MTC Photos 05-25
I can’t believe it has already been two weeks in the MTC. I also can’t believe that it has only been two weeks. I feel like I just got here yesterday and a year ago simultaneously. I have learned an incredible amount about the gospel, how to teach it, my own weaknesses, and how I can overcome the bad things in life.
I had lent my glasses to an Elder Ogbonna from Nigeria who had difficulty seeing. He was using reading glasses to see things, and with the knowledge I had from working for an optometrist, I helped him out a little. Shoutout to Dr. Peterson! He gave my glasses back to me just before he left to go back home due to some unresolved issues before he came here to the MTC. I felt good that I could help him out. We had a short discussion and he said he would talk to me during my mission. He really wants to visit America, as do many of the African elders I have talked with. Surprisingly, many of them don’t know what “9/11” was. I described it at length and they finally recognized what I was talking about after a while. It’s really interesting coming to understand that America is not the center of the universe. Cultural differences are exciting, frustrating, and inspiring all at once. I’m learning to be more perceptive. God is definitely helping me with that.
I have surely grown to appreciate different cultures while at the MTC. I have found out that although many of us have different backgrounds, perspectives, countries of origin and other things we think are pretty important, we are all children of God who just want to find happiness, and that is what the Gospel brings to people. The message I am going to share is one of the paths to happiness that is applicable to all of God’s children. Thank you for the prayers. I feel them every day. God answers them. I know that.
I have three mosquito bites, all on my left arm, all from last night WHILE I WAS SLEEPING. First rain of these two weeks a couple days ago brought the bugs. I am sincerely scared for the wet season in Sierra Leone. I am going in right as that really gets started. I have a rude awakening ahead of me. I hope my deet-infused clothing works some miracles because, as my Nigerian nickname “aji-butter” (soft body, or more literally, butter body) implies, I am not ready for this.
I LOVE cold showers. However, I sweat after them. Yes. I sweat after cold showers. I’m sure this scientifically makes sense in some way, but I don’t understand it. So, I have learned to gradually warm up the shower and end with a hot one so that I feel cold and don’t sweat as I’m dressing. That way, I still feel refreshed and I don’t sweat. I’m a genius.
I’m trying to work on humility this week as a Christlike attribute. I have a problem with pride (as you can tell above, referencing my genius). I am trying harder to realize God’s hand in my life and all of the blessings He has given me. God has really blessed me. A lot. I have come to learn that after coming to Ghana and hearing people talk about their lives. We Americans are so so blessed to live in the country that we do. God deserves our thanks for giving us the blessings that we have. That fills up the majority of my prayers every night. Every day I find at least one more thing I can be grateful for. This practice of gratitude, an attitude of gratitude as I am trying to make it, is the solution to pride, the mother of all sin. I am a firm believer that as we work to reduce pride, we find that temptation enters our lives less often. I have seen that in my life over the past two weeks. My goal to live a grateful life every day has seen to the gradual destruction of my pride. I promise that as you try to be more grateful, humility and the degradation of pride will follow.
My mom told me that many of you felt touched by the experience I related last week about the true and real power of Satan. I honestly had no idea it would have that effect on people. Your reactions touched my heart and made me realize how the Spirit works. All I did was share an experience and the Spirit did the rest. God worked through me to touch you, despite my lack of foreknowledge on the subject. I know that as we live in a manner compliant with God’s commandments, he will bless others through us. I will be doing this every day for the next two years, and I couldn’t be more excited. I love this gospel, I love my God, and I love all of you!
That campout sounds like it was a blast (quite literally). I cherish those times I had to just go and be with you as a father and a son. It got even more fun as my brothers got older. Tell Dexter I miss watching him play football. That kid is a beast. I would love to hear from him. Maybe have him dictate an email to send me that I can read next week. Thanks for sending me that excerpt from your mission journal.
My companion and I haven’t had many difficulties getting along with each other. Quite the opposite. We are so comfortable and get along so well that we often have a hard time paying attention to the lesson. Opposite issue, same problem. My companion, as district leader, and I, as I guess co-DL, have remedied this problem and continue to find ways to help people pay attention to the lesson and the Spirit rather than each other. Thank you for being a wonderful father and stalwart example to me. I love you.
Wow. Lot’s of substance and questions in your email.
I had no idea that my story would have that kind of effect on people. I simply shared an experience I had. That gives me a lot of comfort in my teaching abilities. All I have to do is tell people about the gospel (something getting easier and easier) and the Spirit will do the rest. People give too much credit to the missionaries. We honestly only have half a clue as to what we are doing sometimes and it works. Tell Bro. Messina that I feel incredibly honored that he shared my story at the stake trek meeting and drew out nine points from my email. I don’t even think I, the one who WROTE and EXPERIENCED that, could draw out nine points from the story I sent. He was guided by the Spirit using material written by the Spirit. The Gospel is a wonderful thing.
