Friday, February 22, 2013

The Pranks Begin . . . along with the Spiritual

Hola familia!

So we just barely got back from a temple session, it was super great! I always love going to the temple on P-days. I look forward to it every week. Every...  the 2 weeks I've been here. Ha ha, I feel like I've been in here for forever, but at the same time it feels like I just got in yesterday. It's kind of a weird feeling. This week has been a little more crazy than last week because now we are teaching 3 progressing investigators instead of just 1. So it's harder to keep track of and harder to remember exactly what we need to teach each person. But it's really good practice and I'm sure it's nothing to what being in the field would be like. The Spanish is coming along a little better but it's still frustrating that I can't say everything I want to say in lessons and I have to say things in a completely different way just because of my limited vocabulary. But I've already learned more about Spanish in 2 weeks than I did in all 5 years I took it in school. So it's cool to be able to say a lot of things I couldn't before, but with the lessons I know I would be able to say exactly what I wanted to in English, I just can't say it in Spanish! But I'm trying not to get too bothered because I know it will come to me eventually. I think I probably mentioned this last week but all my prayers are in Spanish now, and I memorized the first vision in Spanish also. So that's kinda cool! I know most of the doctrine and gospel words now, it's just working on grammar and having the language come to me quicker. It's always a really humbling experience to come out of a lesson and talk about all of the things that we could have done better because we go in with an idea of how it should go, and we get too caught up in the doctrine and principles we wanted to teach that we forget to focus more on the person instead of the lesson. Love the people. That's the biggest theme that is being taught here. We need to learn the fundamentals of teaching and learn how to speak the language, but at the end of the day the most important thing for us as missionaries, and even just for people in general, is to love them unconditionally. To do our best to try to understand people and love them for who they are and try to help them become as happy as possible in the best way that we can. My teacher Hermano Pacheco is getting married next week so he taught us for the last time last night. Which was actually really sad! He's one of the coolest guys ever and he was so open and honest and had an incredible perspective about everything. I have like 4 pages in my notebook just from writing down profound things that he said. But his emphasis the entire time he taught us was to love people. Everyone has an underlying desire to be loved and to love in return. And true happiness comes from service and loving and being loved. And that's what the gospel is all about. It all comes down to that simple truth, the whole purpose of the gospel is for us to become as happy as possible. And that's why it's so amazing.
So I've had some really powerful experiences this week while discussing these things and learning these things that I feel like have brought me so much closer to Christ and had so much more love and understanding for all of the people in my life. And that love that we feel for other people stems from the love of Christ. And we love Him because He loved us first, and so he died for us so that we can become happier than we ever could on our own. And in order to truly understand this happiness that we can have, we need to feel Christ's love and recognize that everything that He did was for us, and if we have faith in that then we will understand of our infinite worth. I was talking with a couple guys in my district last night and we were talking about what Hermano Pacheco was talking about, and the thing that i have come to realize here is that it really is true that everyone wants to be loved. And no matter what point we are at in our life, we can feel the love of Christ, even when we have done everything to not deserve it. Christ is always there to help us. I was reading this week about the story when Jesus is walking on the water and Peter comes out and he falls into the water, and Christ IMMEDIATELY reached out his hand to help him. Christ is there waiting to help us, he puts us through trials to build us and make us stronger, but if we seek him out and seek for his help and love He will be there to give us peace and help us become better. And that's why I can't wait to be in Mexico to tell that to others and bring others closer to Christ so that they can become happier and stronger people. Because we are important to everyone but ourself. If i could emphasize one thing that I've really learned, it's that you can never underestimate the effect you can have on people. And that you should never turn down a chance to serve someone else.

So on a less serious note, the MTC is soooo much fun! on top of all the spiritual experiences and life lessons I'm learning, there's soooo many fun people here. So some of the crazy things that happened this week, I think I mentioned this last week but we have a Nerf basketball hoop in our room that we play with every night and we have so many people from our hall come in wanting to play PIG and stuff. So that's really fun. someone thought it would be funny to turn off all the lights in the bathroom and showers when everyone was in there so instead of going out to turn on the light again, everyone just showered in complete pitch darkness. So that was cool... not. Haha, there's so many pranks here. You're always on your toes. Last night the sisters in our district went to the bathroom after the end of class and so we turned off all the lights and stood against the back wall making creepy faces and as soon as they opened the door and turned on the light we all screamed. Haha, their reaction was priceless. Also, someone hid an alarm clock in the room next to us and set it to go off at like 3 in the morning and so I didn't hear the alarm go off but I just woke up to the Elder screaming "WHERE IS IT?!?!?" Haha, people are always messing with each other. But it's all harmless pranks. It's still really fun though. I can't even tell you guys enough how much I love my district. It's crazy to think I've only known them 2 and a half weeks and we're already all best friends. I have never laughed so much before in my life. They're all sooooo much fun.

