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 DearElder.com. 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