Good luck in your new job! I think that was the right decision. It will definitely give you opportunities. I think God has a plan for you in your working life. Just keep praying to know the path he wants you to take. I’ll be praying for you too. Don’t missionary prayers count double?
Your prayer Friday night had an effect on me. I was struggling to find the Spirit likely around the time that you prayed. I could not teach well at all. My mouth was not “loosed” as the scriptures say. It was, in fact, closed. I really couldn’t teach or even talk effectively. After that lesson especially failed, I realized that I hadn’t had the right mindset. I had been complaining about the frequency of mock investigator teaching and how little sleep I had been getting. The Spirit, through your prayer, let me know what I needed to change. Thanks for being receptive to that prompting and acting on it. You are a wonderful mother.
I am learning a lot about how the Spirit works. I don’t have to know that it is the Spirit telling me to do something in order for me to do it. That’s not something I should worry about. Whatever I want to do as a missionary, I should do it, within the bounds of Gospel Law and missionary rules. God will work through me when I don’t even realize it. Elder Bednar gave a talk on that topic that we watched recently. It was really enlightening.
I am struggling with pride here. I have always struggled with pride, but now I’m tackling it head-on. Not just giving one or two pushes to say “Hey, stop it. Please?” I am actually punching my pride in the face. Daily. With the brass knuckles of prayer. That’s kind of a violent way to talk about something spiritual, but that’s how I work. Slowly but surely, I WILL win this epic MMA fight going on in my soul. Often, I find that I am judging someone, or that I lift myself higher than someone else. This is so wrong and it pains me every time. At least in that I have improved – I actually recognize that there is a problem. I feel your prayers and they strengthen me every day.
Yes! Please send a metric-imperial converting chart! It is so confusing hearing everyone talk in kilograms and kilometers (or metres because this is British English). Also, cafeteria is spelled cafetaria. Weird, huh?
I have learned so much that I don’t even think it is possible to tell you. Just that Preach My Gospel is the most powerful teaching tool ever given to mankind. Seriously. That manual is incredible. The Spirit is essential to our teaching.
I am getting to know the Elders better. Most people here are from Nigeria, Ghana, or the United States. Some are struggling with homesickness (mostly girlfriend sickness). I am getting to understand them a lot better. I can pick out what people are saying 90% of the time now. Their accents are really thick, and sometimes they break out into pidgin. Then my understanding drops to about 10%. I can’t tell what type of accent people have, but I don’t think Nigerians have a French one. There are a few people from Cote d’Ivoire and one from Sierra Leone. I have talked to him. A few from Liberia. I don’t know if there are any other places. We have gotten pretty comfortable with each other, so we are able to joke around a lot. This makes the MTC a lot more bearable.
The MTC Pres. and his wife are Brubaker’s. They are brand new. I had an initial interview with him. It went pretty well. He just wanted to know basic information about me and how I am feeling. I felt like a real missionary when I put my name tag on for the first time. I now had the recognition, not just the job, of a missionary. I got two tags. One with magnets and one as a clip. Magnet one for p-day and service activities.
The food is uhh…it requires some science and there’s not much variety. I had fou fou the other day which is a doughy substance made of milled casava leaf and plantain. It is very sticky, so you have to eat it with fingers lubricated by soup. You pinch off a chunk, dip it in soup, and swallow it. No chewing. Just swallowing. I gagged a few times but eventually got the hang of it. It was really funny watching other white people struggle with it like me. We don’t have a buffet. One dish that is made for us. You got lucky with the Provo MTC. I am losing weight here. It’s mostly carbs here so you have to eat it in a certain way. You eat all the heavy stuff first, like chicken or the thick rolls here. You eat the rice last because if you eat that first, you will feel full and then an hour or so later, you will be starving again. The rice just disappears from your body. I finally learned that after two weeks.
My companion, Elder Badoo, is a really good guy from Ghana. He is the only companion I will have at the MTC. He is very knowledgeable of the scriptures (something I definitely lack) and easily focuses on the investigator (which I find hard sometimes). We get along really well and teach effectively and with the Spirit. We still have a ton to learn, but we have progressed very quickly.Some of the kitchen staff is nice, some are completely stoic. I haven’t gotten to know them. I get my food and scarf it down with nothing in between but a prayer because I am so hungry. Three meals a day, but it’s not much substance. I tell them “thank you” every time. You trained me with decent manners. Nothing I love, just stuff that I tolerate. I want brisket. And macaroni and cheese. And a cucumber. I crave a lot of stuff. I have eaten some of my snacks before I retire to bed every night because we have dinner at 5 and we go to bed at 10:30. The big meal is lunch, so we get pretty hungry around 9.