Also, the MTC is growing like CRAZY! It's like a zoo in here. We had to move in another bed to our room this week so we have 6 beds in a 4 person room. Luckily no one has moved in yet but I have a feeling we will have some new Elders this week. So we'll have 6 Elders in a room with 4 desk spaces, and 4 closets... so that'll be interesting. And, I heard a meteor hit Russia?!?! what the heck! that's crazy! all the exciting stuff would happen as soon as i get in here. Haha, please send me updates with the crazy stuff like that in the world that are going on.

Megan!!! It's crazy that you're already home! I feel like you just left yesterday! But your letter this week actually really helped a lot and thanks for the great example you set in serving a mission:) I hope you can carry the things you learned from the mission with you even at home.
Also... I tried to email Taylor last week but apparently there's a different Taylor with the same exact name but he's serving in Slovenia... haha. So if someone could send me his real e-mail address that would be great!!

So all in all I'm loving it here. I definitely do get a little homesick every now and then and I miss everyone so much! But I'm super happy here and I'm learning soooo much! And anyone who has any doubt about serving a mission... throw it out the window. There's nothing better that you could be doing. It gives you so much purpose and fulfillment, and there's nothing else like it. Imagine how much you loved EFY, and multiply it by... 6! Haha, and that's how the MTC is. But really, I just want to be in Mexico already! I wish I had more time to write this but I will be writing a bunch of letters today so you guys will hear more from me soon. I love you all!!! And i miss you! Keep me updated with your lives. Don't forget about me! Write me! And, I promise I will be sending pictures soon!

