will help me remove my "stony heart" and give me a new heart that is more tender, more patient, more charitable, more forgiving, and more willing to follow Him.

I love you all so much!
Hermana Simmons

PS: We can get letters everyday, but only our Sister District Training Leader (long title, I know) can pick them up. And she hasn't picked them up for the day yet, but I'm sure I'll get it tonight. I've been getting all of the other letters :) So I'll just answer your questions for now.
1) No, I do not think that I need anything from home. I'm pretty good with everything I have for now.
2) I have cut back my "beauty routine" a ton. Mostly I just have to actually shower in the shower and I can't just stand there and soak in the heat haha. I also hardly ever curl my hair (although I do waves every once in a while). Makeup is probably about the same. And the other Hnas do about the same as I do. Although lots of my roommates like to shower at night, or they only wash their hair every other day because it never gets greasy.
3) I can get hard copy mail every day, but like I said, I'm not supposed to pick it up. So whenever the SDTL picks up mail she will pass it out, and she usually does this every day, or every other day
4) I have no idea who is actually allowed to email. The guidelines just say family, but honestly, I don't have the time to handwrite letters. And I'm like 90% sure that it all just depends on the Mission President. So I like receiving hard copy letters, and then replying online, which I think is fine. I think the guideline is mostly because they don't want us to spend more than 60 minutes on our emails on P-Day
5) We spend most of our time studying the Gospel and practicing teaching. We do some language learning, but all of our focus is mostly on the gospel. However, all of our teachers speak Spanish, all the time. So they try to have us learn Spanish by listening to the teachers and speaking what we know, while we are focusing on Gospel things. We don't really do any culture learning at all.

Thank you so much for the pictures! I absolutely love seeing them, Tinley is totally precious, Bronx is adorable, and I love seeing the family!

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