I got pretty sick this week, but many prayers got me over it in a couple days. I ate like nothing because I just had no appetite at all. That killed me in class. I was so tired. I could hardly stay awake during some of the discussions we had.
I am feeling adjusted to the time zone now. Individual days are so long! But weeks are disappearing like crazy. Our schedule goes like this:
6:30 -8AM get up/get ready/eat breakfast
8:00 –noon Study, teach a mock investigator, learn, then lunch
12-3:30 learn for a long time,
3:30-5:00 sports/break time
5:00-Dinner, learn, teach another mock investigator, plan for the next day,
9:15 get ready for bed & lights out 10:30.
I have missed sleep because it does not come right at 10:30 pm but closer to 11, and I wake up to early birds at 5:30, sometimes even 4:30. People get up that early to iron their shirts. Yes. Two hours early to iron shirts. That’s about six and a half hours. Not enough! I just attended the temple again today and struggled to stay awake in the session. It helps when they have us stand up. The dim lights during part of it are really just so inviting to sleep.
We fly to Sierra Leone on the 21st. (1st? / 31st?) I love going to the temple on p-day. And emailing. Those are tied for my favorite thing of the week. Sundays are a wonderful break from the craziness of the week. We have normal sacrament, Sunday School (district meeting), priesthood meeting. We then watch gospel videos and have devotionals. I like the instructor, Sis. Appau-Nkansa. She has something where her eyes where they can look away from each other. Not a lazy eye but bot eyes just are set to look opposite ways like a lizard. It’s hard to tell if she is looking at you. She likes to joke around, but she knows when to get serious. That’s what I like about her. I felt the Spirit the most when I watched Elder Bednar talk about an experience he had on his mission with Elder Packer about the nature of promptings of the Spirit. (Could be this or this, however neither speech mentions Elder Bednar having an experience with Elder Packer while on his mission.) Also, one MTC devotional rebroadcast where Elder Holland “singe[d] our eyebrows a little” with his talk on having a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I need a stronger one if I am to teach it. The Apostles are amazing. Elder Holland said that we, as missionaries, are apostles with a lowercase a. Try to see if you can find those two talks and watch them. I don’t know if they will have the same effect on you as they did on me, but you will be able to experience what I felt at least to some degree. Have the rest of the family watch those too. Especially Alex. Tell them to email me! I have only gotten stuff from you and Dad. I want my brothers to email me as well.
There are 12 in our district, one pair of sisters. Everyone is going to Sierra Leone. I gave one tie away and some of the CTR stuff Dad got. I have a bottom bunk. 6 to a room. I have a Ghanaian companion. Our room is a little cramped, but not crammed. The building is 3-story, but only the top and half of the second have rooms in them. The rest of the second floor is classrooms and the bottom is the chapel/auditorium and the cafeteria. You can have hot showers, but those suck. I ALWAYS take cold showers. I love them. It is a nice break from the heat here. The bathrooms are not very clean at all. I guess it’s just another one of those adjustment things I’ll have to live with for two years.
A couple of other elders play the keyboard. I played in church not last Sunday but the Sunday before. It definitely does not feel like Church every day. It feels like high school, to be honest. Or prison. A very spiritual and friendly prison. Think about it: cafeteria, electric fence walls, only allowed outside at certain times. The MTC is the Church’s prison for missionaries. I’m kidding. Kind of. The missionaries give talks during church. We all prepare one on one of three topics every morning and people are chosen by chance. I have not been chosen yet, but I prepared a pretty good talk on faith because it has been on my mind a lot lately. 3-5 minutes long. I said in it that I may not have enough faith in Jesus Christ to move mountains right now, but I have enough faith in faith to get me there. I’m sure that’s symptomatic of many members of the Church.
I do NOT have the testimony I should if I am to teach a bunch of people. I want them to feel a conviction I don’t have yet. I know this gospel is true in an academic sense, and many aspects of the gospel I have a testimony of, but as a whole “Gospel,” I need a stronger testimony to withstand some of the things I am going to face. My testimony is my greatest weapon and my strongest armor for sure. That being said, it could use a lot of maintenance in certain areas.
I have listened to some of my music. The African elders in my room love InsideOut a Capella. I got my vaccine certificate and book excerpt, which I finished. Thank you! I am reading Jesus the Christ now. Elder Talmage needs to chill with the celestial-level language here. I have to re-read half of the stuff he is writing in order to understand it.