Elder Bird

Friday, February 15, 2013

Hola mi familia!
So my first week at the MTC? officially over! Everyone says that if you can make it to the first Sunday that everything flies by after that. And it's so true! i can't believe it's Friday already. This week has gone by super fast, so I guess my body is finally getting used to the schedule. For everyone who has no clue what the MTC is like, the best way I can describe it is EFY on steroids. Haha, the spirit is always so strong and the people here are incredible. I'll give you guys a little summary of a typical day in my life at the MTC. I wake up at 6:30, or more like.. at 6:50 when Elder Keenan drags me out of bed. Haha, and then we have some time for personal study before breakfast. And then after breakfast it just all depends after that. Each day we have either one or two 3 hour class blocks throughout the day, which seems like they'd last forever but the classes here are so incredible. I learn so much each class and they're really interactive and they're a lot of fun. The 2 teachers for our district are Hermana Keller and Hermano Pacheco. They are both returned missionaries and they are both spiritual giants. Hermano Pachecho reminds me exactly of Kevin, looks, personality, perspective  testimony, everything. Haha so that's a little weird. But he is seriously one of the most amazing people I've ever met. His testimony is so strong and he always has the spirit with him, but he is really funny and a super cool guy too. Hermana Keller is really really nice and is actually trilingual, and her Spanish is amazing. It was really hard in the first couple of classes because for the most part they only speak in Spanish, but now I can basically understand everything they say which is pretty cool. We do a lot of role playing in class, pretending to be investigators to other Elders in the district so they can practice certain things in the gospel like inviting people to baptism or giving their testimony in Spanish. So that's a lot of fun and it helps soooo much. Our real investigator that we have taught 3 times since I last wrote has come a really long way and it's getting easier to express myself in Spanish and tell him the things I want to say. It's nowhere near the level I want it to be at but I don't stumble on my words as much I did at the beginning. So on the days we only have 1 class are the days that we teach "C". And that is always a really cool experience. The spirit is always really strong and it's the coolest thing in the world to testify in another language. So besides classes we always have 50 minutes for gym time, which means I have 50 minutes to dominate the court in basketball:) Haha, and then we have a lot of time for TALL, which is a language study program on the computer, or just personal study or companionship study. So basically all day I am studying or learning more about Spanish or the gospel. It's crazy how much this week and a half has helped my testimony of the scriptures grow. The spirit and knowledge that we can get from them are so incredible. I decided my goal is to go through the entire book of Mormon at least twice while i'm here so I started from the beginning yesterday and i'm already almost through 2 Nephi. So hopefully I can get through it all soon! One thing that was kind of a bummer this week was our temple walk was cancelled on Sunday because of the snow. So we didn't get to leave the MTC campus at all until this morning when we got to go through the temple, which was really awesome.Also, thanks so much for the packages you guys sent me! Now my room is the jackpot for all the food and treats. Haha, we actually found a random mini fridge in our hallway so we put it in our room, so that was really cool. Umm, other highlights of this week... our old roommates moved out. They got reassigned to a mission in California while they wait for their visas, so the 2 other elders in our district who are also going to Monterrey moved in with us! They're so much fun and great examples. The old elders left us with a Nerf basketball hoop so we were playing Nerf basketball in our room for a good 30 minutes last night. Haha, I honestly can not tell you enough how much I love my district. Everyone is so much fun. And we feed off each other and make each other better and we all work really well together. Not a day goes by that someone doesn't end up in tears because of a spiritual experience that we have. Hermano Pacheco says that we are the closest knit district he's ever seen, we have so many inside jokes and so many powerful spiritual experiences together. It's incredible. Our district leader, Elder Hamm, is one of the coolest guys I've ever met. The best way I can describe him is a mix between Daniel Peterson and Scott Robinson. He's super funny and goofy, but his testimony is so strong and he is a great example to me. One of the biggest themes in the classes and lessons this week is learning to love the people. Hermano Pacheco gave us a quote from... President Monson i think? But it is... "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved." I thought that was so powerful, and in order to have the best mission I have to love the people, to get to know them and love them so I will truly have the desire to serve them and give them everything. I thought that was a really powerful lesson that has come up multiple times this week. Something else that we did this week was choir. Our whole district did it for the Tuesday night devotional because we are guaranteed a spot in the room with whatever general authority comes. This week it was Elder Schwitzer from the quorum of the 70, and he talked about being bold and loving the people. It was a great talk. Umm, on Sunday night we got the chance to pick either a movie or an old talk to watch, and we chose to watch Elder Holland's talk from a MTC devotional from a few years ago called "Missions are Forever". It was seriously the best talk I've ever heard. It was so powerful. You guys should definitely look it up and watch it, or at least part of it. 
Caden! I got so excited to read your letter and your game sounds crazy! but congratulations! I read it to some guys in my district because it was all so intense and it was the closest thing to sports we get here. Haha, but keep up the good work in basketball! And I would love to hear from you more so please keep me updated:)  Grant... you didn't write me. Not cool. Haha, but I heard you were sick most of the week so I guess i'll forgive you. I also heard you beat boxed at the spaghetti dinner with Caden doing the worm in the background, that sounds pretty sweet! I wish i could have been there to watch it. But now that basketball's over you are probably loving Athletics... not. Haha, I hope school is going great and I bet you're loving the new phone! you'll have to write me and let me know how weird it is to have a phone now. I miss you guys both so much and I hope you don't get the idea that I'm not taking everything back that you stole once I get home:)
Kendall, your letter made me SUPERRRR happy! it's so amazing to me how mature you are and willing to change. I was a little nervous about how you'd take the letter i left for you but it's amazing to me that you are so willing to want to be the best person you can be. You're a great example to me and I hope school and seminary and work aren't killing you! But i'd love to hear how everything is going! So hit me up with another letter! Love you and miss you:)
Audrey....Send me a letter! get mom to help you. Love you:)
Mom and dad, I loved getting your letters through DearElder this week. It's so great to hear from you guys and the love and support I get from all you guys honestly makes me so happy. I wish I had time to address every little part of your letters that you sent me but my time is running out so i'll just send you guys letters this week.

It's crazy, I swear Elder Keenan knows half of the MTC. We can't walk for more than a few minutes without him seeing a friend. I've started just running up to random elders and pretending that they're my friends. Haha, it always gets a funny reaction. But i finally saw one person i knew! Jed came in on Wednesday so it was really great to see him and talk to him for a little bit! But he's out of here in a little less than 2 weeks so he won't be here long at all. I have not run into Daniel Colton yet, but i'm pretty sure he was supposed to come in yesterday if I remember correctly? So i'll keep my eyes open. Something Elder Keenan has taught me since i've gotten here is how to be a friend to everyone. No matter where we are, who we're with, or what we're doing, he is always reaching out to someone to help or to just talk to, even complete strangers. It's something that I've never been great at but it's definitely something I need to get better at, so he's a great example to me.
I still can't figure out how to upload pictures on here, and neither can anyone in my district... haha. So as soon as I figure this out I will send you guys pictures. I wish i had more time to write you guys and tell you about everything but I can't. Love you! Write me on DearElder!Or send me  and packages! I love to  hear from people! 
Elder Bird 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

First Two Days in MTC

Hola Familia!!!

