In the interest of time (and because most of the days this week felt pretty similar), this post might be a bit shorter than usual. However, if you have specific questions or want me to elaborate more on anything feel free to reach out and I'll respond ASAP. I can respond to emails at anytime between 6:30AM and 6:00PM on Saturdays.
Sunday was our first Fast Sunday at the MTC! For those of you who aren't familiar with fasting or Fast Sunday, it's when we don't eat for two meals and 24 hours in order to try to focus on Christ and then donate the money we would've spent on food (and some) to those in need in the Church. We do this the first Sunday of each month, and usually we try to pick a specific cause to dedicate our fast to.
This week I felt inspired to fast for my companion, Elder Moore. I wasn't super sure why, but I did feel that he'd been having some frustrations with the language and really missed his family and his girlfriend. He'd been emailing his girlfriend every other night or so (which we found out is against the rules, more on that later) and I just felt like his experience here could be better overall, so I dedicated my fast to him.
It turned out to be an amazingly spiritual day. A lot of the time, fasting can feel like a chore. I'm pretty sure getting grumpy when we're hungry is a hereditary trait in my family, and it's especially easy to be negative when you've woken up at 6:30, haven't eaten any breakfast, and know you won't be eating any lunch.
However, Sunday was different. Elder Moore and I started the day by teaching a lesson on gratitude, which I think helped set the tone for our mindset for the rest of the day. We talked about the fact that instead of focusing on being frustrated on all of the rules here, we should focus on the fact that there's something to be grateful for in each day. We should also remember that it's not just our Mission President asking us to follow the rules, he's just asking us to do what God asks us to do. Hearing so many other Elders complain about things around the MTC reminded me of this verse from 1 Nephi 3:
5 And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.
6 Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured.
Don't get me wrong, a lot of the MTC is hard, boring, or frustrating (we joked that it's the necessary sorrow needed to comprehend the joy of the rest of your mission); but I felt like I could imagine our Branch or Mission President saying that same thing:
"Your brothers keep complaining that my rules are too hard, but they're not my rules."
We had an amazing Mission Conference and a great Sunday Devotional. The focus was on love, which I thought was a great topic. We sang an amazing arrangement of Praise to the Man which gave me chills.
Throughout the day, I kept having random feelings throughout the day to do certain little things, like to introduce myself to someone I didn't know (instead of going to dinner immediately) and finding out that they were a good friend of our family; or to move a certain way in the cafeteria (and feel like I was an idiot for doing so) only to narrowly avoid having everything knocked out of my hands because I did. It felt like baby steps, but also like I was starting to get the hang of listening when I was getting prompted to do something.
Elder Eggett, MTC Music Director
To top off the night, we watched the Restoration video, which left us in a really good mood to start our new week.
Monday we started TRC's, which is when we teach someone interested in learning about our church or someone playing that role. We've been teaching a young Chilean guy named Fernando, who tends to fall asleep during lessons. It's been a little bit frustrating at times, especially because we don't get any feedback on how we're doing, so we're not sure how to improve, but it's definitely humbled me in terms of how fluent I feel in Spanish. I've been putting a lot more hustle in this week to learn Spanish instead of just resting on my laurels and coasting day to day. That's been really helpful in motivating me.
That afternoon we did a serious gym session and ended by doing burnouts (which is where you just keep lifting until your muscles completely fail) and I ended up unable to put my arms above my shoulders which makes it pretty easy to sleep.
Today was pretty much the same day as yesterday. For some reason I was randomly really frustrated during the middle of the day, but cooled off pretty quickly and had a great time during our Tuesday night devotional.
We did our last TRC of the week. We also did a workshop on using technology which I really enjoyed. In Jersey we're allowed (and encouraged) to use Facebook and Instagram to find people who are interested in our message. It's pretty cool to be some of the first missionaries to be able to utilize these tools.
Thursday I really started to step it up in learning Spanish. On Wednesday I learned 5 new words (just the ones on DuoLingo) and today I've accumulated 76 different words that I've learned and studied today. Looking out for words and trying to speak the language as much as possible is a great way to keep myself motivated throughout the day.
Friday was an interesting day. We had normal class, lunch, class, dinner, exercise and were getting ready for bed when our Zone Leaders (Districts are groups of 10 to 12 missionaries, Zones are 10 to 12 Districts) came into our room to give a blessing to Elder Rollins who just felt like he needed some comfort and guidance in teaching. The Zone Leaders are in charge of managing all the missionaries in the Zone, as well as making sure that they're all doing well physically, emotionally, and spiritually, which includes giving blessings to anyone who feels like they need one. Apparently, they do it pretty frequently. Elder Anderson and Elder Palmer (not the one in our room) had us stand in on the circle while they gave the blessing. It was a really cool thing to be a part of. Anderson mentioned that it was the 4th blessing he'd given that night, and the 25th blessing he's given since being a Zone Leader which is amazing to me.
While we were writing about it in our journals about it, President Cook, our Mission President came into our room to chat. He's a super loving guy. He pulled Elder Moore and me out to talk to us in the staircase of our building where no one else was around. He asked us how we were doing with being obedient to the rules, and I realized that he'd found out about Moore emailing home when he shouldn't have been (he didn't know it was against the rules).
He said "I heard there was a problem with emailing home. We just need you to be exactly obedient."
We were pretty sheepish but were happy that he was more love and less anger about it. He said that he had an obedience assignment for us, which we felt like was fair.
We get those all the time from our teachers in class like "Make sure your companion can see the screen of your phone at all times." Or "Make sure you're using all of your planning time in the morning and not sleeping in." So we figured it wouldn't really be hard to add another one of those if it meant that we weren't going to get chewed out.
He said, "Elder Anderson and Elder Palmer are leaving on Tuesday, and we'd like to call you as the new Zone Leaders."
"You're going to have to set the example for the next 3 weeks as the leaders of all these missionaries. We'll talk more on Sunday."
We're super excited. Elder Anderson was too.
"I called it from WEEK ONE!" -Elder Anderson
We haven't told anyone in our District. Some of the guys who've been here for a while or who talked to Anderson know, but we've been keeping it on the down low and just told everyone that we got chastised by President.
I guess we'll clear that up tomorrow.
Elder Kai Reyes