So today is Saturday here at the MTC, and I've only been here for 2 full days but it feels like I've been here for weeks. I'm already starting to forget what the real world is like. Haha, so these last few days have been crazy. The first day and a half was just a complete culture shock and I was having a really hard time adjusting and the hardest part for me was just thinking that I had 2 more years of it. Not in a bad way, but just 2 more years away from all my friends and family. I literally laid in bed the first night for probably 3 or 4 hours, not able to sleep. But that next morning during my study I turned to John 14:27, which talks about Christ giving peace to the troubled heart and to not be afraid. Which is exactly what I needed at this time. But I feel like i've finally started to adjust and I don't feel my wallet vibrate like a got a text anymore. Darn phantom phone phenomena. 

So on the first day, all the new missionaries came in and got all their missionary gear, name tags, papers, keys, all that good stuff. I also got a big yellow bag with like 20 different books and studying tools along with a Spanish preach my gospel and spanish scriptures. This week's group had a little over 800 new missionaries come in, which is the largest group in the past 12-15 years. But this is going to be surpassed by far in the upcoming weeks and months. Missionary work is expanding at an unbelievable pace and I'm excited to be a part of it. Anyways, then we went to orientation for a few hours. It was really cool to see how many different countries were represented in the MTC and missionaries from all over the world come here to prepare to serve a mission. Then we met one of our teachers, Sister Keller, along with the rest of my district. Sister Keller is really nice but she will ONLY speak in Spanish. Which is pretty tough at the level I am at right now. She served in Florida and actually speaks French too, so she's really cool and nice. In my district there are 8 Elders and 2 sisters. All of the Elders are going to be serving somewhere in Mexico, 4 in my mission, and the 2 sisters are going to be serving in Alberquerque (not sure how to spell that). Everyone in our district is sooo cool. They all have great personalities and we can all joke around and be the best of friends, but when it's time to work we really get down to it and work really well together. After that we all went to a simulation where we watched 2 elders give a lesson to 3 different investigators. So that was pretty cool to watch. Crazy story: my companion, Elder Keenan, is actually really good friends with my old roommate Jed. And I went to Magelby's for breakfast right before I went into the MTC and he was there and we actually talked for a little bit and found out we were going to the same mission, we had no idea we would be companions though. So that was really crazy. But he is a really cool and funny guy and he is a great example to me. One of the things I love most about the MTC is how genuine everyone here is. No one pretends like they were perfect before coming into the MTC, everyone admits their flaws, but we're all here for the purpose of bettering ourselves and to come closer to Christ, and in doing so preparing ourselves to bring others closer to Christ. The atmosphere here is unbelievable and the spirit is so strong. 

So a couple of funny stories: on the first day, me and Elder Keenan had some free time to go back to our room and unpack some of our things. So we walk into our room and there were literally about 300 origami paper pigeons placed EVERYWHERE in our room, along with some candy and other stuff. Every drawer we opened was filled with the pigeons and there were bread crumbs on the floor and it was just a mess. So we ended up just moving all of them into the showers, which got a lot of funny reactions. But anyways, so we thought our 2 roommates were either really weird, or just making fun of my last name. But they came in as soon as we finished moving all of them to the bathroom and I told them my name was Elder Bird and they just cracked up. They had no clue who we were going to be. He had just been really sick for a couple days so he just sat in his room all day making paper birds. Haha, but they are really good guys and really good examples to me and Elder Keenan. They have been in the MTC for 9 weeks. Their call is to Argentina but they just barely got reassigned yesterday to Fresno, California while they wait for their visas. So they leave on Tuesday morning, which is kind of a bummer but I think that means the other 2 elders from our district will move in with us which will be pretty cool. Elder Keenan and I also accidentally drank toxic water... Haha. So we got a water filter thing in our big yellow bag and we filled it up with water but didn't read the instructions (story of my life) that said to let the water filter through one time so it could get rid of all the toxins or whatever the water filter originally has on it. So we drank 2 bottles of it and everyone was freaking out because they thought we were going to die. Haha, but we didn't. So no worries. Also, my collars from all my white shirts have been rubbing up against my neck and it looks like I have a rash all over my neck, but it's really just been rubbed raw. But hopefully my body will get used to that, or something. Umm, the food here is really really good! There's so much to eat. The only bad thing about so much food here though is just that you're sitting for most of the day so you can't really get rid of it, so it just sits in your stomach, so i've kinda been taking it slow. 

So the last 2 days have been filled with classes and language study. It's crazy how quickly my Spanish has been coming back to me. The first day was really rough because our teacher would only speak in Spanish and we were all pretty rusty with our Spanish so it was really hard to focus. But we have been trying to only talk in Spanish as much as we can which has really helped. I have started to say all my prayers in Spanish, which was really weird to me at first but is becoming easier every time and it's really cool to do. I haven't said a prayer in English since Thursday morning, which feels like weeks ago. Haha, but yesterday was really cool for all of us. So we were told that we each had to teach a 40 minute lesson that night all in Spanish, and so we were all really nervous and trying to prepare all day. We were told that the guy who we would be teaching was a non member volunteer who had a sister who was a member and so he wanted to come and see what Mormons were all about. He had a Catholic background, but hadn't gone in a really long time, but he did believe in God. So anyways, me and Elder Keenan drew the short straw and got to be the 1st ones to talk to him. We were pretty nervous, mostly just because we didn't think we would be able to fill up anywhere near 40 minutes with only talking in Spanish. But we got in there and he was a big white guy who said he was a foreign exchange student from Colombia. He talked pretty fast, but slow enough so we could understand him. So we started talking to him and just got to know him a little bit and we told him about ourselves and about what we do as missionaries. Then we asked him to read Alma 26:37, which talks about how God knows everyone and that we should have joy in that knowledge. And then we each bore our testimonies of the happiness and joy that it brings to us to know that God loves us, and we also bore our testimony on the Book of Mormon. While we were bearing our testimonies, he was wiping away tears and the spirit was really really strong. We then ended with a prayer and when I looked down at my watch, we had been in there for exactly 40 minutes. There were definitely times where I just could not find the word in Spanish that I wanted to say, which was frustrating. But overall it was unbelievable how easily the language flowed once we got started and it honestly felt like at times it wasn't me speaking. Which was one of the coolest experiences. We are meeting with him again tonight I think and we are so excited to get back in there. It's unbelievable to feel the power of God working through us as missionaries to prepare to share the gospel. My testimony has already grown so much in my studies and first teaching experience. I'm so grateful for the examples that I have here, and I know that I was put in this district for a reason, because I have already learned so much from them. If the rest of my MTC experience is anything like yesterday, I am going to absolutely love it here. I have felt the spirit so strongly and I love not having to worry about anything else except for my progression in the gospel and in Spanish while preparing to teach the people of Monterrey, Mexico. It truly has been a blessing to me already to turn all my focus to the Lord and learning more about His church and the influence it can have in my life. I miss all you guys for sure, but the spirit has given me so much peace and comfort over the past couple of days. 

I hope you guys liked the little notes I left for you, and I hope you know how much I love you guys. And I pray for you multiple times a day and I can feel your love and support even though I am away. I would LOVEEEEE to get mail from you guys! The easiest way to do it is through You guys can go in there and write me a letter and the MTC will print it out and I will get it the same day you write it. So i could get a letter everyday if you guys really loved me. Plus the more letters I get, the more bragging rights I have with the district:) Haha, but really I love the few letters I have gotten here and I know that I will need your love and support to get through my mission. So PLEASEEEE don't be afraid to send me DearElders all the time. So, if you could let everyone know that that is the easiest and quickest way to get mail to me. Or even emailing me on here would be easy for you guys too. But I also would love handwritten letters and packages as well. Just anything really. I don't know of anything that I forgot that I need you guys to send me in a package, but i might realize something later and then i'll be sure to let you know. But anyways, I think my laundry is done and my 30 minutes are done, and today is only a half P-Day anyways so we have to go back and do things anyways. But I love you guys! and i miss you a whole lot! I'd love to hear how everything is going with school and basketball and stuff. So please write me! Love you guys:)

- Elder Bird